UKを代表するバンドThe xx（ザ・エックス・エックス）のギターリスト兼ボーカル。2020年9月にシングル「Lifetime」でソロ・デビュー。2022年11月にフレッド・アゲインをフィーチャリングしたシングル「ストロング」をリリース。他にもファッションブランド「エックスガール（X- girl）」とのコラボも行っている。現在、ソロアルバムを制作中。「フジロックフェスティバル ’23」にも出演する。
“Lifetime”, the solo debut single of The xx’s Romy, fills its listeners with an uplifting feeling of love over a gorgeous Eurodance beat. “You’ll be right beside me, I’ll be right beside you” – The dazzling euphoria of Romy’s fervent refrain is different from the subdued melancholy of the singer on stage with The xx, and is a vivid example of Romy’s new beginnings (debut).
This change is also symbolized in the song’s visuals clad in acid neon colors, a clear distinction from the signature black image from the singer’s past. In these images, one can clearly sense Romy’s attachment to the UK dance culture of the 2000s, a scene she’s been a part of since her teenage years, as well as the joy and ecstasy of liberation.
“It was a fun, new challenge”, Romy, who visited Japan in early February for a fashion brand event, said of the significance of starting this solo project. The solo album, which was originally reported to be released last year, is still in the works, but the singer is scheduled to perform at Fuji Rock this summer. We have also been hearing more about The xx’s forthcoming album. We look forward to hearing what kind of product will come out of this so-called “challenge”.
The xx and the solo project
– Has it been a while since you were last in Japan?
Romy: It’s been five years? I haven’t been back since the last (The xx) tour. I’m happy to be back.
– Are there any spots you always go to when you’re in Japan? Jaime’s answer was record shops.
Romy: Jaime has visited Japan more than I have, and sends me recommendation lists. I don’t have much time on this trip, though. There’s a synthesizer shop Jaime recommended that I really wanted to stop by, but I couldn’t make it. I have to leave tomorrow, so I’d like to go if I have time tonight. I really like Japan’s nightlife. I went to the clubs NEW SAZAE and GOLD FINGER last night.
– It’s been a while since you enjoyed Japanese nightlife. How did you like it?
Romy: The DJ playing at NEW SAZAE was really great. She was only playing hit songs on CDs, which made everyone go crazy.
– I’ve seen footage of you DJing as well, which I was struck by. In contrast to your cool and reserved performance style with The xx, you were pumping up the audience, waving your arms in the air. It was like seeing another side of you.
Romy: I think I was excessively self-conscious when I first started The xx. I was incredibly shy, and very young, more than anything. But I think I gained more confidence as time passed. I was awkward when I was starting out, even when DJing. I gradually felt more liberated the more I let myself do what I wanted. It did take a lot of time, though.
– The word “liberation” is symbolic. With The xx, for example, you wore all black on stage. You even mentioned in an interview that your wardrobe was all black. However, the look and artwork for your solo work is very colorful, and is filled with euphoria. What changes in your own life would you say are reflected in this difference?
Romy: I’m glad you noticed that. But it’s not something I did consciously. Maybe it’s because I’m a little older and less concerned about what people think of me. Now, I’m more able to relax and accept what I like. I still like to wear black, but I also like neon colors, and would like to incorporate more playful fashion.
– What does the color black mean to you?
Romy: I think it signifies a sense of security. I feel secure knowing the clothes will work. It’s very cohesive when you wear head-to-toe black. We’re a band of three who feel comfortable together when we all wear black. But none of us have deliberately said, “let’s all wear black”. We all just naturally started to dress similarly. We all have different projects now, and have less opportunities to play on the same stage. Jaime and Oliver have both started to incorporate brighter colors recently, and I think each of their views on fashion are shifting, too.
– On top of your new fashion choices, was a large part of this solo project initiated by the desire to “express a new self”?
Romy: It was. The wardrobe for this new (※currently in production) solo album includes more casual clothes that you’d wear at home – closer to street wear, and in brighter colors.
In the past, I wore outfits that felt more like armor on stage. I sported blazers, angular clothes, and wore high heels, all so that I could be more confident. But now I know that I don’t need any of those things.
The relationship between fashion and music
– Continuing on this conversation about fashion and music, I think the two were more closely connected in the past. For instance, in punk, grunge, or 90s rave culture, you could easily decipher what music a person listened to based on their clothes. Have you ever been influenced by music to change what you wore, or conversely, have you been introduced to music through fashion?
Romy: You’re right, it’s hard to tell what music someone enjoys based on their fashion choices nowadays. But I think that’s what makes it cool. Personally, because I’m very interested in music from the 2000s, I like fashion that goes well with that music – the neon colors of rave and trance, pants and training wear that dancers wear, and other styles that remind me of that era. So maybe I’ve consciously or subconsciously chosen these clothes.
– Do you have any outfits you reflect back on and wonder, “why did I choose to wear this”?
