INTERVIEW: Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu
By Jack Daniel Betz
The very busy and very actively touring Jamie Stewart was kind enough to grant me a short interview in the midst of loading in before playing in Washington last Friday. The poor guy sounded like he was directing air traffic but despite all the bustle I got the opportunity to ask him a few questions. Xiu Xiu and legendary no-wave band Swans will be playing
Fitzgerald’s on Saturday night.
Believe it or not, even though I’ve listened to plenty of music I would consider kindred to Xiu Xiu’s sound the most recent album was actually my first introduction besides reading about it online etc. Am I a total idiot for pronouncing it zoo zoo for like two months?
No, I mean that’s kind of how it looks. People pronounce it all sorts of different ways. We say shoo shoo but it is an unusually spelled word and it’s not a word that’s in English. So for an English speaker it’s not entirely clear how to pronounce it. You would be surprised at what kinds of permutations it takes on in Europe.
My favorite song on the album was “Hi”. It kind of reminds of -don’t laugh- but it reminds
me of Word Up! by Cameo because it’s got this call and response thing and there’s something
sort of empathetic in it. Who is that song addressed to because it’s kind of like you’re talking
to someone, like you’re having a conversation?
I mean it could be whoever the listener perceives it being addressed to but for myself it would probably
be an attempt to make some kind of connection with anyone who is having a difficult time in their life.
To try to create some kind of community and the almost universal condition of difficulty or unhappiness
that every person finds themselves in at one time or another.
I’m a total Pitchfork whore, I read everything they write and the minute something comes
out I read it. So when the album came out I read the review and they were pretty positive
but one of the things I read in it was that there was one feminist blogger who said
of [the song] “I Luv Abortion” that, you were appropriating a woman’s words and
experiences as some sort of proof of how cool and dark you are. What do you think of that?
I mean people can say whatever the fuck they want, I mean I know that is not the case. It’s a song about
someone who I know personally and it was a song about my views on politics. I don’t really care what
that other person thinks and they have the right to interpret it the way they want to. I know it was
about something different. And I think it’s pretty clear to anybody who is familiar with the band
that that is not in any way what we are about. I think that if anybody listened to the song with any
kind of care that they’d know that’s not what it’s about.
Yeah, I agree. I kind of get the feeling that someone emailed them and said you gotta listen to this song.
I have a feeling they probably just read the title or something like that and didn’t really listen to it.
I’m pretty excited to see both you and Swans next Saturday here in Houston. I wasn’t aware until
kind of recently that you and Michael Gira of Swans have some kind of connection. What’s the
We have a lot of mutual friends. He was kind enough to sing on a Xiu Xiu song on our sixth record.
I noticed there’s a lot of brass in your music on this record and a couple others I’ve
listened to since then. Have you guys ever thought of doing something cross-overy?
Insofar as crossing over to what?
Something unexpected, I dunno something fun like reggae or something. Because the
musical palette that you guys use seems like it would almost lend itself to doing that
It’s funny you should say that because when I was in college I actually played bass in a reggae band,
believe it or not. So I already did it, man. I already did some crossover. I already played some fucking
reggae in my life. [laughter]