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Jamie xx blurs the boundaries with ‘In Colour’

May 14, 2015

Jamie xx (née Smith) is far too modest about his new track “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” being hailed as a frontrunner for song of the summer. When I mention the inevitability of it becoming a single, no doubt a chart-topper, he nods like he’s heard it before.

“That’s what people are talking about,” he says in his soft London accent.

“I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” is a split collaboration between Atlantan Weezy troll Young Thug and Jamaican dancehall firecracker Popcaan. Originally it was shopped to a few different candidates, but luckily for the producer, it was picked up by two very hot MCs of the moment.

“I made that track pretty quickly but I didn’t know how to finish it, as with most things,” he explains. “Then I sent it to a bunch of different people to do vocals, and so there are a few versions. Young Thug and Popcaan did separate versions and I ended up cutting them together. I think they’re pretty excited about.”

Add just about everyone who’s heard it to that list, as the track built phenomenal buzz upon the first announcement that such a thing existed. Even an attempt to leak it got all the blogs praising it, despite the track being wiped clean off the web within the first 24 hours. But Smith has some apprehensions to contend with.

“I’m just nervous about having to do a hip-hop video,” he says. “[Not being in the video] is what I keep telling them but they have other ideas.”

“I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” is a true standout on Jamie xx’s debut solo album, In Colour. But as his previous 12-inch singles proved, Smith explores a wide range of styles, genres and volumes on the album. He originally began putting the album together six years ago, right when his band the xx released their self-titled debut.

In that six years Smith has assembled a résumé that would make virtually any producer out there salivate with envy. There are the two albums with the xx. There’s We’re New Here, his remix of Gil Scott-Heron’s final album, I’m Still Here. There’s the co-production credit on Drake and Rihanna’s massive hit “Take Care,” which was a remix of Gil Scott-Heron’s “I’ll Take Care Of You.” There is the production credit for “When It’s All Over” from Alicia Keys’ last album, Girl On Fire. There is his remix of labelmate Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep,” one of the biggest songs of the last decade. And then there are the three 12” club-friendly singles he’s dropped randomly that basically foreshadowed In Colour.

But if there’s one thing to really envy Jamie xx for, it’s the distinct, multi-genre-bending production style he has effortlessly fashioned. Whether it’s the xx’s mutedly atmospheric indie-soul, the bouncing, soul-hop rattle of “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” or the seamless fusion of garage, rave, house and bass music instilled throughout In Colour, Smith has quite simply become one of the most influential producers in both indie and club music.

Over the time it was conceived, Smith was busy discovering all types of music. That could be why In Colour has such a vibrant and wide spectrum. “I wouldn’t say my tastes changed, but they evolved. I was learning more about music and getting a broader taste. That’s sort of what happened since we got signed,” Smith says.

Although In Colour is credited simply to Jamie xx, the producer doesn’t easily separate his own music from that of the xx. Three of the album’s tracks include his two bandmates: Romy Madley Croft appears on “SeeSaw” and “Loud Places,” and Oliver Sim appears on “Stranger in a Room.” Smith says working on his solo tracks with Croft and Sim was different, but it also changed how the band has been working on the xx.

“I would start off making an instrumental, send it to them, and then ask them to do stuff, and then send it back to me,” he describes. “When something was right I’d ask them to come into the studio and work one-on-one, rather than working as a threesome, which is the first time we’ve really done that since before the xx. And that sort of allowed us to work like that for the next xx album as well.”

Smith says that the lines between what he does solo and what the xx does continue to blur. Even his album title is a reference to his band (“The idea behind the name In Colour came from the fact that everybody thinks we’re moody and all dressed in black.”).

“Everything feeds into everything else,” he says. “There is a song on my album where Oliver wrote a song over it two years ago, and that has eventually become a song on the xx album. So everything helps inspire everything else. I think the lesser boundaries the better.“

He says the next xx album is well under way, but they’re taking their time with it. In Colour will certainly see to its delay, but Smith is just as happy to talk about what he, Croft and Sim are currently up to.

“We’ve been working on it for a year, all around the world, which we’ve never done before,” he tells. “We’ve always just worked in London, and I love what we’re doing. It’s nice to have time. We could’ve had as much time as we wanted, but now I feel like we really know what we’re doing.”

And while he hasn’t missed the novelty of being a solo artist, you get the sense that for Smith he’s really just content with whatever he’s working on. “It’s very satisfying doing something on your own and having people like it,” he says. “But I don’t know, it feels just as much my own as the xx records. At the moment it’s the same really.”

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