Romy: I do (laughs). When we first played Coachella, we decided to wear all white instead of all black, because we thought we’d be too hot if we dressed in black while playing in the desert. We were young then, so we chose our outfits ourselves. But when I look back at those photos, I’m like, “Oh God…” (laughs), and we have to laugh at ourselves. I wore a cream-colored jumper, which in retrospect, is embarrassing (laughs).
– Did you get rid of that outfit? (laughs)
Romy: I don’t know where it is anymore (laughs).
– Are there any musicians you’ve come across in your musical career whose style was the reason for your interest in them?
Romy: That’s a good question. But I think it’s more common for music to come first for me. Of course, if I see someone’s photo and I like their style, that may spark my interest. But I spend more time listening to music than I do looking through magazines, so it’s more common that I listen to someone’s music first. And if something intrigues me, I might look them up and learn about their fashion and sense of style.
– Who is someone that sparked your interest in that way?
Romy: My mind went blank the second you asked me that. I can’t think of anyone (laughs). I’m sorry.
– No problem (laughs). You mentioned that you enjoyed the Tokyo nightlife last night. I’m sure the London clubs that you were frequenting in your teens before The xx were a doorway to encountering various cultures that incorporated music and fashion.
Romy: I was around sixteen when I started going to the London clubs. I don’t know if sixteen-year-olds can even get into clubs nowadays (laughs), but I was lucky enough to have been let in. I started frequenting one of the queer clubs, where I met many people that I still consider to be some of my best friends to this day. The first DJ opportunity I had was also at this club, so that place is very special to me.
– Have those experiences remained a significant part of you?
Romy: Absolutely. I think the music I make today has been inspired by the events of that period of my life, and is closely tied to that era. The freedom and sense of community that existed there is directly reflected in my current work. I think the connection between the two is very significant.
– However, some of those special spaces have been lost due to the COVID pandemic, and in recent years, there have been reports of shootings at queer parties.
Romy: Yes, that mass shooting (which took place last year in Colorado Springs, Colorado) was shocking and such a tragic incident. Those places are safe spaces where so many people go to live their lives, express themselves, and connect with similar people. Those spaces were also very important to me. Once a place is no longer safe, it’s difficult to find another.
On top of that, it was heartbreaking to see so many of these places close because of COVID-19. I was reminded how much I loved nightlife and clubbing, and how much I wanted it. Connecting with people, feeling liberated from everyday life, and escaping reality are very important. It’s not just about drinking and getting high, it’s about listening to music and feeling euphoria.
A solo project as a new challenge
– The word “euphoria” that you just mentioned seems like a keyword in your solo project. Why did you start a solo project in the first place?
Romy: I had no intention of starting a solo project initially. But I like writing songs, and wanted to continue writing music outside of The xx. In fact, I did write songs for other artists (Dua Lipa, King Princess, Halsey). Eventually, I met and became friends with a producer named Fred Again, who I really enjoyed making music with. One day, when he asked me who I was writing for, I answered, “I’m thinking of writing for myself”. That was the catalyst.
– You’re also a guitarist, which means that in the event of a solo project, you had the option to sing while playing acoustic guitar. But instead, you chose dance music. Was that an inevitable choice for you?
Romy: No, it was a challenge. I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to know what it meant to put down my guitar. The guitar is like a comfort blanket to me, so I let it go on purpose. It was a fun, new challenge.
– Did you feel like you discovered a new side of yourself or a new aspect of yourself during the songwriting process?
Romy: Definitely. It was like a self-renewal process. I think I was also wanting to grow.
– Oliver mentioned that he acquired advice, knowledge, and inspiration from other queer artists like John Grant and Perfume Genius for his solo album released last year. Are there any artists like this for you?
Romy: Of course. Robyn is a major figure, and I think the music I make has definitely been inspired by her. I’ve only talked to her a couple times, but she’s very supportive and has given me a lot of advice. Connections like that are so important to me. I’m also inspired by artists like Bjork and Madonna, who have strong ideas and like to be involved in every detail of their musical processes. Bjork in particular is very involved in the production process and has many good ideas involving different aspects of her art. I’m always impressed and empowered by her work.
– Many female and nonbinary producers like Planningtorock, Jayda G, and HAAi, were chosen to remix your new songs “Lifetime” and “Strong”.
Romy: First of all, I wanted them working on my songs because I just love them all as artists. Second of all, it’s important to me that I support and spotlight queer and nonbinary people like them. But the number one reason is because I’m a huge fan of all of them. That’s the biggest factor.
– “Liking” something is important.
Romy: It is. I want to support them because I like them, not because they’re queer or nonbinary.
– “Strong” is a song that was written about confronting past sorrows. What does “strength” mean to you now?
Romy: It means “weakness”. I think “weakness” is also “strength”. That’s what I wrote about in the song, but that doesn’t mean I can always think that way. I had never considered my vulnerability and sensitivity to be strengths, and even now there’s a part of me that struggles to think that way. That’s why I think I’m trying to be like that now. I’m learning to be “weaker”.
Translation Mimiko Goldstein