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X Ambassadors at Fillmore Detroit, 5 Things to Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Monday, November 4, 2019

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It's been an eventful 10 years for X Ambassadors, going from its formation in Ithaca, N.Y., to status as a platinum, hit-making rock band.

The trouper released its second major label album, "Orion," in June, following the platinum, Top 10 success of 2015's "VHS." X Ambassadors has also scored hits such as "Renegades" and "Unsteady," as well as "Sucker For Pain" with Imagine Dragons, Lil Wayne, Wiz Khalifa and others for the "Suicide Squad" companion album. The group has also been nominated for five Billboard Music Awards and a pair of Teen Choice Awards.

The "Orion" album did not come easy; Another set, in fact, had been recorded and abandoned. But the group is back on even keel and looking forward to what's coming...

• Frontman Sam Harris says by phone that in the four-plus months since "Orion's" release he's gratified by "the impact it's had on our fans emotionally. This is a very personal record for me, so I was a little nervous about putting something out there that was so specific to my life. To my surprise and somewhat to my relief it seems like our fans really connect with it on a very deep level, even though it's very specific and personal to me. But I've always felt like sometimes specific can open things up even more to a kind of universal feeling, so, yeah, it's bene great to see that reaction to this record."

• Harris says "a lot of factors" came into play in making the original "VHS" follow up, which was to be title "Joyful." That included some shake-ups at the band's record company as well as the departure of guitarist Noah Feldshuh. But mostly, Harris says, "We were trying to record together while on tour, which is impossible to do. When you're working on a record you really have to do that and nothing us. So we had this version of a record that was incomplete and felt incompatible listening through it, and we knew we wouldn't have time to finish it when we were in the midst of a two and a half year two. We realized we had to get off the road before we could really do it right"

• A number of the "Joyful" songs are part of "Orion," but Harris says it wound up being much more cohesive -- in a surprising way. "Honestly, we were fighting so hard at the very beginning of this process to NOT make an alternative rock record, and we made an alternative rock record. That was the biggest surprise. I'd become frustrated with how the world of alternative rock had become and I didn't want us to fall victim to trying to create stuff that sounded like everything else or feel even at all restricted to any genre. So we tried to make a soul-pop sort of record and then ended up weaving those back into stuff we really loved, like regular alternative rock and blues and those influences you hear on our first record."

• During the time between albums X Ambassadors also did some work producing and writing for Lizzo on her smash album "Cuz I Love You." "We loved working with her. It was our second, like, big foray into producing records for other artists, and it was very natural," says Harris, who also co-produced the "Game of Thrones" companion album. "I was such a big fan of hers; I was baffled the rest of the world did not know who she was. It feels like all is right in the world now that everyone knows who Lizzo is, because she's incredible."

• X Ambassadors is "working full steam ahead" on its next album, which Harris says is "almost done, actually." The group will be back in the studio during January to finish it off, though Harris isn't entirely sure how to describe the new music yet. "It's freaky. It's weird. It's cool. There’s some dark stuff on there and some funny stuff on there, and some really vulnerable, raw, emotional stuff on there. It's a mix of everything right now, and I'm kind of OK with that. We're just going to go with what feels good on this and try not to overthink it."

X Ambassadors, Bear Hands and Verite perform Wednesday, Nov. 6, at the Fillmore Detroit, 2115 Woodward Ave. Doors at 6:30 p.m. $32.28-$52.28. 313-061-5451 or thefillmoredetroit.com.

Web Site: www.thefillmoredetroit.com

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