X priest X On How Ballet, New Order & Google Influenced Their ‘Samurai’ EP: Idolator Interview

Carl Williott | April 21, 2014 6:00 am

Florida duo X priest X operates in a dream world ruled by Drive-style synth textures and pats on the back from John Hughes as he tells you everything will be fine. But they aren’t merely an ’80s-indebted synth-pop act. Dave Kazyk’s arrangements exhibit a calming restraint that’s so pleasant it almost seems subversive compared to that decade’s quirkiness and this decade’s clattering bombast. These are icy and delicate soundscapes, and combined with Madeline Priest’s quietly assured voice, the result is something utterly weightless, that swirls with a breezy melodicism.

Last week marked the release of X priest X’s debut EP, Samurai (out now on iTunes), which boasts micro-anthems like “Sophie K” and “Isn’t It So.” To get some insight into how a new band landed on such a consistent and inviting sound for their debut (and to clarify that inscrutable name), we hit up Madeline over email.

Check out our Q&A with the singer below, along with a stream of the EP.

Let’s talk about your name. Are we supposed to pronounce the X’s? I’ve been waiting for someone to ask! No. Haha. We wrestled with the name for a while, and decided to add the X’s just so we stood apart.

Was the name’s Google-ability ever a consideration? Old bands never had to worry about SEO/brand recognition. Yes, that’s why we decided to add the X’s. Kinda silly, but we wanted to make sure there would be no confusion whatsoever. But maybe adding the X’s just made things more confusing for everyone, haha.

How’d you and Dave first link up? We’ve known each other for a few years, but didn’t start the project until 2013. Dave and I did a test demo, and when we decided we liked it, he started sending me some other stuff he had roughly put together. Eventually we posted a few demos on Soundcloud and now we’re here.

What’s the division of labor when you’re coming up with new material? So far it’s been Dave as the producer — he sends me whatever he’s working on then we collaborate in our little recording room. We’ve been demoing as much material as possible so we’re ready for the studio. As we practice, songs evolve, so it’s kind of an ongoing process.

Does your ballet background come into play, even if it’s just a certain mindset you bring to the music? Yeah, I think to an extent I go into it with the same mindset. I didn’t have much training like I did for dance, so I’m constantly trying to better myself and explore different performances. I’m a little bit of a perfectionist when it comes to that sort of thing, but I also try not to over-think it. In dance, particularly ballet, everything looks graceful and fluid but in reality you’re busting your ass. When I sing, although it’s not as rigorous as dancing, I try to use and feel that same energy.

Your sound definitely has a Scandinavian sensibility to it, but how did you land on a Swedish label? Emotion just really seemed to be the perfect fit for us. The team over there is awesome — they’ve been great to us and really care about the music and what we’re doing. Right place at the right time.

That type of music seems very out-of-place for Florida. Did you guys fit into a “scene” or anything? Haha I don’t really think so. I guess we don’t really take our location into account. We don’t think “Florida” when we’re working on music, we just do what we like.

Does the “sounds like the ’80s” label bother you, or was it something you were going for? Doesn’t bother me at all, I love music from that time. I think that’s part of what made this project come together at all, and work out the way it has. That being said, although we try to use as much analog gear as possible, we are not specifically going for a “nostalgia” thing. There are a lot of modern influences in there as well. We are always looking for new music and there’s nothing better than finding a great new band to follow. But you also can’t go wrong with New Order.

Who are your dream collaborators? Ah that’s a tough one. I kind of go through monthly phases with who or what I’m listening to so it’s constantly changing. But I think it’d be fun to work with Charli XCX. I loved — still love — True Romance.

What’s next? A tour, music video, debut LP? All of the above. We have two videos in the editing stage, we’re working on finishing demos for the LP which we will be recording in L.A. the month of June and after that we’ll start to focus more on the live show.

Stream X priest X’s Samurai EP below:

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