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Interview: XXYYXX

ACCLAIM catches the bedroom-producer-prodigy before his sold-out show in Melbourne

From making emotive electronic music in his bedroom in Florida to playing gigs in hotel bathrobes for his debut Australia tour, there is no denying that Marcel Everett’s music causes a reaction. By seventeen, under his Tumblr title ‘XXYYXX’, Everett’s had over seven million views on his video ‘About You’ on YouTube and released two albums that blend a moody atmosphere, warped vocals and even samples of TLC. ACCLAIM catches up with the artist at a classy dinner at Lord of the Fries before his sold-out Melbourne gig to talk about the downfalls of internet hype, what his grandma thinks of his music and… Bill Gates.

Somewhere between Everett doing his soundcheck and taking off his sweaty swiped-from-the-hotel-slippers, every electronic music fan born in the 1990s seemed to show up at the Liberty Social. Armed with iPhones, crowds arrived from dusk to queue outside the venue; some had travelled from the countryside, and one guy claimed that he’d come from Italy. Though tired from his hectic schedule – just your usual weekend of SXSW to Adelaide – Everett played an energetic, effortless set that delighted his cult following so much that they stormed the stage to get their photo taken with him and offer him drinks. While notoriety seems to have happened overnight and the young bedroom producer is still experimenting with his sound (and trying to get into college), it’s clear Marcel has that quality that most musicians spend years trying to achieve: a humble, heartfelt connection to his music and plenty of time for his fans.

How do you describe your music to people that aren’t into electronic music, like, your grandma?

My grandma has no clue – she thinks I make disco. I don’t know how common the term ‘down-tempo’ is, but I’d use that. Maybe with some hip-hop vibe. It can be spacey too, almost heady. It’s like a weird mix. I think I told my grandma that I make experimental hip-hop and she was like, ‘Oh, okay. So you make rap?’ I pretty much gave up after that.

Does she listen to your music?

[Laughs.] No! We had a family party recently, actually, and one of my songs came on shuffle and I changed the track quickly. It’s so weird listening to your own music, I think anyone would say that, except maybe Kanye. 

You get sick of it?

When you’re actually making the song, you play it back like a million times, so by the time you’ve finished it, you think ‘Oh god, not this song again’. 

You’ve very suddenly gone from just making beats in your bedroom to playing across the world. Is this a really strange experience for you?

Yeah, I am still catching up with it. I’m thankful for it. There’s no way I expected it. It’s cool though – it’s my dream to make music and play it to people so the fact that it’s happening is amazing. You meet some crazy people along the way, interesting people, harassing people. 

Are you surprised by the types of people that come out to see your shows?

Yeah, absolutely, the strangest is when people are like ‘Do you mind if I –’, and it’s like ‘Stop, I don’t mind if you talk to me.’ It’s weird: I’m not even at that fame level. It’s strange to find that people from all over the world have heard your music and listen to it, regularly, and come to your shows. It’s so crazy. I guess it’s how the internet works now: people are going to hear your music from all over the world.

At what point were you thinking ‘Oh shit, like 7 million people have heard this song’?

That exact example. When that video came out [About Youdirected by Jeff Vash] that happened right before my first tour, the Europe tour. It was because my friend Charlie [Giraffage] hooked me up with it, and I was like, ‘OK’. But I didn’t realise that people would have already heard my music or knew who I was. At that point I figured people were paying attention, and it was pretty shocking. From that point, just a few months ago, it’s kept going.

Do you think it has been a good thing for your music? Did help build your confidence?

Specifically, the video’s popularity helped me write the album, but I’m not sure sometimes. If people know if I have other tracks that aren’t like that song. People put a lot of expectation when you have that one big song. I’ll put stuff on Soundcloud and get comments like ‘This doesn’t sound like you,’ and it’s like, ‘How do you know?’ It’s bittersweet, the fact that it’s allowed my music to get out there, but it adds a lot of pressure!

Your music was picked up early by the big music blogs like Pitchfork and XLR8R. What are your thoughts on the online ‘tastemakers’?

I do fucking hate Pitchfork. They’ve been caught so many times changing the scores they’ve given artists when they’ve gotten big. It’s like, you’re supposed to be a tastemaker, so actually stand by what you like. Don’t just jump on something, because then [the scene] just gets saturated by the same sound. And that’s what happens all the time: there’s always a movement of something, like one genre for a few weeks and that’s all anyone will pay attention to, and then it leaves everything else out. And there is so much music that won’t get out there because these dick-sucking blogs just focus on the stuff that’s popular. It’s like ‘I wanna be a blogger to fit in,’ when I thought the whole point was to be original. [Laughs.] I keep veering off topic – but with my music, I think it’s good that those sorts of blogs have picked it up. I mean, XLR8R is good, when I got on there I freaked out, I was like ‘I’m on here? I go here! I’m always on this site’.

