The xx's Romy Madley Croft: 'In Leeds, we had our first moshpit'

The xx followed up their debut with a critically acclaimed follow up. The secret? Taking a year off to hang out with their friends, says Romy Madley Croft

Read our review of Coexist from our albums of the year roundup

Hi Romy, Coexist was voted No 8 on the Guardian's Albums of 2012. How does that feel?

Oh great, thanks very much!

What's your memory of recording it?

Firstly, we all took a year off after coming back from touring and had a bit of a life – we moved out of our parents' houses and saw our friends and wrote a bit. Then we found a space we liked, put some equipment in there and spent about six months going there every day. It wasn't a fancy studio or soundproofed – it was just a nice space we wanted to be in.

Was it important to actually live a bit before making another album?

It really was, although it wasn't really an option not to. It was what we all craved. We started touring aged 17/18 and the album came out when we were 20 … we hadn't stopped really. We needed some time to take it in, and some new experiences to write about that didn't involve a tour bus.

How did you feel when you finished it?

We actually finished it about five times because Jamie [Smith] produced it and he's definitely a perfectionist! Perfecting the imperfections, I think he calls it. I don't always know what that is, but I'm glad he does it! So there were a lot of fine tunings. We started playing songs live a long time before the album came out, all through the festival season, and it was strange playing to people with blank expressions, trying to sell our music to people all over again. So it was quite a relief when it was finally released.

It's a refinement of your sound rather than a reinvention. Is that fair?

Yeah, I suppose so. We didn't go into making this album thinking we would reinvent our sound, or with a plan at all. We were more relearning how to make music together.

Before anybody had heard it there was talk – because of the stuff you'd been posting on your blog – that it might be a more dance-orientated record …

It's funny because Sunset, Reunion and Swept Away are actually quite upbeat for us. We love playing those ones live, and you can spot house references there, although I guess they're not like a house record Jamie might play in a DJ set. But we've always taken bits of sounds from certain genres – pop, R&B, hip-hop – without sounding like them directly. I think maybe on the next album we might take more of a leap in sound, but this time we just wanted to make music.

How has 2012 been for you?

Incredible. Last Christmas, we were putting Open Eyes online, our first thing in ages. I remember getting that ready at my computer on Christmas Eve and I really didn't know then that we would have another album out and all around the world again. At the time, everything was up in the air – we hadn't even finished the record.

What was the best moment?

I think playing Primavera in Barcelona last May. That was our first time onstage in front of people for a couple of years. It was also great playing live in Australia and seeing people recognise the new songs for the first time. Oh, and we played Leeds and we got our first-ever moshpit! It was hilarious and brilliant. I'd not seen people moshing to Islands and Chained before!

What's your favourite song of 2012?

Probably a song by John Talabot called So Will Be Now. He's been supporting us and it's great because I get to hear it every night.

And your favourite album?

Chromatics' Kill For Love has probably been the record I've listened to the most. I also discovered that they did a version without drums so now that is the thing I listen to when I go to sleep. I'm grateful that they did the songs in a different way.


Tim Jonze

The GuardianTramp

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