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Only rarely do casual exchanges between people who don’t already know one another become life-changing. But for experimental duo XVOTO a random meeting in Peckham, South London represented the beginning of something extraordinary. - Madrid vocalist Jazz Alonso met Paris-born guitarist and producer Saigon Fury – formerly of glam-punk outfit HMLTD - in a fast food outlet about two years ago. The seemingly random encounter initiated the beginning of a unique music collaboration.

While their characteristic blend of industrial, hard-hitting rap and punk sensitivity is crisp, they show a determination to innovate by creating distinctly dark, emotive sounds.  

Being open to other ways of thinking is key to the mindset of the duo. For example “it’s important not to listen to the same genre all the time,” reflects Fury. “Then your point of reference just becomes an echo chamber, which is a shame, it can be ‘dangerous’ too.”

Writing songs is an organic thing that allows them to broaden their sound as they continue to bring in different references, this is everything between old- school rock ‘n’ roll to punk, R&B, pop and trap. Or put differently, should there be a conflict between acts like Kanye West, Elvis, Aphex Twin or ‘80s new wave synth group Japan? XVOTO do not accept such boundaries with ease.

Their new self-titled six-track EP is a magnificent example of practicing what you ‘preach’, as XVOTO take their industrial rap brand in ambitious directions. Each track has an identity, while the release is a contemporary expression. The industrious ‘Mommy Can’t Sleep’ came about after Alonso had been experimenting with some vocals in the shower. She might not have viewed herself as a rapper before, but the event is likely to prompt a revised perception.  

“I remember coming up with my rap parts while having a shower,” she says. “I didn’t know how to approach it because I’m more used to soul and jazz. But during that I was listening to a beat and for some reason my intuition was to rap. I remember wondering if it was right, if it really worked. It was the first time I’d ever rapped.” Feeling somewhat shy, she discovered there was no reason to feel that way, her songwriting partner had wanted to include rap for some time.

Similarly, the ferocious track ‘Brainfreeze’ represents an vibrant sonic path of opportunity. The track came about when Fury wrote some guitar parts using feedback. Having created “some weird melody”, he added drums, and Alonso ensured the rest of the song came together. “I had a load of different versions,” she enthuses. “I had an idea relating to this book about forensic anthropology, which I’ve had since I was a kid. I just opened it up, and there was this inspiring passage. It’s just a really good book.”

The mixing of genre is one thing, with that comes learning from each other. While Fury is super-familiar with punk in all forms, Alonso really knows her R&B and jazz, it creates a composite relationship where knowledge exchanges add a dimension to a shared creative outcome. And they both see emotional depth or intensity as important as the knowledge.

“It is the emotional thing I like in music,” comments Alonso. “It’s not just because it’s interesting. I can appreciate a band for being weird, but that’s not why I’ll go back and listen to them again. Everything that I like about music is because it perfectly soundtracks feeling. That’s probably what those references that we have in common go back to, we’ll be writing a song, and it’ll be this song or that song, there’s a feeling.”

Not wanting to plan far into the future, they prefer to be in the moment. The objective is to continue making great music and push forward, always trying out new things. As Alonso says “the point isn’t to repeat yourself, it’s to constantly find new roads to expression.”

XVOTO’s experimental journey has only just begun, it leaves them free to follow any soundscape route as they see fit.

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XVOTO's self-titled debut EP is out now.

Words: Susan Hansen
Photo Credit: Alina Negoita

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