A Dream Come Xiu

Jeremy Gordon

By Jeremy GordonPLAY Writer

Xiu Xiu is not exactly the easiest band in the world to get into. The songs can be chunky, abrasive blasts of noise ruminating on subjects from AIDS to suicide. With five full-length, radically different releases in five years, there is no immediate best place to start listening to the band.

Nevertheless, in those five years the band has cultivated a dedicated following that includes prominent indie Web site Pitchfork Media and hundreds of fans who will see the band perform on Oct. 27 at Logan Square Auditorium.

The band’s recent album, The Air Force, was a surprisingly mellow affair, with lilting melodies accompanying the band’s traditionally dominant percussions and creating a more muted outing than their previous albums. Several music videos were released to accompany songs from the album and though band founder Jamie Stewart didn’t supervise any of them, he nevertheless enjoyed them all, he says.

“People just asked to do (the videos) and we just let them do what they want,” said Stewart. “Most of them turned out really interesting.”

One video that featured footage of the band Hello from Eau Claire wasn’t even planned.

“That video wasn’t even supposed to happen,” Stewart says. “The kid who did it just took a video camera and didn’t really tell anyone he was going to turn it into a video. He just did it.”

Stewart’s laid-back approach to self-promotion crosses over into his attitude in the studio.

When asked about how the band made a more accessible record in The Air Force, Stewart responded, “We consciously made a pop record because we like pop music, but not because we wanted to make an accessible record.”

Stewart says he pays little attention to the band’s critics, such as heralded reviewer Robert Christgau from New York magazine Village Voice. Christagau gave Xiu Xiu’s 2004 record, Fabulous Muscles, a “C” rating and wrote, “The musical parsimony, cultural insularity, moral certitude and histrionic affectations of these lo-fi artier-than-thous promise indie ideologues whole lifetimes of egoistic irrelevance.”

Regardless, Stewart says having his albums criticized is inevitable.

“It’s impossible to purge oneself of wondering what someone will think about (the albums),” Stewart says. “We just try to make a record that we think is the best we can make at the time. We hope people will like it.”

Although all of Xiu Xiu’s records have garnered generally high critical acclaim – something rare among bands which have created so much material in such a short amount of time – Stewart has no worries about losing interest.

“I’m not worried about getting burnt out; I worry that we might put out too much stuff and other people might get burnt out by the increasing stack of Xiu Xiu records,” Stewart says. “As long as we can keep doing it and make music we mean while doing it, then we’ll continue to put stuff out.”

In his spare time, Stewart says he enjoys bird watching and watching movies. He also says he drinks “more than (he) ought to.”

Stewart does the driving for the band’s tour van, and when asked if being a musician is what he always wanted to do, he responded, “For sure. This has always been it.”

Medill freshman Jeremy Gordon is a PLAY writer. He can be reached at [email protected]