Looking at Xylos’ MySpace page—remember those?—I was surprised to discover that the band had been around since 2004. Going by the “page created date,” Xylos has been chugging along for almost six years.
“Quite the contrary,” Eric Zeiler, the band’s only constant member, says after we clink our pints of beer together at Daddy’s in Williamsburg. Joined by Monika Heidemann and Nikki Lancy, Zeiler explains the confusion behind the band’s history.
“The quick synopsis of the current band,” continues Zeiler, “is that we started in late 2008 with an EP and continued until spring of this year. The kind of music we were playing started to mutate but there was a point where the lineup changed and we took some time off and restarted.”
The truth behind the mysterious website is that it began as Zeiler’s personal page, where he uploaded some solo electronic recordings nearly six years ago. Even before the band mutated, Xylos began to take on different forms.
Now completely solidified, the band consists of five Brooklyn-dwelling members: Heidemann on vocals and bass, Zeiler on guitar and synth, Lancy on keyboards and vocals, Jordan Brooks on bass and vocals and Chris Berry on drums and electronics. The band isn’t (to my knowledge) hot boxing a Monster Island practice space and fucking around on noise jams, however. Xylos’ sound and look is that of a clean-cut, well-produced electro-pop outfit, existing way outside of the chummy and insular Williamsburg scene.
Confusing to the group’s current output is the video from MTV Iggy (the network’s global music channel) that the band has uploaded, where the foursome looks like a Brooklyn bluegrass band— believe me, they exist—replete with acoustic guitars, banjo and an accordion.
“That’s not really a prime example of our band,” Heidemann chimes in. “They wanted us to record an acoustic set in Monika’s house, so that’s what we did,” says Zeiler.
So what is Xylos, then—a folk-pop band or a danceable electronic band? Does it have to be just one?
“There are certainly more synthesizers than there used to be,” says Zeiler. “But then, the song ‘Darling Dearest’ needed an acoustic guitar for the intro. It just made sense. [Before], a banjo might have fit into a song, and less so now.”
The song Zeiler refers to, from the upcoming, still-untitled record, is a perfect example of Xylos’ synthesis of twee pop and hard electronic rhythms. It’s like a female-fronted Hot Chip song mashed up with a Field Mice song.
The untitled record is currently being finished and will showcase the new-ish, improved and, yes, fully formed Xylos finding its stride. Don’t think that Xylos is content with staying this way forever, though. Just because the band has finished transforming this time doesn’t mean it won’t happen again.
“We’re in the trenches of recording this record, and there is a stylistic continuity there, production-wise,” Zeiler explains. “But I was thinking, our next record might be completely different. A lot of what’s colored this album now is we’ve been working with a friend of mine who has a very unique set of electronics that we’ve been using. I could see for our next record we go upstate and do something completely different. It’ll still sound like us, but it could be a completely different style of music.”
The accordion-laden days of Xylos are over. Kind of.
“Anything like that that you will hear from us from now on will just be ‘production sounds,’” says Heidemann. “We don’t have an accordion player,” continues Zeiler, just to make sure the band’s sound doesn’t get pigeonholed by one lone video on an archaic social networking site.
“Now we’re a death metal band,” he says, jokingly. “When the band started, we operated under the idea of having three lead singers, kind of like a Fleetwood Mac kind of thing. Now Monika is the one lead singer and Nikki and Jordan still harmonize, but it’s not based around that three lead singers idea anymore.”
That’s not to say that Xylos doesn’t still sound like Fleetwood Mac sometimes.
“Our influences are more mainstream, which is something I like,” says Lancy. “I think it’s the fact that we have three writers in the band that makes it like that,” Heidemann chimes in. “Nothing is untouchable,” says Zeiler, barely missing a beat. “We are truly collaborative in that way.”
>> Xylos Dec. 2, Mercury Lounge, 217 E. Houston St. (betw. Essex & Ludlow Sts.), 212- 260-4700; 7:30, $10.