Through The Musical Wall: Our Interview With XNY

At the heart of XNY are the musical duo of Jacob Schrieber and Pam Autouri. Normally you'd expect this kind of raw minimalist approach to yield musical fusion far less rich and melodious than the resulting powerhouse release Through The Wall, but you would be dreadfully wrong and ready for some musical schooling. We spoke with Pam and Jabob while they were busy going about their day and they even pulled over to the side of the road to avoid being a vehicular hazard while answering our many questions.

I'd like to mention first off that I loved the press release item about hearing each other through the shared wall of the apartment in Boston where you both lived. When you look at our modern world and what fate sometimes dishes out, you could've been served with a restraining order instead of a musical collaboration. What do you think you'd be doing now if you had never shared a wall?
Pam: Ooh, that's a good question. Actually, we talked about this before because we are so thankful that we annoyed the shit out of each other enough to actually play music together. But I think I would definitely still be playing music and writing. I think that I would be doing more solo stuff, more acoustic stuff. That's really what I was going for before I met Jacob. He brought out the crazy side of me.

Jacob: I don't really know what I'd be doing because I was kind of at this weird point where I didn't know what I was going to be doing with my future and I was kind of actually losing hope a little bit, wondering if I was going to be able to pull off a career in music.

I'm getting a little depressed by that.
Jacob: I was one of those moments where it was either going to go one way or the other and I happened to meet Pam at the exact right moment. As far as what I would be doing? I would like to say that I would probably still be doing music but I really don't know.

Sounds like it was a pivotal moment for you both?
Pam and Jacob: Yes, it was.

PHOTO CREDIT: Benjamin Mobley
Jacob, I'm a huge fan of percussion. I've got a Stewart Copeland For President t-shirt. Do you think the importance of the drums have been underestimated and under-appreciated in popular music?
Jacob: Definitely. As far as drums go over the years, I think it's very very difficult for a drummer to create their own voice. There are certain drummers like Stewart that once you hear him, you just know it's him because of his very unique influences from where he grew up. He has this very signature sound. Other drummers, like one of the first drummers that ever stood out to me as having his own sound, was Max Roache. He was known for being very melodic so when I was first listening to him and I found that drummers actually could play melodically, it was very eye-opening. In popular music these days where so much of it is done on the computers and there isn't much emotion it's sort of like a metronome. It really has lost so much. The voice of drums has sort of completely fallen off the face of the earth.

I find that to be criminal.
Jacob: Absolutely. Not only does it put a lot of great drummers out of work but it's like losing a voice. Kind of like architecture. You know how there are hardly any architechtics anymore? No drawing, it's all done on the computer. I kind of feel it's getting that way with drums.

I can't tell you how much more powerful a live performance is with drums.
Jacob: Oh yeah, totally. Whenever I would go to live shows and the drums kicked in I would get chills and tingles. You'd see this person bringing so much force and then on the flip side they can also play so delicately, changing everything. It takes over. When I go to a concert and I see someone playing to a soundtrack, it loses so much.

Pam: Honestly, drums are the backbone of a show and of a band really.

It's interesting the way your voice works with Jacob's playing. I listened to the album Through The Wall and you have a real loud-quiet-loud Pixies-type thing going on with many of the songs. You didn't seem to risk losing the hooks or the melody. When you were writing the record did this come into play?
Pam: Yeah, definitely. It's so crazy to me that every time that we write a song how much we both understand exactly what the song is about, the feeling of the song, and how we completely have a conversation together with drums and voice. That's really what we base our music on. Making sure that we're both talking, both being heard. Jacob's voice is the drums and my voice is my actual voice. That's how we speak, that's how we want to be heard.

These particular songs must translate really well live.
Pam: Oh yeah. Our live show I feel is such a different experience than the album which is what we were going for. Not in that the instruments are different or it sounds different, but in the way that you can see it. You can see our connection with each other and watch us talking to each other and feeling it together. It's a team.

You're based out of New York now, correct?
Pam and Jacob: Yes.

It's still teeming with bands that are just on the cusp of making it but it also seems to have an endless supply of people hungry for new music and places to play. Did that influence your decision to be there?
Jacob: Definitely.

Pam: We got bored of Boston.

Jacob: Not to hate on Boston, but within three or four months of Pam and I forming and trying to play as much as we could, we pretty much ran dry. We started just driving to New York almost every other weekend to play to in different places there and we just came together and said, "Ah, let's just go there." We were already wasting so much time traveling we decided to save ourselves the trouble and move. There really are so many venues, bars, and little places and people will just walk in and listen.

Pam: They respond really well too.

Jacob: People actually care. It's really interesting.

PHOTO CREDIT: Benjamin Mobley
I remember the thrill of listening to new bands and then telling friends and then the word of mouth would spread like wildfire. If the word of mouth was good on you, everyone was looking out for a show. Do you feel that positive feedback from fans and showgoers has helped you?
Pam: Oh yeah, definitely. You go to one show and then you meet someone and then off to the next show and that person brought three or four friends with them. It's insanely helpful.

I like that there are so many ways to get the buzz out nowadays. Phone calls, Facebook, Twitter, etc. I like to see new bands get out there and punch it up with the big guys. I saw a big band recently that had their rear ends handed to them after their opening band blew the roof off.
Pam: That's awesome. That's the best part: giving it all you have. Being in the position of no one really knowing who were are and not really having a huge following is that you're still fighting. The fight is just the best part.

Are you guys going to tour to support this album when it comes out in June?
Pam: Yes, we are actually in the process of planning a tour. Probably we'll start with the east coast and then hopefully do a kind of regional tour. Maybe west coast too.

Make sure they get you a decent van.
Pam: We've heard many stories of "the van" hell.

Make sure it has carpeting, heat, and AC. Also someone to feed you.
Jacob: The carpeting, that's very good. Thank you.

Now I know that you recorded together as a two piece but will you be taking anyone else on the road with you?
Jacob: No, we always just keep it the two of us. We don't like to mess with our chemistry. Pam and I have a system and we have our live show and our presence and everything. We keep it the two of us. If you throw other people in there, it just gets messy.

You sound like more than two people when you listen to the record. There's enough empty space and heavy sound to fill it up without it being overwhelming. You don't seem to be missing something in the music which can happen with only two.
Pam: I'm so glad that you liked the album.

I did like it but I will say that I wasn't expecting that type of music. That sounds like a bad reaction but I was pleasantly surprised by the sound.
Pam: I think that surprises a lot of people.

So final question for you guys. If you were in charge of a musical festival where you could book any musician live or dead for the bill, who would you get and what is the final jam they play together before the curtain falls?
Jacob: Oh, geez. You should have sent that one over ahead of time.

Pam: Ah. This is crazy.

I'll tell you what, go with a gut reaction.
Pam: I'm a big Janis (Joplin) fan so I think I would just die if she came back and sang for me. I love her.

Jacob: I've never seen him live but I've been really wanting to see Jack White. I love him. This is so hard though

Pam: Oh God, yeah. So many.

Jacob: We are actually pulled over on the side of the road heading to see St. Vincent tonight.

Pam: On the list too!

Jacob: We both have a huge crush on her.

The final song?
Pam: They could all just play our favorite song at one time.

Jacob: Yes, each artist that we love will play their best song simultaneously . A giant morph of music and chaos, it will be beautiful and no one will have ever done it.

Okay guys, go get back on the road and enjoy your concert tonight. Thanks for speaking with us.
Jacob: Thank you!

Pam: Take care!

More XNY: Official | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube

PHOTO CREDIT: Benjamin Mobley

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