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By the time you read this, Jamie Stewart will be gearing up to head across the Pacific for a Xiu Xiu tour of New Zealand and Australia, before heading on to Europe. When he finally returns home though, it won't be to Durham, North Carolina, where he's rather grudgingly lived for the past four years, it will be to his native Los Angeles.
Stewart is back in California, and as he tells us this week in Face Time, he's happy about that. Or at least, as happy as he can be about anything. For as anyone who has followed the remarkable angst-pop output of Xiu Xiu over a decade knows, misery is a permanent part of this band's palette. On the other hand, so is anger, empathy, advocacy, and even redemption. All impulses are on display on Xiu Xiu's Always, released seven months ago to commemorate the band's first ten years in the game, and a record which, as Stewart explains, was meant to demonstrate a "re-commitment to music".
In a conversation at New York's Bowery Ballroom before a solo show a month ago, we talk about some of the albums most memorable tracks, including "Gul Mudin", inspired by the horrific murder of an Afghan youth by US soldiers, the provocatively titled "I Luv Abortion" which is equal parts compassionate and in-your-face instigating, and "Hi", the opener which speaks loudly to the Xiu Xiu faithful, or as Stewart calls them, a "community of those whose lives suck". We also talk about those fans, as passionate a lot as you'll find in music, and the very personal bond some seem to feel for Stewart.
You'll also see "Born to Suffer", the Adriana Alba-directed music video that's as compelling as a Xiu Xiu clip ought to be, but considerably less harrowing than some. While the young people that populate it seem to be suffering in some undetermined way, they look awfully good doing it. And finally, Stewart weighs in on the presidential race, and his continued support for Obama despite some real disappointment in the president. All that and more in a smart and engaging talk with a man who hopefully has another ten years of music up his sleeve as exciting and fearless as the first ten. Our guest this week on Face Time: Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu.