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Jamie Stewart isn’t just weird. He’s defiantly strange. The Xiu Xiu frontman writes one note songs, literally, and gives those tunes bizarre monikers like "Cinthya’s Unisex." He named his band after an obscure and controversial Chinese film, and sometimes he turns flying projectiles into musical instruments. Fortunately, Stewart has an equally zany sense of humour about it all.

"The day I was born, the nurse probably whispered into my ear 'this world is not your home,'" Stewart speculates with a chuckle. Below, he tells the Beijinger more about his diabolical deeds in the lead up to Xiu Xiu’s August 30 performance at the Modern Sky Festival.

A recent Pitchfork review praised how you opened for the band Swans: "… you need balls to open for the most intimidating live band on earth playing an autoharp by yourself." How did the audience react to that?
I’ve had the chance to tour with Swans three times. The first time I played more obscure Xiu Xiu songs using autoharp, Nashville guitar and a sling shot, shooting candy at a gong. The next time I only played American religious songs from the 1850s to 1920s. And the last time was a death drone set with all analog synths. The audience was always very nice.

Tell us about your kinship with Swan’s frontman Michael Gira
I admire that he has never given up, has never relented in his intensity, and that he continues, after 30 years, to change and grow his music. When I feel like quitting, I remember that he has been doing this three times longer than me. It is good to have that model before you.

What was the most challenging song to record on your latest album, Angel Guts: Red Classroom?
Probably "Cinthya's Unisex." It’s only one note and the structure is irregular. The music itself was somewhat subconsciously done, but the vocals were difficult. I practiced them as much as I could before going to the studio. Luckily the producer, John Congleton, is great at creating a space wherein one can let go.

You only used a drum set, analog drum machines and analogue synths to record Angel Guts. Was that challenging?
It was actually easier than having no limitations. You have to be more creative and rely less on something fleeting. It required getting to know the synths very, very well, learning what their limitations were, and then forcing them past that. I loved working with a small palate, and will certainly try that again in the future, but with a different set of boundaries.

You named Angel Guts after a Japanese erotic thriller. And your band is named after a banned Chinese film called Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl. How do these films inspire or overlap with your music?
All the members of our band are deep film buffs. We’re inspired by movies from all regions and eras. But Angel Guts: Red Classroom and Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl are mentioned the most in the media as having an influence on us. I think it’s just a coincidence that they’re both Asian films. Maybe I should think about this more, as many of my favorite films are Asian. But I am not sure I could tell you why. They are all so different from each other. Maybe the relative closeness geographically and shared histories has given them some thread that I cannot name, but that has resonated with me.

Xiu Xiu perform at the Modern Sky Festival on August 30. For more information, click here.

Photos: Courtesy of Polyvinyl Records


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