Oakland, CA based Xiu Xiu (pronounced “shoe-shoe”) is a brainchild of California native Jamie Stewart, who is exploring all kinds of morbid subjects such as AIDS and suicide through his music. Stewart started out in music business by playing in “cinematic death mambo” band IBOPA and later, in Ten In The Swear Jar, the latter of which eventually morphed into Xiu Xiu (both bands also included future members of Xiu Xiu).
Jamie Stewart and Cory McCulloh started Xiu Xiu in 2000 and this year also marked their first tour. 2002 brought Chapel Of The Chimes EP, their debut album “Knife Play” and a personal tragedy – Jamie’s father Mike (who was a member of 60s folk band We Five and produced Billy Joel’s hit “Piano Man”) commited suicide in 2002.
2003 “A Promise” was influenced by Stewart’s losses, and it includes a cover of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” as well as songs named “Ian Curtis Wishlist” and “”20,000 Deaths for Eidelyn Gonzales, 20,000 Deaths for Jamie Peterson”. In their review of the album, Pitchfork Media noted that “Xiu Xiu are unique in their enjoyment of linear mutilation, and their ability to fuse it with musical experimentation, rather than making it their raison d’etre. Jamie Stewart’s level of self-obsession is either laughable or erotically voyeuristic; it’s a question of how far you’re willing to go.”
2003 EP “Fag Patrol” (Free Porcupine Society) collected some of their acoustic tracks, as well as a cover of Smiths song “Asleep” and a cover of “Helsabot”, a song written Ten In The Swear Jar, Stewart’s former band. “Fabulous Muscles” LP followed in 2004 and became one of their most critically acclaimed albums. All Music Guide said that “Fabulous Muscles” “might be the best expression of Xiu Xiu’s unrepentantly original music; even if the world that the band creates isn’t necessarily one you’d want to visit all the time, it remains fascinating.” The album contained one of their best-known songs to date – “I Luv The Valley OH”.
Throughout 2004 the band toured extensively and released numerous splits with fellow musicians/bands, with culmination of it all in the form of 2005 LP “La Forêt”. Much of the album’s focus was based on Stewart’s frustration with the recording process, as well as his frustration with G.W. Bush. The band also used a number of new instruments on the album, including autoharp and Croatian bells.
2005 also saw the release of more splits with the likes of Paper Chase, Kill Me Tomorrow and Devendra Banhart, as well as collaboration with an Italian band Larsen, which resulted in the album “Caustico!”. 2006 “The Air Force” was produced by Deerhoof drummer Greg Saunier, instead of a regular producer (and Xiu Xiu member) Cory McCulloch.
In 2007 Xiu Xiu released a book entitled “The Polaroid Project”, which was bundled with “A Soundtrack For A Polaroid Of Two Trees In Indiana” CD. “A Soundtrack…” featured contributions from the likes of Casiotone For The Painfully Alone, Parenthetical Girls and Deerhoof’s Greg Saunier among others.
Their last album to date (as of 2008) is “Women As Lovers”, which came out on Kill Rock Stars label. The album shares its name with “Die Liebhaberinnen” a 1975 novel by Elfrede Jelinek. The album includes a cover of Queen / David Bowie 80s hit “Under Pressure” performed with Michael Gira from Swans. Itunes version of the album includes 7 bonus tracks and 500 copies of the album were packaged with “What’s Your Problem?” DVD, that included tour films, photos of the band and 16 music videos.
Jamie Stewart (7 Year Rabbit Cycle)