NYMN Interview – Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu

Jaime & friends (photo credit: Jeremy Lange)

Xiu Xiu is known for testing the boundaries of sound, emotions, and beliefs of both their listeners and band leader Jamie Stewart. Xiu Xiu’s music is unapologetic and unpasteurized, led by Stewart’s lifelong battle with his demons and desires. We asked for a candid interview and Jamie held nothing back – his life a gut-wrenching open book that you can’t stop reading.

NYMN: I want to talk about your new album and upcoming show in NYC, but I was fascinated by what I saw on your website. Eight days ago you wrote the following:


i cannot think of a time when i have been so depressed, less hopeful or more anxious. it is taking on non hilarious and ridiculous proportions.

if you would be so kind, would you please send some specific or practical reasons that would apply to any and/or all fellow, non fascist earthlings to keep living to

xiuxiuforlife@gmail.com under the subject heading REASONS?

in the form of a list, all replies will be posted here (if there are any, SNAP!).

thank you and as per usual, please forgive the BLAH BLAH BLAH.

NYMN: Sure enough yesterday you posted the responses. I sat there reading them with misty eyes and a half-smile. Sometimes I paused and then re-read a line to let it sink in. Other times I laughed out loud. How are you feeling today after your fans seemed to throw you an online life vest?

JS: deeply deeply touched and a little embarrassed at myself. not to be melodramatic but it is obviously too late for that, i really expected either no one to write or 2 or 3 people. the number and depth or response made it clear to me that i needed to take a deep breath and accept some warmth from how generous and wonderful humanity can be. and above to be grateful for kindness. depression this year has taken on new lows into new levels of the bleak dungeon. everything everyone wrote is very much a lantern and map to another place. amazing people.

NYMN: Reaching out to the internet and people with the security of anonymity seems like a mine field. Were you afraid you might get blown to smithereens?

JS: well, i already was right? it was a slightly cloying and certainly desperate thing to do but, again i feel compelled to say sorry over and over again, but it was honest. i woke up early in the morning for what has been weeks of a gripped chest and body by this thick gray leaden nothingness and had no idea what to do anymore. people interested in xiu xiu have gone way out of their way over the years that the band has existed to be supportive. it may have left me looking a little foolish but in the end, people who, whether or not they know, have been giving my life meaning for the last 10 years, unconsciously but rather obviously seemed like the right people to turn to for wisdom. thank you again from the bottom of my heart.

NYMN: Your music and lyrics are what I image it would be like to hear your thoughts and feel your anxiety all at once in concentrated doses. You wrote an article for the Huffington Post in March where you basically scooped your guts and heart out and plopped them onto the website. Have you ever thought about being less candid? Would it seem almost disingenuous to you to not share everything?

JS: it is a little late for that.

NYMN: Your video for “Born To Suffer” with its timely title came out today. Your music is so highly conceptual, I wonder how you could create a video to match it. How did this video come about and what were you trying to accomplish artistically?

JS: actually i had nothing to do with the video. it was made my adriana alba. i like her work and she wrote and we talked about her doing one on her own terms and in her own way. it is a great pleasure to collaborate in a blind way. to request that someone whose creativity is already proven to take a song by the hand and lead it down a different path than i would ever consider. most of the videos we have done are completed like this. it is a bit of risk but they are always different than what i would do and 9 times out 10 they are excellent.

as for the plan for the video artistically, that is the purview of Ms. Alba. another thing i like about this arrangement is that it can lead a video to have a broader scope for interpretation. i know what it means to me and she knows what it means to her and hopefully if someone watches it, they can sort out what it means for them.

NYMN: A big tour is starting in one week. What do you do to prepare for life on the road? What do you enjoy most about touring?

JS: i stop drinking, which is the worst! the time in my life when i am under the most stress and need or want it the most i have to lay it aside. it fucks up my voice and obviously being on tour is exhausting enough without being hung over. then rehearsal like a maniac, do laundry, buy new shoes, i have been wearing the same clothes on stage for 6 years so shoes are all i’ve got. the reason is that i sweat like an evil hog so much when i play that anything other than a black t- shirt will either melt or look disgusting.

what i enjoy most is playing, seeing my niece and nephews who live far away from me and going for a hike in the desert, also far away from me.

NYMN: Are you excited about your show in NYC? Nervous? Anxious? Horny? Gleeful?

JS: i wish i felt horny and gleeful all the time. nervous of course! playing NYC means a lot to me and i want to play better than i think i can for anyone sweet enough to show up.

NYMN: What is next for Jamie?

JS: let me ask him, hey. self, what is next for you? tours of usa of mostly dates with swans, then to australia and new zealand and europe, moving to los angeles, finishing a 2nd book of haikus, putting out a collab record with eugene robinson of oxbow called SAL MINEO and touring that, leaving pop exploration on the back of a potato truck and working on a new xiu xiu record. then hopefully saving some money to look at trees on the island of socotra before a nuclear war.

Xiu Xiu plays August 30th at the Bowery Ballroom


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