Xiu Xiu (pronounced , shoe-shoe) is an experimental indie rock band originally from and currently based in Oakland, California, with time often spent in Seattle, Washington. The band is the brainchild of singer-songwriter Jamie Stewart, who has been its only constant member since its inception. His current bandmates are cousin, Caralee McElroy and percussionist Ches Smith. Xiu Xiu are also, on occasion, joined by Cory McCulloch and Sean McGahan, who have also produced several of their albums. Past members include Lauren Andrews, Yvonne Chen, Sam Mickens and Jherek Bischoff. Some, including McCulloch, have played in previous bands with Stewart, notably Ten in the Swear Jar and IBOPA. The band's name is taken from the 1998 Chinese film Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl.
Xiu Xiu's music draws heavily from several disparate genres including punk, noise, ambient, techno, asian percussive music, modern classical, and folk. The majority of lyrics centre on abuse, dealing with morose topics such as suicide, AIDS, war, and taboo experiences. Musically, the band will often blend cacophonous percussion and experimental structures with lush hooks and diverging lyrical styles, influenced by bands of the UK post-punk scene such as The Cure and Joy Division.
McElroy and Stewart performing 'Bog People'
Having performed together in previous groups IBOPA (the Indestructible Beat of Palo Alto) and Ten in the Swear Jar, Jamie Stewart and Cory McCulloch in 2000 formed their third collaborative effort, Xiu Xiu. An amalgam of various independent artists and friends, Xiu Xiu began its first tour in 2000, aided by Lauren Andrews and Yvonne Chen, who had both contributed to the recordings of their first long-player, Knife Play and its successor EP, Chapel of the Chimes. Xiu Xiu took to performing their melodic/noise-oriented songs, which initially relied on strong percussive instrumentation and brass instrumentation.
Nearing the end of 2002, several losses occurred for the group. The group diminished in its size as Yvonne Chen left to focus on both her vegan boutique Otsu and self-published magazine Zum. Cory McCulloch too decided to refrain from touring, concerning himself primarily with the production of future Xiu Xiu recordings. The second loss was a personal one, as Jamie Stewart's father, musician and record producer Michael Stewart, committed suicide. While coping with these losses, Stewart created the follow-up to Knife Play, 2003's A Promise.
Continuing to focus on the subject matter touched on by their first LP, A Promise formed an almost conceptualized record of internal despair, social torment and emotional longing. Consisting of ten tracks, the record was oriented towards a more or less acoustic presentation, rather than relying on the booming brass and percussion which had worked to make Knife Play. However, the record did not veer from the formulated programming for which Stewart and McCulloch would be praised by fans and critics alike. Xiu Xiu's live ensemble in support of A Promise consisted of Stewart and Absolutely Kosher Records comrades Sam Mickens and Jherek Bischoff of the Dead Science.
During this time, Stewart recorded the group's second EP, Fag Patrol, a collection of previous recorded material as well as covers of songs by The Smiths and his previous group with McCulloch, Ten in the Swear Jar. Released as a handmade CD by Rob Fisk and Kelly Goodefisk's Free Porcupine Society, Fag Patrol was limited to only a few copies. In the spring of 2004, Stewart and McCulloch released what is to date the group's most successful critical effort, Fabulous Muscles. More accessible and pop-friendly in its sound than previous releases, Fabulous Muscles boosted Xiu Xiu to new heights in terms of popularity, with its capstone, "I Luv the Valley OH!".
With the departure of Lauren Andrews, who wished to focus on her academic studies, Stewart was joined onstage by his cousin, Caralee McElroy. The two toured relentlessly throughout 2004, releasing not only the groups third LP, but also split recordings with musicians such as This Song Is a Mess But So Am I (Oedipus Records) and Bunkbed, along with the "Fleshettes" single. "Fleshettes" included a rendition of the Ten in the Swear Jar track, 'Helsabot', featuring vocals by McElroy. By the end of 2004, Xiu Xiu had already recorded the bulk of what would become their fourth record, 2005's La For?t.
Seen as a return to Stewart's more dark and irate musical demeanor, La For?t, through songs such as 'Pox', 'Saturn' and 'Rose of Sharon (Grey Ghost Version)', alluded to a frustration which Stewart had felt throughout the process of recording. Focusing on subject matter such as self-hatred, apathy, and his frustration with U.S. President George W. Bush, La For?t shifted towards a new format of instrumentation with the introduction of the autoharp, as well as 'Croatian' bells. Along with La For?t, Xiu Xiu in 2005 joined Italian experimental group Larsen to form Xiu Xiu Larsen, which released their first LP, Ciautistico! in 2005. Stewart, McCulloch and McElroy issued formative splits throughout 2005, working with artists such as The Paper Chase, Kill Me Tomorrow, and Devendra Banhart.
Xiu Xiu broke from tradition in 2006 when their fifth LP, The Air Force, was produced not by McCulloch, but Deerhoof drummer Greg Saunier. Saunier, who had previously worked with Stewart on Knife Play is noted for creating a more minimalist sound, a stark contrast from that of McCulloch's wall of sound. The Air Force would be supported throughout 2006 by a three piece, as Stewart and McElroy were joined by drummer/percussionist Ches Smith, who had previously worked alongside the group in its recordings. The Air Force contained the first Xiu Xiu song with vocals entirely by Caralee, on 'Hello From Eau Claire'. In 2006 the band did a Take-Away Show session with Vincent Moon.
A third EP, Tu Mi Piaci (translated from Italian means "I like you"), of covers of songs by Bauhaus, Nedelle, This Mortal Coil, The Pussycat Dolls, and Nina Simone was released, along with a collaboration with ambient artist Liz Harris of Grouper, entitled Creepshow. Plans are set for further collaboration with groups Larsen and the Parenthetical Girls, as well as for a DVD collection of the bands entire video history. The band continue to sell to their fans photographs, through its polaroid project, maintained by tour manager/friend David Horvitz.
The two-CD Remixed & Covered was released in April 2007, with a disc each dedicated to remixes and covers spanning the band's catalogue. The covers come from Larsen, Oxbow, Sunset Rubdown, Marissa Nadler, Good For Cows, Kid 606, Why?, Her Space Holiday, and Devendra Banhart. The 'Remixes' disc includes Gold Chains, XO Skeletons, Xiu Xiu, Warbucks, Cherry Point, Son, This Song Is a Mess But So Am I, Kid 606, and Grouper remixes of individual Xiu Xiu songs, and To Live and Shave in L.A. remixing the whole of The Air Force.
In May 2007 Devin Hoff joined the band on bass. "Xiu Xiu: The Polaroid Project: The Book" was released in November 2007, following several delays. The book came bundled with a bonus CD entitled A Soundtrack for a Polaroid of Two Trees in Indiana featuring contributions from Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, Parenthetical Girls, and Deerhoof's Greg Saunier among others.
The band's sixth full-length, Women as Lovers, was released by Kill Rock Stars in January 2008.
On February 10th, 2009, Jamie Stewart offered a new 12 month/12 disc music service limited to 50 subscriptions. Each package would include a hand-wrapped, hand-made disc containing ambient and other experimental music works. The subscription sold out in less than 24 hours. On May 15, 2009 Caralee McElroy left the band, for personal reasons.
All Xiu Xiu lyrics
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