On the other end of the phone, Romy Madley Croft is listening intently. “That’s horrendous,” she reflects. “It could be so damaging.”
She’s asked for an update on Australia’s same-sex marriage survey, because it’s a subject close to the heart of the xx. Two of the members are gay, with singer-guitarist Croft being set to marry artist Hannah Marshall. For their forthcoming Australian tour, $1 from every ticket sold will go towards LGBTQIA programs in each city.
“We wanted to help in some small way,” Croft says. They started to do so via the festival they curate across European cities. It’s called Night + Day, and they partnered with Plus-One, a charitable organisation co-founded by Arcade Fire, to sort the donations. “When we did it in Brixton, near where we grew up, we wanted to give back to the community and have more of a positive impact than just turning up,” she explains.
Spending some time apart seems to have brought a greater sense of purpose to the London-formed band – Croft, singer-bassist Oliver Sim and beats-maker/producer Jamie Smith. Not only that, but the averted gazes and aloof image has made way for something chummier. Their third album, I See You, feels like a fun bubble to be in, rather than the thinnest of membranes separating the band from the ugly outside world.
“We realised that we’re often seen as serious and older than our years,” Croft confirms. “With this album we wanted to reflect that we can have fun with it.”
That’s apparent in the suite of three video clips by Alasdair McLellan, which show normal-looking kids hanging out. It gives a sense of there being an xx tribe. “The video for ‘On Hold’ was filmed in Marfa, Texas, and we just asked the local kids to come down for a party. I love that,” Croft says. “We did something similar for ‘Say Something Loving’. It’s just London kids having a good time.”
The band who were once reliably described as “minimalist” can accept that mantle no more. “People say, ‘There’s so much space in the music.’ Well, that’s just because in the beginning we wanted to make sure everything we recorded was playable live because we weren’t the best musicians,” Croft says. “That’s something we let go of on this album, so that’s been a lot of fun.”
Croft and Sim had always enjoyed clubbing, but she reckons it’s taken till I See You to have the dance aspect come to the forefront of their own material. “We have some more upbeat music on this album and for the live set we’ve remixed some of our old stuff, so we’ve got a section three quarters through which is a long mix, all upbeat,” she says. “It’s a lot of fun to have that release on stage after the more emotional moments.”
You’ll be able to experience that wild ride for yourself at the all-ages show in January, with Kelela and Earl Sweatshirt in support. Croft is particularly looking forward to it because they’ll have a bit more time to spend in the country, hanging out with mates Jagwar Ma and maybe Flume, who supported them before he blew up big.
No doubt she’ll also bring her camera. “I love taking pictures and documenting a tour,” she says, having learned from the massive breakthrough year the band had in 2010 that all the highs can blur into one if you let them. “I’ll also make a playlist in different months. It reminds me of where I’ve been, and what I’ve done in that time.”
Want to see live music now? Here are the best live music pubs in Melbourne.