XIXA - Genesis (Julian Records, 2021)
The New Southwest is a raw, mystical place. A land of sun-bleached rock and crusty, windswept desert blues. Magick runs deep in the earth here; a sense of the macabre too. This place is home to the XIXA.
Scoundrels and coyotes roam free, howling at the moon, as a seductive, psychedelic rhythm echoes over the horizon. XIXA, Tucson’s dark, dusty gothic overlords, have their genesis here; it has nurtured them, and it is home. It’s also the setting for Genesis, the new album that sees the band return triumphantly to their roots, and give voice to their most primal instincts.
By turns trippy and devilish, like a jam band getting high on Diá de Los Muertos, XIXA have always been uniquely attuned to the desert and their Latin influences.
Combining gritty guitars, the bumping grind of Peruvian chicha, and dark, swirling psych-rock into a mesmerizing stew, the guitar-slinging six-piece have spent years exploring this sonic territory. “We live and breathe this landscape,” says Gabriel Sullivan, who shares lead vocals and lead guitar alongside Brian Lopez. “So with these songs we let loose, and went as far into that world as we could.”
Genesis is a visceral listen, and very much formed by aesthetics.
For its art, XIXA collaborated with celebrated fellow Tucsonan and longtime friend Daniel Martin Diaz on an illustration entitled “The Metaphysical Universe,” together creating the perfect visual representation of the themes explored on Genesis and the balance of darkness and beauty. Diaz’s work blends together ideas of Christian mythology like renewal and ascension, sciences like astronomy and anatomy, secret masonic symbols, a fair dose of hocus-pocus and war-of-the-worlds science fiction into a style all his own.
I talked to Brian Lopez about the creation of the album “Genesis”.
Your new album “Genesis” was created in difficult times. How was working on it different from the previous album and what is the current atmosphere in Tucson?
“There was not much difference in the writing and recording process — we typically record live, in a room together, to get the right vibe of the song. Depending on the day there might be all 6 of us, but usually there are about 3 or 4 of us. And we flesh out ideas together, before Gabriel and I go in later and start to deconstruct hte songs. The biggest difference from our previous album is that we now have 6 years experience touring and recording music, so we are much, much more efficient with our time and energy. We have our own recording studio, Dust and Stone Recording, and we have the luxury of time and experimentation, but we move very quickly, and keep momentum going through the writing and recording process.”
Compared to the debut “Bloodline”, your new offering sounds a bit darker. Is this related to the current situation?
“When we started the band, in 2012, we were actually called “Chicha Dust” (search it on youtube haha), and we ONLY played Peruvian Chicha cover songs. When we decided to change our name and start writing original material, I think we weren’t exactly sure who we were as a band…in “Bloodline” I definitely hear a band with a bit of multiple-personality disorder. I hear some songs that are Chcha inspired, some that are heavy metal, and everything in between. It took a while for us to settle into the natural frequency of our band and sound. Now, we have arrived with a sound that encompasses everything we are, from the music to the artwork. It may be on the darker side, but I feel that Bloodline also had some dark undertones as well…they just weren’t as obvious.”
Latin American elements have not disappeared from your music. How important is it for you to differentiate yourself from mainstream bands?
“I have no idea what a mainstream rock band is or how they sound — so i think we are safe there! haha. For us it is more important, perhaps, to not lean too far into the comforts of Peruvian Chicha, or various cumbia styles. I see a lot of bands go for the straight cumbia sound, because it’s a type of dance music that is very infectious and undeniable…but you get in trouble with the formulaic nature of cumbia. I think, especially with “Genesis”, we were very conscious of being songwriters first, and focusing on groove and texture later. I feel that inherently, that is what separates us from other cumbia bands, and consequently what separates us from other rock acts. At the sametime, we are not running away from mainstream appeal — I feel that our songs are very pop-oriented. It’s just a matter of public taste and opinion, really. We’re ready to play arena rock shows as soon as the opportunity presents itself.” ha
What has changed the most from the early days in the Giant Sand group? Do you have more creative freedom in Xixa?
“So Gabriel and I were the young guys in Giant Sand from about 2011 to 2016 or so…Gabriel maybe stayed in longer. The biggest lesson that we learned in Giant Sand, is to not overthink anything. I think Howe Gelb would say something to the effect of “You can’t insult the future by making plans.” This approach is actually very freeing of the mind in all aspects of life. Just know this ideology has obvious limitations. For example, if your child needs to be picked up from school at exactly 3:30, perhaps you should insult the future and pick your child up at exactly 3:30. Don’t leave your child’s safety and well-being to the universal elements…”
Genesis was released by Julian Records. Did it offer you better conditions than your previous label?
“They’ve been very supportive. And seem to put a good amount of focus and resources on gaining listenership on digital streaming platforms..which is something we certainly hadn’t done in the past. I wish we could be on tour right now — then we’d get the whole machine moving in unison, and really see how far we could push…Hopefully soon!”
When the current measures are lifted, will you also perform with Orkesta Mendoza and Calexico, or do you want to focus exclusively on your own project?
“I am open to any and all possibilities. Of course XIXA and my solo work are priorities. And fitting in solo tour dates is rather easy. But I love touring and playing with both Calexico and Orkesta as well, and do my best to coordinate schedules.”
Any interesting bands from your area you would recommend to our listeners?
“There is a really cool young cumbia band called “Los Esplifs” – we have been working with these guys a bit and i think they’ve got the goods. Check ‘em out.”
Robert Gregor (photo: press XIXA)