The X Ambassadors on what rock bands can learn from hip-hop
Sometimes the biggest breaks come from the strangest of circumstances. While on tour in Virginia, Imagine Dragons’ frontman Dan Reynolds heard the X Ambassadors song “Unconsolable” on the radio. Immediately picking up the phone, he convinced his label to sign them. Now that the appropriate backing is in place, the act continues to climb ranks with its addictive singles “Unsteady” and “Renegades” — led by frontman Sam Harris’ extraordinary vocal range. Before the indie rock act gets to Denver and the Ogden Theatre on Apr 2, drummer Adam Levin spoke with us about how things are going.
1. Is it sinking in yet with how far X Ambassadors has made it?
It’s still a little strange, but we feel like we’ve been working pretty hard to get to this point. We’ve been a band for almost 10 years now, so we’ve definitely put in the groundwork. Plus, we feel like we still have a lot further to go, so it’s a little hard to stop and smell the flowers just yet.
2. Do you feel a certain kind of pressure opening up for big bands in large venues?
Not anymore, but we used to. It’s a great opportunity for a young band to get new fans and stretch their muscles on stage, but you gotta really work to win those people over. They aren’t there to see you; they’re there for the headliner.
3. How do everyone’s tight personal bonds of being friends (and family) for so long help with the band dynamic?
That tight bond is everything to us. It’s the reason we’ve been able to come this far. There have been countless times where I think if we weren’t so utterly devoted to each other, that we would’ve quit. But this is a family, and family sticks together through thick and thin.
4. You guys will be playing with legends at upcoming festivals, do you still get a bit starstruck?
Absolutely. We’ll be playing on the same stage on the same night as the Red Hot Chili Peppers. They were hands down Noah and my favorite band in middle school and high school, around the time we first starting playing music together. I wouldn’t know what to say to any of them if we met them.
6. Does rock need a “revival,” or has it been here all along?
I’m not sure ... I think it’s been around long enough that it could certainly use a facelift. Honestly, I think hip-hop is the more exciting genre right now, and rock bands need to take more cues from it. Rap is still a fairly new type of music, but it’s really entering into its own and starting to feed off of other genres too. I think rock has already done that a few times; maybe we need a revamp of the whole system.
7. Why is it important for your band to work with producers like The Knocks, an interesting genre-bridge to gap?
The Knocks are just good buddies of ours. We want to make music with anyone who we like and respect, so it was a no-brainer when they asked to collaborate with us. It’s important for any musician to keep an open mind and not shy away from doing something just because it might be outside their comfort zone. ‘Cuz that’s where the best stuff is made.
8. What are you most impressed by from the younger generation?
There are some young new artists coming out like Lorde and Alessia Cara who are so totally self-aware, so eloquent, and such bold songwriters — it really blows my mind. I wasn’t making music nearly that good when I was 16.
9. If someone cuts you off while driving are you the type of people to swear and honk, or forgive and forget?
I swear and honk, and then forget.
10. What can we expect out of the future of X Ambassadors?
More and more and more. We’re not going anywhere anytime soon.