Santa Cruz Good Times

Tuesday
Sep 16th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

If It Ain’t Broke, Break It

music_XiuXiuExperimental Xiu Xiu rewrites the rules
To adapt to shifting norms, the formula for producing mainstream music introduces "shock" elements that push pop music into the future. From Lady Gaga's alien wardrobe and unknown gender, to Madonna dancing with a black Jesus against a backdrop of burning crosses, to the Sex Pistols' prediction of "no future," what unsettles popular sentiments is eventually incorporated into the mainstream.

So how long will it take for FM radio to rotate a Xiu Xiu track like "Support Our Troops OH! (Black Angels OH!)" from 2004's Fabulous Muscles? Summoning the most desolate, dissonant recesses of experimental music pioneer John Cage's catalog, the song—if you wish to call it that—paints a landscape portrait of a post-siege Fallujah. Quiet, malfunctioning electronics are randomly interrupted by bursts of feedback and clanking metal. Jamie Stewart, the brainchild behind Xiu Xiu, speaks over the ambience: "Did you know you were going to shoot off the top of a 4-year-old girl's head ... and her dad would say to you, 'Please, sir, can I take her body home?' ... Why should I care if you get killed?"

Obviously, Stewart isn't particularly interested in following the formula. "I don't really care [about the music industry]," he says. "There's nothing I can do about it. We'll continue to try our best to write songs and hopefully somebody will get something out of them, regardless of whatever shape the industry takes."

Stewart's personal formula is reversed. After the Los Angeles native relocated to San Jose in the '90s, his interest in engineering and audio design inspired him to try producing the most abstract, interesting sounds that he could. "I probably get as much emotional satisfaction out of strange sounds alone as I do out of harmony, melody, and rhythm," he explains.

The digitally distorted swells and noisy synthesizers soon inspired lyrics, which are manifested musically as lush, melodic vocals. "Many Xiu Xiu songs initially stem from making a sound, then matching the subject matter of the song with the sound's emotional content," Stewart says.

Stewart's songwriting is so backward, it now travels through time. On Dear God, I Hate Myself, released last month, the instrumentation is surprisingly standard, with songs like "Gray Death" summoning early Smiths, featuring Stewart's falsetto floating atop a driving acoustic guitar. "I really like how the new Morrissey record is chock full of short, catchy songs," Stewart says. "When you're done listening, you immediately want to hear it again."

Despite how unsettling certain selections from Xiu Xiu’s catalog can be, Stewart is a very friendly fellow, and audiences have responded by supporting his project for 10 studio albums, as well as a litany of splits and EPs. On the current nationwide tour, Stewart and Co. will be incorporating their followers into a fan-centric fundraiser for At The Crossroads, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that helps street youth through counseling, outreach, and other services. For every dollar that fans contribute, the band takes big group pictures with them, sends them silly personal gifts in the mail, and otherwise connects with them on a very personal basis.

Adding that personal touch isn’t out of the norm for a group that has established a name for itself through incredibly unique, direct, oftentimes challenging yet frequently beautiful music. “Initially, most Xiu Xiu songs came about by accident,” recalls Stewart. “In a lot of ways, we were making music wrong. But I think that led to us being able to continue, because we weren’t so totally entrenched in a temporary scene.” Pop musicians, start taking notes.


Xiu Xiu performs at 9 p.m. Friday, March 19, at the Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the door. For more information, call 429-6994.
Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Watch List

From Google to the government to data brokers, why your privacy is now a thing of the past

 

A Different Revolution

Aries Moon late Wednesday and Thursday. We think new thoughts and initiate new ideas. Sun in Virgo with Saturn in Scorpio help disciples to create orderly structures to anchor and bring forth new ideas. Stabilizing Taurus moon Friday and Saturday. We anchor new ideas into form and matter, like seeds planted in the soil. We tend them, waiting for green shoots to emerge. Like the gestating Virgo Sun Madonna, awaiting the birth of the holy child, the Soul, the new light at winter solstice. Mercury and Chiron converse about what hurts and what heals.Saturday is a complex day with Mercury (communication), Mars (action!) and Uranus (revolution). Mercury in Libra is opposite Uranus in Aries. Oppositions (recognizing something new appearing over there somewhere) eventually synthesize. Mercury in Libra calls for Right Action and Right Relations, especially with money. Uranus in Aries—the revolution this time must be different.  Also on Saturday, Mars enters Sagittarius. Where are we going, what are our goals, where’s justice, where’s the mountain, do we have good shoes? Sunday Venus trines Pluto—in-depth assessment of money, values and resources. Gemini moon Monday; we talk a lot, tending to tasks in gardens and neighborhoods. Cancer Moon Tuesday and Wednesday; we nurture and nourish. The stars and planets remind us.Note: William Meader, esoteric author & international teacher, will be speaking on “The Soul of Humanity Evolving Through Crisis” at Meditation Mount, 7pm, Friday, Sept. 12.

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of September 12

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Wood Fire Woodie

Scotts Valley pizzeria gets fired up the old-school way

 

What's your all-time best Skyview Flea Market score?

Santa Cruz | eBay Business

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Soquel’s Pinot Winner

When you taste Soquel Vineyards’ extraordinary 2012 Partners’ Reserve Pinot Noir, you will know why it won a Double Gold in June at the 2014 San Francisco International Wine Competition.