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In Conversation With: XOA

In Conversation With: XOA
Oliver Cruttenden

XOA is a new project to emerge from the capital, comprising of a live band that fuse the sounds of 70’s afrobeat with modern electronica. They create deep, soulful, tropical grooves littered with guitars, percussion and analogue synths while smooth and tantalising vocals from former Fela Kuti band leader Dele Sosimi round off the package. Drawing on influences from artists such as Floating Points and Bonobo, XOA are sizzling hot and definitely ones to watch with large stage performances and DJ sets planned for 2016.

Their stunning debut release Aiye Le is out this month on Dan Shake‘s Shake Music, with the label boss himself stepping up with a remix on the flip and bringing his trademark shuffling house aesthetic to the table in masterful fashion.

Ahead of the group’s illustrious EP launch at Brilliant Corners this Wednesday, we caught up with XOA’s key man Nick Tyson, of Gentleman’s Dub Club fame, to find out more about the driving force behind them and see what’s in store for the summer.

Welcome Nick, thanks for your time. Who makes up XOA usually?
XOA is written for and produced by myself, Nick Tyson, but features musicians I’ve worked with for years, bringing their amazing skills to the recordings and really elevating the music to the next level. Marijus Aleksa on drums, Chris ‘fatty’ Hargreaves on bass, Josh Arcoleo on sax, Junior Alli on percussion, and I’ve been working with different vocalists on each tunes. I’m loving collaborating this way.

‘Aiye Le’ is your funky debut and it seems to set out your ambitions pretty clearly; channelling afrobeat through the electronic prism. What was the thought process behind forming the project?
Myself and Marijus had talked whilst on tours for other artists about doing our own project and we were checking out a load of afro-beat, alongside all the cool house and club orientated electronic music coming out of south London, so it seemed obvious to try and create a project around combining the two.

Having Dele Sosimi on board draws on the experience of an original master of the craft. What’s it been like working with him? Did you work together on the lyrics?
Dele is a legend, both musically and as a human. I was introduced to him by a good friend of mine, LeaLea Jones (who will feature on the next release) and we talked a few times, I sent him the track and he sent back some great vocals. We both talked about the lyrics being socially conscious and having a meaning. Aiye Le is about the difficulty of life, but that beauty always shines through.

Will collaborations be a prominent feature for the group’s output?
Yep, I’m loving working with different vocalists who are bringing different ideas to the table. I feel it’s refreshing not to be limited to one singular voice. the future released will be a mix of vocal tracks and instrumentals. I’m also loving having each track remixed by exciting producers, inviting friends to remix / collaborate.

You’re the first new artist to be released on Shake Music. How did the connection with Dan Shake come about?
I’ve known Dan for years in London and he’s been absolutely smashing it lately. We were talking about XOA as I was writing the initial material and he proposed a remix, and then a release. It made total sense and I was over the moon.

His remix on the B Side is certainly club ready. Is it a concerted effort to position XOA close to the world of house and techno?
Indeed, more the house side of things, and broken beat. London has such a rich legacy of interesting club ready music, and what’s coming out at the moment especially is really interesting. It feels like a real movement with labels like Rhythm Section International, 22a, YAM, Shake etc all building a scene based on quality music from the ground up and achieving success. It’s exciting to be a part of it.

Tell us a bit about your gigging set up. Will you be performing as a full live band, or in a more stripped back format?
Yeah, we already had our first show for Global Rhythms at Brixton Electric which went down really well with the full live band. The musicians involved are all amazing, and we all have a lot of experience touring with different outfits, so it just seemed to gel onstage, both with the energy and sound. I can’t wait to take the project live and really develop that bridge between afrobeat, groove, live electronics and deep house.

How’s your summer shaping up? Any gigs lined up so far?
For the moment we’re presenting XOA through our DJ sets, and have some real cool bookings at Secret Garden, Soundwave, Dimensions, Outlook and some parties in London. Alongside that, I’m going to finish writing a new bunch of tunes for future releases and start lining up a tour with the full live band for the autumn.

What’s next on the cards for you all?
Watch out for the next release coming in August called Burn – with some hot remixes to accompany it. Then it’ll be all about the live show…

XOA – Aiye Le is out this week on Shake Music. Pre-order the 12″ here.