An Interview With Brooklyn Indie-Rockers, X AMBASSADORS On Their Debut Album “VHS” and More!
Posted On 02 Jul 2015
Tag: Alex Da Kid, All Access Music Group, Ambassador, Artist Interview, Bonnaroo, Boyhood, Brooklyn, Bruce Springsteen, Californication, Central Park, Derek Cianfrance, Firefly Festival, Grammy, Grinderman, Hot Pockets, Imagine Dragons, Indie Rock, Interscope Records, Into The Jungle, Jamie N Commons, Jeep, Jimmy Eat World, Jungle, Kanye West, KIDinKORNER, Lights, Lollapalooza, Love Songs Drug Songs, Made In America, Milky Chance, Nick Cave, Nina Simone, Panic! At The Disco, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Remo, Renegades, Richard Linklater, Rick Rubin, Sam Harris, Scar Tissue, Sia, St. Vincent, SummerStage, The Place Beyond The Pines, The Reason, Trent Reznor, VHS, X, X Ambassadors
Last week, the Brooklyn indie-rockers X Ambassadors released their debut album, “VHS”.
They spent the last two years on the road in support of their two KIDinaKORNER/Interscope releases – “Love Songs Drug Songs” EP and “The Reason” EP. They shared the bill with Imagine Dragons, Panic! At The Disco, Lights and Jimmy Eat World. They have performed at festivals such as Firefly Festival, Made in America and Lollapalooza and headlined two tours of the U.S., including the “Into The Jungle” tour which followed the success of their single “Jungle”, which has seen half a million in sales and 50 million streams around the world. Their current single, “Renegades”, is turning into the hit of the summer! Seethe bottom for their July and August tour dates.
Learn more about the X Ambassadors in the following All Access interview with the group’s lead singer, Sam Harris.
You recently released your debut album, “VHS”. How does that feel? How did you come up with that album title?
It’s pretty amazing. It feels like we’ve been working towards this moment our whole lives. We started our first band together back in 7th grade, so… it’s been a little over a decade. We wanted the album to be a reflection of our journey together; as family, as friends, and as a band. We combed through hours and hours of home video footage that our parents took, that we took as teenagers ourselves, and footage from when we were a young band first going on tour together; we pulled audio clips from those and put them throughout the record. That’s where the title comes from. It’s also very nostalgic, which is how we want the audience to feel when listening to it. The concept is very inspired by Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” and Derek Cianfrance’s “The Place Beyond the Pines”.
Looking back, can you recall the moment that you decided to start this band? How did you all meet each other?
Casey and I grew up in a very musical family. Our mom was a singer; we would go see her sing a lot and sometimes even go up onstage and sing with her. I’ve always loved performing, and so has Casey (even though he won’t admit it). But Noah and I started the band first. He and I were sitting in his bedroom and we had both just bought “Californication” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He had learned how to play “Scar Tissue” on his guitar; we sat there together for a long time, he played and I sang, and we played it over and over again together. That was the first moment.
Noah, Casey and I were in bands together all throughout middle school and high school; we moved to New York for college after we graduated, and we met Adam within the first week of school. We just clicked with him.
How did you come up with your band name? What other names were you considering?
Very boring story. It came from a drum head, a Remo Coated “Ambassador”, which is the type of head that Adam uses. The X came after we realized we’d have to pay a shit-ton of money to a million other bands with the word “Ambassador” in it. Our band names in middle school/ high school are a lot more interesting. First we were “Pocket”, after Hot Pockets (our favorite food back then); then we were “Subject To Change”, because we couldn’t pick a good name; then we were “The Fuzz Brothers”, which… I don’t know how that one even came about, I think we just thought it sounded funny.
“VHS” was produced by Grammy-winner, Alex Da Kid, who signed you to his KIDinKORNER label. How did that relationship come to be?
We met Alex through the guys in Imagine Dragons. They introduced him to us and he and I met for drinks in London. We immediately clicked, on a personal level. Then we all got into the studio with him a couple weeks later and clicked on a creative level too. He has such a unique pop sensibility, without losing his edge; a lot of the time, he pushes us to be weirder, and scrappier. The complete opposite of what we expected him to be like. He’s an inspirational dude in so many ways.
Your song “Jungle” with Jamie N Commons saw much success. What do you think it is about that song that appealed to so many people? Did you know when you first put it out that it was going to get that kind of reaction?
I recorded that song in my girlfriend’s kitchen on my laptop. It just kinda came out, very quickly. Didn’t put much thought into it. But when it was finished, I did think it would be a great song for a movie trailer or something. It’s aggressive, and driving. And it’s all sung pretty low, pretty growl-y. I was listening to a lot of Grinderman and Nick Cave when I wrote that hook. Jamie and I bonded over Nick Cave when we were touring last year.
You guys have a very busy summer tour planned! What venues are you most excited to play at?
Central Park Summerstage with Milky Chance is going to be pretty amazing. They’re a great group of guys and that tour is going to be a lot of fun. And we can’t wait to do our own run of shows in the fall– we haven’t announced any of those dates yet, but it’s gonna be a pretty big tour. Probably the biggest one we’ve done on our own yet.
What musicians have consistently inspired you and your music?
My band mates. And Nina Simone. And Bruce Springsteen.
Your latest single, “Renegades” is currently featured in the new Jeep brand TV commercials. How did that come about? Do you still get excited to hear it on TV?
It’s pretty wild. A lot of people I haven’t spoken to in a long time have hit me up, telling me they saw us on TV. I’ve only caught it a couple times, but yea it’s a total rush. Alex had the initial idea to write a song called “Renegades” and that got me going. I wrote like, 3 different versions of the song before we landed on this final one. Then, we heard Jeep wanted the song in their commercial and things just took off from there. After they picked it up to be in their spot, they told us they were thinking of shooting a “Band” version of their commercial and would we be interested; we said yes, and then shot it. It all happened very quickly.
“We’re trying not to get too caught up in everything,” X Ambassadors vocalist Sam Harris explains. “We’re just glad people like [‘Renegades’] and that it’s having a positive effect on them.”
Who would you guys love to work with in the future?
St. Vincent, Trent Reznor, Rick Rubin, Kanye, Sia.
X Ambassadors Summer Tour Dates:
July 22 New York, NY SummerStage, Central Park w/Milky Chance
July 23 Toronto, ONT Echo Beach w/Milky Chance
July 24 Chicago, IL Aragon Ballroom w/Milky Chance
July 27 Washington, DC EchoStage w/Milky Chance
July 28 Philadelphia, PA Skyline Stage at The Mann w/Milky Chance
July 30 Boston, MA House Of Blues w/Milky Chance
July 31 Boston, MA House Of Blues w/Milky Chance
August 1 Montreal, QC OSHEAGO Festival
August 3 San Diego, CA Soma w/Milky Chance
August 4 Los Angeles, CA Shrine Expo Hall w/Milky Chance
August 11 Portland, OR Crystal Ballroom w/Milky Chance
August 15 Millville, NJ Pinelands Music Festival