Meet Brooklyn’s latest mood-rock obsession: X Ambassadors.
In case you missed Litost, last year’s debut from the Brooklyn-based quartet X Ambassadors (now with a fancy new “X” affixed to the front of their moniker), this is your last chance to get in on the ground floor before it’s too late. We mean it. The self-titled single of that record, a gently strummed, viscerally percussive slow-burner of a wailing ballad, racked up some serious radio airplay. They just came off a couple of hyped showcases at SXSW (including a performance at the House of Creatives, which you can watch below), and were recently signed to Interscope. Train’s leaving; all aboard.
Read more about X Ambassadors after the jump.
The band, composed of Sam Harris (vocals, guitar) and brother Casey Harris (keyboard), as well as their old friends, Noah Feldshuh (guitar) and Adam Levin (drums), carve out a heady space between the atmospheric moroseness of James Blake, albeit a less bass-heavy, acoustic version, the textured harmonies and percussion of Peter Gabriel, and the jittery energy of The Walkmen. They’re set to appear on the soundtrack to The Host, and recently filmed the video for their song “Unconsolable” with “Girls” star Zosia Mamet. At the moment they’re in the process of recording an EP with Alex Da Kid (Dr. Dre, Nicki Minaj, Eminem) in Los Angeles. While the producer is largely known for his hip-hop work, he’s also recently worked with Imagine Dragons, whose harrowing, pensive rock melodrama is another appropriate touchstone.
“The great thing about Alex is that he’s always pushing us to make classic, timeless songs; not to make something more R&B, or more alternative, or more rock, or whatever,” Sam Harris explained to us from the studio. “For him, the genre doesn’t define the song, the song defines the genre. We focus on making great songs that capture specific moments and emotions rather than finding a new hybrid of genres. That’s whats exciting for us.”
While songs like “Unconsolable” and “Litost” are typical of the band’s midtempo-to-slowed-down mood sketches, there’s room for rock energy as well as on the uplifting “Falls.” “We care way more about making good songs than anything else,” Harris says of their maneuverability. “For the material on our Litost EP, we were a bit more adventurous, a bit more willing to take liberties with the music. But for this new material, it’s all about the song.”That latter song straddles the line between hang-dog tone — Harris has an extraordinarily sad-sounding voice — and lyrical optimism. “I like to think that all our songs ultimately give the listener a sense of hope,” he says. “They don’t come from a place of despair or defeat, so no matter how they turn out there’s still that same impetus behind it. That feeling of camaraderie in misery, to put it bluntly. There lies the hope: knowing that you’re not alone.”
Photo credit: Lauren Keogh