He's still a kid, spending his time in his room or in the park, he's as insecure an adolescent as the next one; but he's released a debut album that perfectly crossbreeds atmospheric dubstep with pop. Florida's teen answer to James Blake is Marcel Everett, alias XXYYXX, and we wanted to know a bit more about the boy.
Marcel Everett is young, very young. The fact that James Blake's “ CMYK” was his initiation moment just about spells it out. He's living in Orlando, FL, is 16 years old, goes to high school, smokes joints and spends his time with his girlfriend and his mates. Your average adolescent lifestyle. But when he puts on his XXYYXX suit to produce music, the boy is far from average. Because, even though his influences are rather obvious (James Blake first of all, some R&B sweetness, snippets of witch-house, a pinch of vaporous hip-hop), Everett has the gift of enchantment. His atmospheres, created with textures synthesised always at the exact right level of modulation, and profusely manipulated vocal samples, ooze that kind of comforting melancholy that can only be achieved if you're a master of capturing emotions. Evidence can be found on “XXYYXX”, a debut album that has the whole post-dubstep galaxy on red alert. Before he conquers it completely, we had a word.
How would you introduce yourself to someone that's never heard about XXYYXX? I would tell the person the music is weird and mellow but it has dance elements I guess. I've never really described my own music that well before.
You're really young. What else are you doing a part from music? Are you still in school?
Skating, schooling, eating, sleeping, other things-ing. Yeah I go to this adult high school in a community college near where I recently moved, it's pretty cool the kids are nice.
What's your musical background?
I've been in some hard-core bands, I've had too many side projects, and I play guitar, drums, piano. My mom played clarinet in high school, never touched the thing myself.
When and why did you first start making your own tracks? Can you tell us a bit more about your previous projects, before XXYYXX?
I was always into punk and that kind of grew into a hardcore and then post-hardcore, metalcore, deathcore phase. I was in a few bands but I literally just went off at random and began making electronic music. I think I was still in those bands but at some point at around 14 I got more serious with it. I had about 5 or 6 side projects and now I have 2 or 3, either way XXYYXX became serious when I was about 15.
Although your sound is a kind of melting pot of many different things, it feels like British contemporary electronic music has had an important influence on your tracks. Do you agree? What are your current influences or favourite artists?
Yes, I certainly think that UK electronic music has an impact on my sound. It's all really great to me, the funk and soul elements along with the dub and bass just clashing. It works there, it REALLY works. James Blake's “CYMK EP” was definitely ground-breaking for me. Roska is pretty good and well known in the UK funky realm.
"Honestly I just want to create SOME kind of vibe or feel to a track I make"
Living in Orlando, do you have a lot of people around you interested in the same kind of music? In other words, are there many young Americans interested in post-dubstep? (It’s obvious that “dubstep” is really big in the mainstream nowadays but I'm referring to more underground sounds).
Absolutely not, you say dubstep in Orlando and the closest ditsy slut next to you will be like ‘oh so it sounds like Skrillex, you know like Transformers.’ While there are people and musicians (even friends’ of mine like GRANT and Fortune Howl and JSHIH) who do like it, it's really not that popular over here.
In the same vein, is there any kind of electronic scene in Orlando to which you can relate? It seems like Relief in Abstract is doing a good job of promoting local artists.
Yeah we're all good friends at RIA. There sadly isn't a scene, me and fellow label mates are just trying to expand and create a scene here of our own. Why not brink LA and the UK here you know?
Your music exudes a very particular kind of melancholic mood. Do you consider yourself a melancholic person?
Yeah I'm honestly a downer. I make lots of jokes but for some reason I'm a pretty negative person, it gets in the way and adds a lot of unnecessary stress and drama in my life but I guess that's all just motivation and I can capture it in my tracks.
In relation to that, what kinds of feelings drive you to make music, or what kinds of feelings do you want to reflect in your music?
Honestly I just want to create SOME kind of vibe or feel to a track I make, it doesn't have to be the exact mood but I at least want the listener to feel something.
Can you describe the composition of your studio?
I'm just a brat with a laptop and a midi controller, honestly.
How do you usually construct your tracks? Do you have any predetermined pattern or do you just play around until something clicks? Vocal samples seem to play a very important role in the way you write your songs.
Usually for my more thoughtful tracks I just capture my emotions in the moment and for some reason I can often hear a tune in my head, I basically work my way up from there when I'm making a track. The rest of my songs are like that I guess but instead of feeling an initial emotion I try to convey one.
What are your immediate future plans, music and non-music wise?
Vinyl, shows, get people to leave my girlfriend alone. Make a track for Robert Kelly (ilu prince).