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Xiu Xiu Biography

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Birth Place: San Jose, California
Years Active: 2000-Present
Genres: Art Rock, Experimental Rock, Indie Rock

Xiu Xiu is an American avant-garde group originally from San Jose, California. The band is the brainchild of singer-songwriter Jamie Stewart, who has been its only constant member since its inception in 2002. His current bandmate is Angela Seo. The band's name is taken from the 1998 Chinese film “Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl.”

Having performed alongside one another in previous acts such as IBOPA (the Indestructible Beat of Palo Alto) and Ten in the Swear Jar, Jamie Stewart and Cory McCulloch formed their third collaborative effort, Xiu Xiu, in 2002. Aided by friends Lauren Andrews and Yvonne Chen – both of whom would contribute to the band's early recordings – Xiu Xiu would tour their first LP “Knife Play,” and its successor EP, “Chapel of the Chimes,” throughout the years 2001 and 2002, blending both melody and cacophony with a heavy reliance on percussive instrumentation and brass instrumentation.

Following 2002, the group would shrink in membership as Yvonne Chen left in order to focus on her vegan boutique Otsu and self-published magazine Zum, while Cory McCulloch also stopped touring, focusing instead on producing the band's next two LPs. A personal loss would affect Xiu Xiu as well, as Jamie Stewart's father, musician and record producer Michael Stewart was found dead after an apparent suicide. Coping with these losses, Stewart recorded the group's follow-up to “Knife Play,” 2003's “A Promise.”

Consisting of ten tracks, the record was oriented towards a more or less acoustic presentation, rather than relying on the booming brass and percussion which had worked to make “Knife Play.” However, the record did not veer from the formulated programming for which Stewart and McCulloch would be praised by fans and critics alike.

During this time, Stewart recorded “Fag Patrol,” a collection of previous recorded material as well as covers of songs by The Smiths and his previous group with McCulloch, Ten in the Swear Jar. Released as a handmade CD by Rob Fisk's and Kelly Goodefisk's Free Porcupine Society, “Fag Patro”l was limited to only a few hundred copies.

In the spring of 2004, Stewart and McCulloch released what is considered by many to be the group's most accessible album, “Fabulous Muscles.” More pop-friendly in its sound than previous releases, “Fabulous Muscles” boosted Xiu Xiu to new heights in terms of popularity, largely thanks to its single “I Luv the Valley OH!”

With the departure of Lauren Andrews in 2003 – who wished to focus on her academic studies – Stewart was joined on stage by his “long-lost” cousin, Caralee McElroy in 2004. The two would tour relentlessly throughout that year, releasing not only the group's third LP, but also split recordings with This Song Is a Mess But So Am I and Bunkbed, along with the “Fleshettes” single which featured a rendition of the Ten in the Swear Jar track “Helsabot” by McElroy.

Seen as a return to Stewart's more dark and crabby demeanor, Xiu Xiu's fourth album “La Forêt” alluded to a frustration which Stewart had felt throughout the process of recording the 2004 record. Centered around the topic of “horrible times in horrible lives"” as well as Stewart's personal frustrations with then-U.S. President George W. Bush, “La Forêt” was characterized by an altogether different sound – layered by mandolin, harmonium, clarinet, cello, autoharp, and tuba.

In 2006, Stewart would break from tradition by ending his professional relationship with McCulloch. He then started working with San Francisco-based band Deerhoof's drummer Greg Saunier, with whom he has worked with since 2002, as producer for Xiu Xiu's fifth LP entitled “The Air Force.” Saunier, who had previously worked with Stewart on “Knife Play,” created for the record a greater wall of sound – a stark contrast to that of McCulloch's discordant attitude towards production. “The Air Force” would be supported throughout 2006 by a three piece ensemble, as Stewart and McElroy were joined by drummer/percussionist Ches Smith, who himself had previously worked with the group on “Knife Play.” “The Air Force” also contained the band's first album-based song without vocals by Stewart – with McElroy singing "”Hello From Eau Claire.”

A third EP, “Tu Mi Piaci” containing songs originally recorded by acts such as Bauhaus, Nedelle, This Mortal Coil, The Pussycat Dolls, and Nina Simone was released in 2006, along with a collaboration with ambient artist Grouper, entitled “Creepshow.” Shortly thereafter, Xiu Xiu would record their sixth album, 2008's “Women as Lovers.” Their longest LP to date, “Women as Lovers” attempts to home in on the synth-pop influences of the group's sound. Stewart's and McElroy's duet with Michael Gira of Swans on a cover of David Bowie and Queen's “Under Pressure” is representative of this. Touring that year alongside Xiu Xiu aluminist Devin Hoff on bass, the band's second four-piece incarnation would not last long, as Hoff abruptly left the group soon after touring began.

In May 2009, it was revealed that Caralee McElroy would no longer work with Xiu Xiu. With the vacancies left by both Hoff and McElroy, Stewart and Smith recruited Angela Seo in late-2009. Thereafter, the group would begin work on its seventh LP “Dear God, I Hate Myself,” recording in both Oakland, California as well as Durham, North Carolina. Once again shifting motifs, Xiu Xiu would this time choose to experiment with video-game-based programming, utilizing the Nintendo DS to write many of the songs which appeared on their 2010 release.

In 2010 Xiu Xiu left Kill Rock Stars and signed with Bella Union and PolyVinyl. “Always,” their eighth studio album, was released in 2012.