X-Ambassadors brings grit to the mit



Brooklyn-band X-Ambassadors is stopping by The Loft in Lansing, MI for a concert on Friday, Nov. 22, 2013.

Describing themselves as Alternative-R&B Arena-Soul, X-Ambassadors is one up & coming band you need to start following. Exhibiting a rich musical history, thanks to the family bloodline-these guys bring the raw, grit, soulful chops the music scene has been longing for.

Currently, their single “Unconsolable” has been blowing up the alternative airwaves across the country.

Lead singer, Sam Harris, spoke with me about the meaning behind the name, family, labels and athlete’s foot.

Q: First off, and always one of my favorite questions—where did the band’s name originate? How did it come about? There’s also been talk online about a name change. Did you used to go by Ambassadors or is that just an internet rumor?

 Sam(S): It’s a very boring story. We were struggling to come up with a name for months and we finally landed on Ambassadors (which then changed to “X Ambassadors” when we ran into some trouble clearing the name legally). It was named after a certain type of drum head that Adam plays on: a Remo “coated ambassador”. For some strange reason, Ambassadors was something that just resonated with all of us, so we took it. It was a little chaotic when we found out we had to change it, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. X Ambassadors is way more google-able than Ambassadors.

Q: When I stumbled upon your music, first song was Unconsolable, playing on my city’s alternative radio station—I have to admit it was refreshing. Right now, the fads seem to be very folky, banjos and loafer like. How would you describe your music? Indie rock?

 S: Our music is very much it’s own thing, which has kinda been our goal all along. I’d call it Alternative-R&B Arena-Soul. I can safely say it’s very unique, based on the crazy opposite comparisons we get all the time. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard “hey, your lead singer sounds like Jeff Buckley” and “hey, your lead singer sounds like the guy from Creed” back-to-back. It can be very frustrating. But it’s also encouraging because it means no one can put us in a box and categorize us. It means we’re making something new.

Q: Family is clearly important, considering the brotherhood that is X-Ambassadors. Is family what got you into music? Was there any other dream you thought might end up being a career besides music?

S: I went to school for acting, so that was always another dream of mine. The rest of the guys also went to school for other things, but I think we all wanted this more than anything else. Casey and I have been playing music together since we were kids and Noah and I started our first band together when we were 12. So this has pretty much been it for us.

Q: Do you remember hearing yourself on the radio for the first time? If so, where?

 S: We were in Norfolk, VA driving across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge; we had just played our first show there and had no idea how much they’d been playing us on the radio. That show, everyone knew all the words to our songs and sang along the entire time. Hearing the song on the radio while we were driving out of town was kind of when it all hit us. We all thought, “Wow, we might actually be able to pull this off.. Even though we have no idea what we’re doing.”

Q: What’s it been like to work/tour with Imagine Dragons? Any other new bands that have influenced/had a positive effect on the band?

 S: Working with Dan isn’t exactly like working under the influence of Imagine Dragons. Dan has an incredible eclectic taste in music and from the times we’ve worked together, he’s always encouraged us to do our own thing. We’ve been listening to a lot of new artists, specifically solo acts that have had a lot of impact on us. Recently I discovered this guy Benjamin Clementine from the UK… He has this song “Cornerstone” that is just absolutely breathtaking. Just him and a piano, and yet it sounds so new and unique. Also Mikki Ekko, Sampha, and our homie Jamie N Commons. Jamie has got a KILLER voice. He and I just collaborated on this track we did with Alex that is really pretty cool. Hopefully you’ll hear it soon.

Q: What’s the meaning behind the name of the album Litost? 

S: It’s a Czech word that I took from one of my favorite books, “The Book of Laughter and Forgetting” by Milan Kundera. It doesn’t have a direct translation into English, but in the book he describes it as “a state of torment upon the realization of one’s inadequacy or misery.” I thought it was a beautiful word, on the inside and out. Literally, I thought it LOOKED beautiful. I think too many people underestimate the physical beauty of letters and how much of an impact they have on us. Litost just seemed to fit the overall sentiment of the EP and, more specifically, the song. Also it’s an homage to Milan Kundera who had a huge impact on my writing.

Q: How has the response of the EP Love Songs, Drug Songs been since the release in May?

 S: Good! We’re super proud of it, and that’s what matters the most to us right now. It’s all you can really ask for when it comes to these things.

Q: Are these the only two musical releases you have?

S: Actually, “Litost” isn’t available to buy online anymore.. The label had us take it down before we put this new one out. But those songs will most certainly reappear.

Q: Now time for some fun questions!

Name three things you need on tour:

S: Lotrimin spray (athletes foot is a real thing, people), a good book, a laptop with recording capabilities.

Q: Something you’d be surprised to know about me/the band:

S: Casey hates cheese. Literally has never eaten a slice of pizza before in his entire life. And I can recite all of Hamlet’s speech to the players from memory.

Q: One song I’m currently listening to on repeat:

S: “Cornerstone” by Benjamin Clementine

Q: Life without music would be…

S: boring.

X-Ambassadors is performing at The Loft on Fri. Nov. 22

Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $9.41

For ticket information, visit www.fusionshows.com