When I think back at 2015, a few songs come to mind. Some outline my year, some stuck in my head more than others, and some I am trying to forget. In this case, X Ambassadors’ song “Renegades” sticks out as one of my personal favorites. I felt as if everywhere I turned, that song was on (and to be honest, I was never complaining about it). However, don’t get it twisted; there is so much more to this band than that song. They have a certain sound about them that attracts listeners of all ages and genres. It’s safe to say that X Ambassadors had a big year; a new album, television commercials, and touring the world.
I recently had the chance to chat with lead singer Sam Harris about everything they have going on, the success of their latest record, VHS, and what it feels like to be so “buzzworthy” these days. Check out our interview below:
Thanks for taking the time to chat with me! I think it’s safe to say 2015 was a memorable year for you guys. Did you have any New Year’s resolutions?
Thanks! Most of our New Year’s resolutions probably include eating less crap, trying to stop and smell the flowers a little more. Personally, I’d like to look like Chris Hemsworth by the end of 2016.
I like those; I should take a few notes from you! Upon hearing “Renegades,” I immediately fell in love, and it seemed like you guys blew up overnight (although I know that isn’t the case). I even still hear it on lots of television commercials! How did it feel to have such a strong success on that single?
It’s great. It was one of those moments where we finally felt like we could breathe a little sigh of relief—as an artist, you’re constantly waiting for that one thing that will help push you over the edge, and “Renegades” has helped do that. But there’s still MUCH, much further for us to go.
I totally agree; the band has been on my watch list for a long time now! VHS was one of my favorite albums of 2015. Can you tell us a little bit about the writing process of this record, and dare I ask if you’ve already started working on new stuff?
The writing/recording for VHS was done mostly while on tour; in our van, backstage, in hotel rooms, bathrooms, etc. We didn’t spend hardly any time in an actual studio. Which is maybe why, sonically, it’s a bit all over the place? But we worked very, very hard on the songs—we wanted each one to be able to stand on its own and be good enough to be a single.
And yes, almost immediately after finishing the album, we started working on new material. We never really stop, that’s part of our process. Our songs can take a long time, so we got to start early.
That’s awesome! I am so excited to hear that there is already new material in the arsenal. After listening to the album a few times through, I couldn’t help but notice a slight trend of movie references.
Yeah! Casey [Harris, keyboardist] and I grew up surrounded by the movie business. Our father was a unit publicist and has worked on many different films. As kids, we’d get to visit him on set and watch the magic happen. I’m a crazy film guy personally. I’ve always loved movies.
Me too, that’s super cool! From a fan standpoint, it may sound bizarre, but when I listen to your music, I immediately apply it to situations and emotions in my own life; I actually once called it my own personal soundtrack. When you create music, do you ever have that in mind, or is it just a product of your creativity?
Thanks, I’m very happy to hear that. These songs SHOULD be universal, and should be able to be applied to the listener’s life, their situations. I think because the writing is so personal, that vulnerability you hear in the tracks encourages vulnerability from the listener too.
If I had to pick a favorite song of yours, it would be “Superpower.” Could you pick one?
Great choice, I love that one too. You recently announced a tour with Muse, who is one of the most talented bands on the planet. This is HUGE news. How excited are you guys? I will be at the show in Brooklyn, with thousands of other people (laughs).
Very excited! Their new show looks incredible.
They put on one of the best shows I have ever seen. I am sure this will also open the doors to a whole new fan base for you all, which is exciting too. It’s a perfect fit! I think as you guys release more music, fans will look back and say, “Wow, VHS really planted the seed for these guys, sprouting into a long-lasting career.”
(Laughs) Well, I certainly hope so. Thank you!
If I were to look at your music library, is there anything on there I’d be surprised by? I feel as if it’s very eclectic; you guys dabble in a lot of genres in your style!
I’ve been listening to some country lately, two new guys who’ve been absolutely KILLING it: Chris Stapleton—his record Traveller—and Sturgill Simpson—Metamodern Sounds In CountryMusic. These guys are changing the game of country—their music is still very much rooted in classic country, blues, rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly, yet somehow they’re making it sound fresh and different.
I was not expecting those answers, and that’s what I had hoped for! I love Chris Stapleton too, such a talent. Other than not having to load in your own equipment anymore, what would you say has been the coolest part of this ride thus far?
The bus. For sure.
That must be nice! Well thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us Sam, we will see you on the road!
You can catch X Ambassadors at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY on Jan. 27, the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ on Jan. 29, and the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA on Jan. 31. Their debut album, VHS, is available now. For more information, go to xambassadors.com.