X Ambassadors are playing Cincinnati for the first time at Bunbury Music Festival. I was, as others might be, unfamiliar with the band. In preparation for the festival a few months ago, I “spotified” the band and fell quickly and deeply in love. “Unconsolable” has made its way onto every playlist I compose (and if you know me, you know I have a playlist for every occasion). It has a dark undeniable beat that forces me to hit repeat. I highly suggest you acquire the Love Songs Drug Songs EP immediately and begin your own romance with the music.
X Ambassadors are Sam Harris (vocals, guitar), Casey Harris (keyboard), Noah Feldshuh (guitar), and Adam Levin (drums). They started playing music together in college, but it wasn’t until 2010 that they decided to commit themselves full-time. Over the next couple of years this young band of close knit friends and brothers would craft together their debut album Litost, a record filled with both darkness and hope, songs that are groove based like “Unconsolable” (whose official music video features Girls star Zosia Mamet) and some that are truly anthemic “Bodybag.” It is a phenomenal genre bending rock album, influenced by everyone from the Stooges and Phil Spector, to George Harrison and Ginuwine.
I recently got to chat with Sam while in the car on the way to their next gig with Imagine Dragons!
Congrats on the recent EP drop! (Love Songs Drug Songs dropped 5/21/13)
Thank you, thank you, we are super stoked about it. It’s done very well so far. We are excited to play Bunbury. We heard it was a young festival and we are very excited to see what its all about.
Tell me about the new addition of the X in X Ambassodors?
The X actually was a very recent addition. And in all honestly for legal reasons, there was another band going by that name and when we signed with Interscope, and they were like, “we can go about this 2 ways, you can ask the others for the right to use it or you can change it.” So all 4 of us brainstormed for about 3 days going absolutley insane, it’s so hard to come up with a band name in the first place. It was trickey but we all agreed that adding the X was simple enough and we got to keep Ambassadors. Plus it looks cool and I also do a lot of the graphic design work for us and from a design standpoint it looks really good.
What can someone who hasn’t seen you live expect to see?
Our live show is ever changing and adapting. We started out playing small clubs that people would come to for the free booze. Now we are going back and forth between playing larger clubs, like 300 – 500 people, to theaters and now this arena tour with Imagine Dragons. You have to adapt to your enviroment. We have a really kick ass live show, we have worked hard on that ever since we started being a band. We always wanted to make sure that the live show was cool as posible. We don’t really have it in the budget to do any live theatrics, we never really have. So we focus on having fun with each other on stage and having a real communication with the audience. I like to joke around with people in between songs. We are a band that not that many people know of right now so just like to have fun on stage. I like to run around and play a bunch of instruments, I do some stuff on the saxophone now. And Casey is a mad scientist on his keyboard while Noah is going back and forth between keyboard and guitar. We got a little toy piano on stage that he messes around with. Adam has the hardest job as the master tempo keeper.
How did the recent tour with Imagine Dragons come to be?
Dan Renolds from Imagine Dragons has been a champion of ours for a while. He is a big part of how we came to the attention of Interscope. Dan worked with us on the recent EP on the song “Stranger”, he and I co-wrote that together. So Dan introduced us to the rest of the Imagine Dragons and they were cool enough to dig us and take us on tour… on this amazing tour. I am floored at the sizes of these shows, the amount of people and the production. Those Vegas boys really know how to put on on a show!
Any advice as a band just breaking through to that next level to other musicians?
Oh man. My advice is to listen to people, really listen to them and what they have to say, the people that you trust. And then throw half of that out the window. You have to take everything with a grain of salt. You have to be true to yourself but you also have to learn. The way you learn is by making mistakes. By seeing it first hand. At the end of the day don’t do anything you don’t feel comfortable with. We just saw Dave Grohl speak at the SXSW conference and you can quote him because, “The music always comes first”.