Tomatrax caught up with the folk-indie legend that is Xander Smith, who’s just recorded an album with some of the dudes from New Order! Outside is available now.
Happy: You’ve just released your second album, Outside, how do you think it compares to your debut album?
Xan: I love both records. Im really proud to share these with the world. Personally, I think the two albums, together, are a set. I’m very happy with both but Outside is most definitely the big brother to Hey San Pedro. HSP is more of a collection of bedroom tapes, while Outside is a complete album with slightly more rhythm, production and scope, as I was able to add several other talented folks to this mix.
Happy: The album was written and recorded across three continents, what was the inspiration for this?
Xan: Necessity! And thank God for it, as it took on a feel and sentimentality that otherwise would have been more singular. Adding these other musicians and new environments shaped the record in a very special way.
Happy: Is there anywhere else you’d like to write/record your music?
Xan: Either Iceland or perhaps Hawaii. I wouldn’t want to make island sounding music like when rock bands all went to Jamaica, but I would like to make music whilst in a place that is so different than the urban sprawl that I’m accustomed to.
Happy: What made you pick Say Anything as the lead single from the album?
Xan: Say Anything as a 1st single seems to blend many of the elements from the other tracks and features more players than any other song. Also, it was a great to have Bernard Sumner add his bits so we thought it would make a nice intro to this body of work.
Happy: How did you manage to get New Order on board with your latest single?
Xan: Phil Cunningham is a musician/ mate of mine and helped write Say Anything. We decided to track just outside Manchester and organically his band mates in New Order started turning up at the studio and were kind enough to contribute ideas.
Happy: What was it like working with New Order?
Xan: The members of New Order are extremely talented and versatile musicians. More importantly, they are mindful, critical and smart regarding their choices when it comes to producing a track. So, it was not only a thrill but a learning experience to be around them in the studio.
Happy: You’ll be touring Australia in September, what can fans expect for your show?
Xan: An American, born in Los Angeles, who sings lovely songs, tells silly, sad stories and would like to, but can’t exactly break dance…
Happy: What inspired you to play at the MONA?
Xan: Brian Ritchie from the Violent Femmes is one of the most interesting, outspoken and talented souls I’ve come across. He is also fiercely committed to art and independent thought and kindly took a chance on me and this music by recommending me to the MONA folks. Once I took a look at the site, I became so excited to perform there.
Happy: You’re also the lead singer of Run Run Run, how does performing solo compare to being in a band?
Xan: It’s so incredibly different to perform solo than with a band. Both musically and thematically, I have to approach the show differently. Literally, different tempos, keys, guitar choices must be made to make songs feel as impactful as when there is a full band muscling our way through a set. Also, when Run Run Run is on stage we are communicating with each other, whereas solo its a couples dance with just me and the audience.
Happy: Do you ever listen to your own music?
Xan: Guilty as charged. I love the way these songs came from a single guitar in my bedroom to being beautifully recorded by the many talented folks who helped make this record. Sometimes, I’ll just listen from top to bottom as I think it’s important to be your own biggest fan.
Also, I had a startling thought recently. That is, what if the universe gave me the ability to create this record as a gift to myself to enjoy and share with those who also might enjoy it, regardless of any commercial outcome or expectations. It’s just like making yourself a lovely late supper. You don’t always have to kill yourself to throw a huge dinner party, right?
Happy: What (other) music do you listen to?
Xan: I love old school reggae, Motown, anything Beatles or post, Patsy Cline, Diary of A Madman by Ozzy, the Bee Gees, JJ Cale, Passion Pit, Crowded House and TFF, New Order, Johnny Mathis, My Bloody Valentine, Prince and the first Sinead O’Connor record for starters.
Xander Smith will be appearing at MONA on the 21st of September for free, RAD Bar on the 24th of September and Wave Rock Weekender on the 28th in Perth.
Stay tuned for sideshow dates in all the important cities.
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