Santa Cruz Good Times

Tuesday
Sep 01st
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

 

The Meaning of ‘LIFE’

With a new documentary film about his work, and huge exhibits on both coasts, acclaimed Santa Cruz nature photographer Frans Lanting is having a landmark year. But his crusade for conservation doesn’t leave much time for looking back

 

Seasons of Opportunity

Everything in our world has a specific time (a season) in which to accomplish a specific work—a “season” that begins (opportunity) and ends (time’s up). I can feel the season is changing. The leaves turning colors, the air cooler, sunbeams casting shadows in different places. It feels like a seasonal change has begun in the northern hemisphere. Christmas is in four months, and 2015 is swiftly speeding by. Soon it will be autumn and time for the many Festivals of Light. Each season offers new opportunities. Then the season ends and new seasons take its place. Humanity, too, is given “seasons” of opportunity. We are in one of those opportunities now, to bring something new (Uranus) into our world, especially in the United States. Times of opportunity can be seen in the astrology chart. In the U.S. chart, Uranus (change) joins Chiron (wound/healing). This symbolizes a need to heal the wounds of humanity. Uranus offers new archetypes, new ways of doing things. The Uranus/Chiron (Aries/Pisces) message is, “The people of the U.S. are suffering. New actions are needed to bring healing and well-being to humanity. So the U.S. can fulfill its spiritual task of standing within the light and leading humanity within and toward the light.” Thursday, Aquarius Moon, Mercury enters Libra. The message, “To bring forth the new order in the world, begin with acts of Goodwill.” Goodwill produces right relations with everyone and everything. The result is a world of progressive well-being and peacefulness (which is neither passive nor the opposite of war). Saturday is the full moon, the solar light of Virgo streaming into the Earth. Our waiting now begins, for the birth of new light at winter solstice. The mother (hiding the light of the soul, the holy child), identifying the feminine principle, says, “I am the mother and the child. I, God (Father), I Matter (Mother), We are One.”

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of August 28

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

 

Land of Plenty

Farm to Fork benefit dinner for UCSC’s Agroecology Center, plus a zippy salsa from Teresa’s Salsa that loves every food it meets

 

If you knew you had one week to live, what would you do?

Make peace with myself, which would allow me to be at peace with others. Diane Fisher, Santa Cruz, Network Engineer

 

Comanche Cellars

Michael Simons, owner and winemaker of Comanche Cellars, once had a trusted steed called Comanche, which was part of his paper route and his rodeo circuit, from the tender age of 10. In memory of this beautiful horse, he named his winery Comanche, and Comanche’s shoes grace the label of each handcrafted bottle.

 

Cantine Winepub

Aptos wine and tapas spot keeps it casual