Is that how you got involved with electronic music, through exposure on your Tumblr?

I was fourteen and I heard Toro y Moi’s album Causes of This and I figured out it was just one guy and I was like ‘Oh shit, I’m just one guy, I could do this!’ That allowed me to listen to other kinds of electronic music and I still do listen to different kinds and it just inspires you to keep trying. I just love all types of music and doing anything musical. It’s why I have other projects alongside XXYYXX.

And what’s with the alias ‘Bill Gates’?

The Soundcloud? That’s a joke, [Laughs.] I usually just take a really bad song – actually that’s not true, I do an R. Kelly song – and I put it into a keyboard and assign each key with the sample and just chop it until it’s unrecognisable. The whole purpose of Bill Gates is to be as over the top and sloppy as possible, to not plan anything out, when I have nothing better to do. 

So you’re still experimenting and playing with your sound?

Totally, there’s a lot of music I’ll never release, but I’m always experimenting. I think a lot of musicians would say the same.

What do your family and friends think of your musical career path? Do your family influence your music at all?

Yeah, my mum would always play R&B, like R. Kelly and stuff when we were in her car when she’d pick me up from school. And being raised on music your mum plays, you’re always going to have some sort of connection with it. I think that’s apparent in a lot of my music. I come from a sort of musical family, but I think they’re glad that I’m doing what I want to do and not hesitating to do it. I’m glad I have support from them. I think every young person should have the chance to do what they want to do, and not be afraid to try to do it.

You’re very active on platforms like Twitter and Facebook, do you think communicating to your fans is important?     

I do, but it can be hard sometimes… there are so many assholes that follow me now, not even fans, who just talk shit to me and I’m not sure why they do it, because they just look like idiots. It kinda takes the fun out of it. But I always talk back to fans on Facebook and I make a lot of friends on the internet that way, through music. It can be good and bad, but the good always outweighs the bad, because fuck those people. I guess they’re always going to exist.

There are a lot of remixes of your tracks and fan made videos. Are you interested in seeing how other people interpret your work?

There’s so many. It seems like just about every YouTube rapper has rapped over About You and sent it to me. I can’t listen to all of them. First of all, it’s my song and I know what it sounds like. I’ve heard it a million times, and even if the rapping is good, I can’t listen to it anymore. I mean, sometimes, people don’t credit you either… But as long as they do, it’s cool; you can play with it.

How has Australia been for you so far – are you in a bathrobe?

Well, I was in the hotel and I like to be as comfortable as possible. So I was like, why not? It felt pretty good… it’s warm and… made out of nice material.

Have you taken up any diva antics? Can our readers know what’s on your rider?

No, I don’t have a rider. I’m thinking though, next time, I’m definitely asking for boxers. It’s easy to run out. Sometimes you’re not able to go to the laundry and if it’s an extended tour, it’s like I can’t pack that many boxers!

What’s been the craziest rider you’ve seen?

I haven’t seen it, but I heard Diplo has a portrait of himself in between candles every time he tours.

Where do you see your music in five years time?

Gone. [Laughs.] I mean, I’ll still be making music but things are moving so quickly – what’s cool seems to change each day. I guess with the blogging situation, whatever is new, everyone hops on it. That and people get tired of things really fast these days.

That is true, but some musicians only get better with time, like Flying Lotus and Shlohmo are both artists who have been around for more than five years…

But Flying Lotus is amazing, I mean, he’s just incredible. I wouldn’t say that I’m anywhere near as good. Who knows though, I’m still learning, I’ve only been producing for two years. Maybe my music will stand the test of time and I’ll be really famous in five years.

And demanding candle-lit pictures of yourself for a rider.

I would love that. I’m not even sure about the whole online music scene either, I don’t think it can last forever.

We’re all looking forward to your gig tonight – what can we expect from your live show?

I like to mix up my music. It usually starts off more chilled out and gets heavier as it goes on. There’s a few joke songs too, there’s like a Gucci Mane track where he’s talking about, basically, getting his dick sucked, and I’ve put it over this really emotional background of like, piano. [Laughs.]

OK, one more question: the party you’re at is all of a sudden really quiet and you feel like starting a dance floor – what song do you put on?

50k by Waka Flocka Flame, that Gucci Mane part is insane – or Lil B’s Ima Eat Her A$$.

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Photographs by DTS Hates You
Interview courtesy of Astral People

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