X Ambassadors at Sunset Cove Ampitheater
The X Ambassadors came on to open the night at Sunset Cove Amphitheatre and the first two things I noticed were Casey Harris’ walking stick and Sam Harris’ Perry Farrellesque gyrations on the first song. The guys came out the gate kicking ass, sounding and dancing excited as hell to be in 91% humidity, overcast Boca Raton, FL. Turns out they were happy and excited as hell. Lots of great news for the boys of X Ambassadors (formerly Ambassadors) these last few months. Not only do they genuinely love to perform, they also recently signed with Grammy winning producer Alex Da Kid; their EP Love Songs Drug Songs was released on 5/7, taking their excitement level from hell yeah to fuck yeah; and they were added to Austin City limits this fall.
Sitting with these guys to discuss all things them and their music, I felt that I’d walked into a well underway get-together with my closest friends. I forget how the Maurica (Yannis Pappas’ character) quotes and “das it” started making their way around the room but that’s when I knew: these are my kind of people. After learning that Noah is hooked on top 40 and Casey’s first words with regard to his brother Sam’s birth were “take him back,” we got on to more serious stuff.
I had to ask just how many instruments they can each play because during their set Sam (lead vocal) played drums, a saxophone, all while singing. It turns out he also plays guitar, and bass. Noah plays guitar mainly, does background vocal, and a little toy piano. Adam plays drums and Casey (who only has 15% of his vision and learned piano when he was 9 years old) plays keys, equally wild and energetically.
If you’re a new fan or have never heard of X Ambassadors (named Ambassadors when they performed at Lollapalooza in 2012), then let me fill you in. According to Sam, they’ve been a band in some way since middle school, with Sam and Noah being friends since kindergarten. Casey jammed with them a few times but officially joined in high school and Sam and Noah met Adam Levin in The New School in New York. After a few tries for a 5th member for bass, they finally decided on having Sam do bass as well, instead of just vocals. They’ve been through quite a few band names, with their current iteration being 4 years old.
I apologize profusely for including this following bit of band history but it was just too awesome to leave out. Prior to becoming the X Ambassadors and as far back as middle school, they went cycled through some awesome names such as Pumpkin’s Pocket (my favorite), The Kins. Subject To Change, and Fuzz Brothers. Sam was super thankful for Casey’s impeccable memory around this subject. Once the laughs and snorts (mine) subsided, we got on to how the band ended up co-writing Stranger with Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons, who also connected them with their label.
Dan was in Norfolk, Virginia where the X Ambassadors have a rabid following. Litost (pronounced Lee-toast) was popular on the radio at the time and the person driving Dan to the hospital was listening to it. Dan asked who it was, the driver filled him, and proceeded to played him an acoustic version of Unconsolable. He apparently flipped out and called Grammy award winning producer Alex Da Kid. Alex liked it, got in touch, they met in London for drinks, talked music, and went into the studio for two weeks in January.
Out came Stranger (one of the band’s personal favorites) and Love Songs Drug Songs (title track of the EP). It’s the fastest they’ve ever come up with songs from scratch. Sam had been working on Stranger for a while but it was incomplete. He’d expected Dan to encourage him to do more rock stuff like they’ve done in the past, but he really tapped into Sam’s R&B feel and encouraged him to go that way. They ended up signing with Alex Da Kid via Interscope and they’re very happy with their decision. Not only does Alex understand what they want, he’s helped streamline the writing process. Their commitment is to whatever is best for a song; it’s what drives their creative democracy.
With the EP done and out, they’re doing what they consider to be the best part: entertaining screaming fans. Sam elaborates on how the crowd’s energy drives his energy, “You go out there and you see all these people that are ready to hear new music or see a band they love, and I feed off that. I could be having the worst day possible, and then get out there and see screaming people that are excited to hear bands play and that’s it.”
So when all is said and done, why add them to your list of must see bands? Noah shared a quick story. “My mom sent me a tape of the first concert we ever played when we were 12 years old. We literally built a stage with plywood. We spent 10 fucking hours carrying this damn plywood all the way from Sam’s garage to the backyard where they had this annual family barbeque, and we set all this up, and we played whatever songs we had written for their family. [The takeaway] is that’s what we love to do, we’ve been doing it forever, we love to play for people. Sam added, “We love to play live and we think people get that from us when we perform. When you go see a band and you see them having a good time with each other and enjoying what they do, you’re going to become passionate. We remember going to concerts as kids when we were younger and it was just amazing, the best time ever, and we want to give back what we got.”
I challenge you to look like you’re having a better time than X Ambassadors is when they perform, I really do.