Simultaneously striking fear and excitement in the hearts of unsuspecting audiences, Oakland, California’s xbxrx is an exhilarating explosive entity within the independent music scene. Their unpredictable live sets blast through a rabid ten minute onslaught… and I DO mean onslaught! Originally from Mobile Alabama, the band relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area allowing them to further unleash their ravaged noisy post hardcore shockwaves. The push to explore new sounds and develop their socio-political awareness is blatantly obvious on their latest Polyvinyl Records release entitled, Sixth In Sixes. Xbxrx discussed their new recording with Agouti’s Eli Ellsworth, and some of their collective philosophy on life, politics, and music… as much as they could agree on such things!
Could you explain a bit about the concept behind the title “Sixth
It concerns a theory known by the name "sixth extinction". In a nutshell, humanity has done a good job at trying to destroy the planet and ultimately it will prove to be the death of the human race.
The religious zealots/extremists that run our country believe that Armageddon is a big part of their fairy tale fantasy, so they have no problem speeding the destruction and wiping us all out.
It’s sad and the bitter punch line is that we're all going to meet the same awful fate. We live for the moment and we embrace our remaining days with gusto. We are not defeated at all, but we feel the need to express what we see in our music.
Do you feel you've become more politically and socially aware as you've
come out of your teenage years and moved into your twenties?
By utter necessity. We have no choice but to be aware of what's going on. It affects everybody on this planet directly and current events are getting so drastic anybody that is conscientious can't avoid being engaged. This is not a time for escapism. It’s a time to seriously consider what action can be done to correct this mass insanity.
How is that consciousness reflected in the lyrics on your new album?
If you read the lyrics they concern the widespread hypocrisy that is all around us as the planet is murdered. There’s a social destruction happening as well as environmental problems.
Certain songs refer to thick blocks being, “taller than our vision,” and, “people who keep the block up.” What is this block symbolism driving at?
Society teaches us to block feelings, reality, truth and anything that
doesn't suit the ideals of consumerism. They want things to remain at the status quo from now until infinity. They try to build walls around our vision so that we can only see what's inside our bubble and never beyond. They succeed most of the time in making this happen. They will try to build it higher and keep it like this as long as the majority likes comfort over reality. We, as a band, stand against these ideals.
How has it been living in Oakland versus your hometown of Mobile,
Alabama? Do you feel the San Francisco Bay Area been supportive and
accepting of xbxrx or do you encounter a level of resistance?
We moved to the Bay Area because it offers a lot of things we desire. There are more positive and progressive people out here. Heck, Mobile is a city of a quarter million people and they don't even have a recycling program set up in the year 2005! The weather, art, and food out here are great. There's no need to have a car out here but it's a necessity in Mobile. We've got a much h3er support network out here and that enables us to live a better life.
You've stated before that your focus in on the music and getting
people excited and active during shows. What do you do currently to get your audience going?
We hope that our shows can be a mass‚ therapeutic release for all involved, including ourselves. Having said that, we also understand that everyone gives and takes differently from show situations.
Some of your shows have been so out of control certain venues have banned you entirely! But most of the time people seem to really dig what you're doing. They really feed off your surprising & restricted energy. But, has the audience ever surprised you unexpectedly during a show?
On the second show of our most recent tour, the crowd rushed the stage for a mass hugging / chaotic celebration. The club security guard just stood there with his flashlight, defeated. Some kid ran off with my guitar.
Who are some of your current favorite artists or bands and do you prefer technically meticulous musicianship or a powerful presentation where the focus isn't so much on playing perfectly?
We are in to everything from superhuman technical musicians like Octis to (this band who) can’t-play-their-instruments (and is) fronted by a nine year old kid, Evil Wicked Warrior. They all have their place.
What is the relationship among xbxrx band members like?
We are all individualists and we are bound together by common goals where we intersect.
Are you all on the same page as far as the band is concerned artistically or do conflicts arise from time to time?
We don't agree on everything and we're all fine with that. It’s
expected. There’s a high level of individual and group nonconformity within xbxrx. That’s part of our agenda. We get along pretty well and we try to really talk to each other about things. There isn't a lot of drama here. We save our energy for the music.
You have explosive stage personalities, an amazing sound, and I imagine
that music is a huge part of your life, but what do you do when you're not playing music? What are your thoughts on pursuing music and art at an early age, which you did, rather than getting a job, starting a career, going to school, preparing for a family life, and all that?
We all started playing music at very early ages. It’s a pretty big part of what we all have done for a long time, but of course we have other interests. We generally prefer to focus on the entity and not the individuals when asked questions like this because each musician's answer is going to be radically different and take up way too much space. It should be noted that in a lot of ways music is a job, career, school, and family life for us. It’s just not the traditional idea of those things. We work hard, will do it for life, learn from it, and have established and maintained deep human connections with it.
You've also been cited as having tremendous influence and touted as one of the greatest new bands to come out in the last 5 years, yet through it all you retain a sense of humbleness regarding your talent. What sort of impact are you striving for?
We’ve had to struggle and work very hard for what we've gotten. We continue to challenge ourselves every day and there's still a long path ahead of us. Being in a band is a lousy reason to have a big head. Everybody does it, so it's not that big of a deal. There’s no reason to be overly self-congratulatory.
We certainly hope we can inspire people. All of the band members had pivotal moments with music and it would be nice if we could inspire or encourage people the way other groups/artists inspired us. We’d like to think that we're offering some kind of alternative to the status quo of music.
What are your plans for the future?
Just to keep working, writing, recording, touring and following inspiration where it leads us.