X Ambassadors speak about industry’s challenges and writing about their fears

By Ysabella Monton

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X Ambassadors may not have been on your radar since 2012, but in the last two years, they have collaborated with the likes of Jamie N Commons, Jay-Z, and Eminem. Those artists represent genres quite different from what X Ambassadors are doing: they’ve made their own unique mélange of heavy indie rock with a clear hip-hop and R&B influence.

The band features brothers Sam (vocals, guitar, sax) and Casey Harris (keyboard), guitarist Noah Feldshuh, and Adam Levin on drums. Together, they craft a clean, infectious sound that manages to make something new out of everything in an industry where “new” music is beginning to sound the same.

WSN had the opportunity to speak with Sam and Casey, to learn a little more about the band, before they kicked off their tour at Rough Trade in Brooklyn on September 30.

Hailing from upstate New York, Sam, Casey, and Noah moved to the city for college “purely to find other musicians to play with and to meet people who could help [the band] in the music industry.”

Evidently, a career in the arts isn’t the easiest path to follow. Sam noted that many of his friends were pursuing careers in the arts and eventually realized that they weren’t going to achieve their goals or that it was no longer what they wanted. His friends’ struggles were a majorly influenced X Ambassadors’ latest release, “The Reason EP.”

“It’s not an admission of defeat; that is the story of a lot of people’s lives,” said Harris. “That’s also one of my biggest fears, not being able to achieve what I want to achieve and to have to give up on my dream.”

He draws most of his songwriting influences from things like this happening around him. Said Harris, “It’s always important to write about what scares you the most.”

“Ninety percent of what I write is fucking horrible, until I find something that’s okay, and I turn that into something that’s a little more than okay,” he said. “[The songwriting process] is totally demoralizing, but you love it when you find that one thing that just works. It’s the most frustrating thing in the world, and also the most rewarding.”

A keychain stood out that featured the symbol of Norfolk, VA’s “96X,” my favorite radio station from my hometown. Harris said that their single “Litost” was the number one song on the station for a year or so. “If it wasn’t for them, the guys from Imagine Dragons wouldn’t have heard us, they wouldn’t have shown us to Alex [producer Alex da Kid], and we wouldn’t have been signed.”

Their efforts to stay creative, coupled with the band’s determination to constantly keep improving, is what’s going to keep them on the rise. “We’re connecting the dots [to success], but it’s in a very weird, zig-zaggy way,” said Sam. “I still don’t think it’s happening. I don’t think I ever will.”

Casey added, “From the inside, it always looks like you got a lot further than you were. You’re always looking ahead to, ‘Okay, we’ve made it this far, but we have this and this and this yet to do.’”

“When I first got to New York, I was like, ‘Shit, I wanna headline Bowery Ballroom someday,’ and we did,” noted Sam with humble charm. “It’s just little moments like that that keep you going.”

 Ysabella Monton is a contributing writer. Email her at music@nyunews.com

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