Caskey Hudacko ’17, Pepa Konarski ’17, and Julia Steele ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writers
On the night of Wednesday April 9, Emertainment Monthly had the opportunity to see the band X Ambassadors perform at Great Scott in their first headline tour. Previously, they opened for bands like Jimmy Eat World, Panic! At the Disco, and Imagine Dragons. The band had the crowd jumping and singing along throughout the night.
Emertainment Monthly had the opportunity to interview front man Sam Harris, along with his brother and keyboardist Casey Harris and drummer Adam Levin, before the show.
What’s your story? How did you guys meet and start out?
Sam Harris: So Casey and I are brothers and I met Noah in kindergarten. We played in bands in middle school, and all three of us played in bands in middle school and high school together. We moved to New York around college and met Adam in freshman year in New School University and we jammed a little bit through college. After we graduated we all buckled down and decided that this is what we wanted to do, so we all quit our jobs and just hit the road.
What is your favorite song to play for an audience?
SH: Oh, I love playing “Free and Lonely.” I just love that jam.
Adam Levin: I love playing “Free and Lonely” too, it’s one of my favorites. That, and “Stranger.”
Do you have a favorite, Casey?
Casey Harris: Oh, I don’t know, I try not to play favorites.
You guys have toured with a lot of really big people. What was it like getting to experience that with them?
SH: It’s very cool, you know you learn a lot from people who have been playing shows every day and they pick up on things that you haven’t quite picked up on yet. You know, just little tricks and certain things to get the audience more involved. And you get to formulate your own ideas of how you would put on your big show if you had the money to do it. It’s mostly practical things like that. ‘Cause at the end of the day, we’ve been very lucky with the bands we’ve been touring with. They’re very nice people and very down to earth. We’re not learning how to be rock star assholes, we’re learning that the people who make it farther in the industry are the people who are smart and good people and who are nice, generally.
CH: Except Marilyn Manson, we’ve only heard horror stories about that guy.
AL: That’s how it goes, I guess.
What kind of music did you guys listen to growing up?
SH: A lot of hip hop and a lot of R&B. The first group I ever fell in love with was the Fugees, I was a big Fugees fan. I love the Wyclef solo record and the Lauryn Hill solo record. The Score and the Wyclef and Lauryn Hill solo records were the three albums I loved as a kid. And then, I got more into a lot of backpacker stuff like Common and Black Star and then I started listening to old school like KRS1, Biggie, Nas, and Gang Starr and all that old stuff. And then I started listening to more proto-punk stuff. I don’t really know how I transitioned into that.
Yeah, it’s clear that there’s a hip-hop influence in your music. How did you guys fuse it with the rock vibe, what made you decide to do that?
SH: Well, we all really wanted to be in a band, we always wanted to do that. The live music thing is really enticing ’cause we grew up idolizing those big alternative rock bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers and Coldplay, those big bands. This is before we discovered the indie groups that we look up to now, the more under the radar guys. But yeah, there’s that element of it; the band element and the camaraderie and brotherhood drew us to that. But we also really love hip-hop, so we wanted to incorporate the two.
Is there anyone you guys would like to collaborate with in the future?
SH: I said this earlier, I was in a shoe store in LA and I saw Andre 3000 there. We’re playing with them at Firefly this year.
Firefly! Yeah, we might visit a friend and go to Firefly.
AL: Yeah, it’s fun as hell!
What was the inspiration for The Reason EP?
SH: Lyrically, a lot of it is about a lot of people we know who we went to school with who wanted to have careers in the arts. You get to a point where you go at it, and go at it and some people realize that maybe things just aren’t working out the way they expected them to. This career that they had worked so hard to make, this dream that they worked so hard to make real, isn’t going to necessarily come true. So, what comes next, you know, what’s the next step? It’s a really scary position to be put in. I know a lot of people who’ve been put in that position. And it’s not so bad, there are so many adults that I know and have talked to that have had dreams of being writers, or actors, or musicians, and life just takes over and steers you in a different direction and you end up doing something that you love just as much. Maybe it’s being a teacher or being a mother or father, even working in the corporate realm. Who knows? But it’s always good to keep it in mind however scary it might get. We’re also in an industry where it’s very up and down and you never know what could happen. So in a way it was a very self-help, therapeutic kind of thing.
What’s next for the X Ambassadors?
SH: Well, we’re gonna finish up this headline run and we’ve got a couple festival shows this summer. We’re gonna be working on the album. Yeah, yeah, starting to work on that. We’ve got some video content coming out soon, lyric videos for “Free and Lonely” and “Unsteady.” Other than that, who knows what the future holds?
After their amazing (and sold out) performance at the Great Scott, X Ambassadors will be back on May 21 at the Sinclair in Cambridge. With their incredible blend of styles and music that defies genres, X Ambassadors is definitely a band that everyone should give a listen to, as they seem to have a great future ahead of them.