Gear Rundown: The xx

A Guide to the British Trio's Lush Indie Pop Stylings

When The xx released their eponymous debut album in 2009, no one would have predicted that they would become one of the defining groups of the decade to come. Fusing minimal, UK-club inspired beats with glassy harmonies and sparse guitar textures, The xx's signature sound soon became one of the most imitated in pop music, with follow-up LP Coexist introducing more dance-like textures and notable contributions by producer Jamie xx. Last year, the band dropped their third album I See You, and with a huge string of outdoor shows planned in Australia this coming week in support of the phenomenal record, we take a look at the gear used by the The xx on their road to stardom.




For the majoirty of The xx's work onstage and in the studio, vocalist/guitarist Romy Madley Croft tends to favour a Gibson Les Paul Standard, with the clean sound of the neck humbucker forming a key part of her signature tone across the band's first two records.





For the band's perfomance of 'On Hold' on Saturday Night Live, Madley Croft debuted a brand new Fender Mustang, which is fitted with a maple fretboard and a mirrored pickguard and appears to be from Fender's recent Offset reissue series. Judging by its live use, Madley Croft tends to use her Mustang for the majority of the tracks from I See You.





Throughout the recording of the band's debut and early promotional shows for the album, Madley Croft played an Epiphone Les Paul Traditional Pro in the highly sought-after Goldtop finish, which can be seen in the band's performance at Rough Trade Records in 2009.




In an extensive Sound on Sound interview with producer Rodaidh McDonald regarding the recording of The xx's debut record xx, McDonald recalls Madley Croft using a hollow body Gibson ES-335 to record several tracks.







Since the formation of the group back in 2005, vocalist/bassist Oliver Sim seems to have solely favoured Fender Precision Basses for studio and live work, with his minimal, melodic fingerstyle playing perfectly complemented by the sonic nuances of the instrument.



Sim tends to frequent a black model for most of his live appearances which, like Madley Croft's Fender Mustang, features a maple fretboard and a mirrored pickguard. Sim also owns a sunburst model with a rosewood fretboard which can be seen in various live photos.



In the studio, Sim often uses a vintage '70s sunburst P-Bass with a maple fretboard, which can be seen above.



For a band with such a large fan base and touring schedule, you'd expect The xx to have a plethora of amps at their disposal. However, since the inception of the band, Madley Croft has plugged into a Roland Cube 60, favouring the tiny amp's crystal clean tone with a heavy dose of reverb to achieve her icy tone.


On bass, Sim tends to use a larger Ampeg SVT rig for live performances, complete with an 8x10 fridge cabinet to cut through the mix.




While Madley Croft and Sim keep things simple on guitar and bass respectively, the real ingenuity of The xx comes with the studio smarts of producer Jamie xx. Initially acting as a beat-maker/percussionist for the trio when they formed in 2005, Jamie's role has since expanded to form the creative backbone of the band, rejuicing their barebones textures with garage-inspired beats and club production.



In the previously mentioned interview with Sound on Sound, McDonald states that Jamie prefers to record on Apple's flagship DAW software Logic Pro, mentioning that the producer also makes extensive use of Logic's VST plugins to create synth textures.



For performances around the release of their 2009 debut, Jamie used two Akai MPC500's to trigger loops and perform 'finger drums', which can distinctively be heard on the iconic opening track 'Intro'.



Around the time of 2012's Coexist, Jamie's setup expanded into a much larger, elaborate gear hub, fusing MIDI controllers, pedals, and DJ tools to create his sonic canvas. In the above image, you can spot his two MPC500's, as well as two Pioneer CDJs, a Roland JX-03, a Roland Space Echo Pedal, and an E&S DJR 400 mixer.



Throughout the music video for recent single 'I See You', you can spot Jamie perfoming on a Korg MS20, a Roland TR808 drum machine, an Akai MPC2000, and a Roland JX-3P synthesiser, proving testament to his exquisite taste in gear as his role in the band evolves over time.


(Feature Image: NBC/Getty)