x ambassadors

X Ambassadors

Photography
Jack Alexander

Just over a month ago, pop rock trio X Ambassadors– Sam Nelson Harris, Casey Harris, and Adam Levin unveiled their highly anticipated album Townie. Marking a significant shift as they delve into the essence of their upstate New York origins, the album is made up of twelve introspective, self-produced tracks, including the lead single “No Strings,” and paints a vivid picture of the everyday life and close-knit community that shaped them. This musical evolution comes after their relocation from Ithaca to Brooklyn, following a successful debut album, extensive global tours, and chart-topping hits, as well as collaborations with the likes of Lizzo and Rihanna, to name but a few.

EUPHORIA. caught up with them and spoke about all things Townie, previous releases, and their current tour.

x ambassadors

Congrats on your album release! How did you arrive at the album title, and what does it signify for you as a band?

The album title Townie came about because we are townies. We grew up in a college town called Ithaca, New York, and that’s what the college kids would call us – they’d call us “townies.” We wrote a record that felt so personal and felt like it was so much about mine and Casey’s experience of growing up in upstate New York that we figured that’s what the album should be titled.

As you’ve evolved musically, how do you feel the album represents a progression or departure from your previous work, particularly albums like VHS and ORION, for instance?

I think Townie shares many similarities with VHS. Aesthetically, we shot a lot of stuff in Ithaca for VHS, so we revisited that approach, but this time, we didn’t merely create an aesthetically upstate New York record; it also felt sonically aligned with upstate New York. I think the most significant aspect of this new record is how autobiographical much of the content is. I had never written like that for any of the X Ambassadors’ records. To some extent, I had, but not to the extent that I did on this record, and it felt genuinely satisfying to write like that. I was very excited about the idea of doing something different. With every record, we try to do something that feels new and challenging for us, so this is definitely a challenge and I think one that we rose to.

Moving from Ithaca to Brooklyn is a significant transition. How did this move influence the themes and sounds we can hear on Townie?

At the time, I was in heaven. I truly believed that Brooklyn was the place where I would live out the rest of my days. I immediately wanted to erase any semblance of who I was as a kid from upstate New York, and I think that bit me in the ass because you can’t do that. You can’t shake where you’re from. We tried to be a cool Brooklyn indie band, and we just weren’t because we weren’t from Brooklyn. Not that everybody who works or lives in Brooklyn is actually from there, but there’s something about the way that we started a band in upstate New York, and it was my brother and I– that’s so baked into who we are. It was a futile effort to try and run away from that.

When we finally embraced the fact that we’re from a small town and we like to make big songs, we wanted to reach as far and wide as we possibly could. Once we embraced that, we kind of stepped into our own, which is funny because this record kind of feels small compared to some of the earlier records we did, but I think it goes even further. It’s owning the fact that we are from a small town, so the record feels small.

x ambassadors

Your songs touch on personal experiences throughout your life. Could you share more about the inspiration behind the lyrics and themes explored throughout?

I wanted to create a record that felt like a letter to my childhood self, but in doing so, I realized a lot about who I am now as an adult, mainly that I still feel like a kid, and I believe that is a universal truth. I think most centennials you’ll meet if you ever have the luck to meet any of them, will say that they still feel like younger versions of themselves. I definitely still feel like that 14-year-old kid who is desperate to prove something to himself, to the world, to his town, and to his family. I aimed to create a record that captured that essence.

It wasn’t my intention to make something that felt nostalgic, but I think that retracing my steps, it naturally created a sense of nostalgia. I wanted to authentically portray the place where I grew up, at least from my perspective. Different people experience Ithaca and upstate New York differently. For me, it was somewhat like a gloomy, depressing place in the middle of nowhere that had one foot gently in the bigger world due to its connection to academia and the colleges, with people coming in from all over the world, but at the same time, it was firmly planted in upstate New York as a very isolationist place.

x ambassadors

Can you shed some light on how your relationship with your brother Casey influenced the creation of “Follow the Sound of My Voice”?

Well, I mean, our relationship is exactly what the song is about, to a T. My brother and I have a very nuanced and complicated relationship, but I think what I realized in writing this song is that it’s really not so complicated. I love him a lot. He loves me a lot, and we are very devoted to each other. We have been so fortunate to have spent so much of our lives together, and as much as I have always been there to help guide him through the world as a visually impaired person, he has also been there to guide me through the world and through my life, and to give me a new perspective on things. I am so proud to be his little brother, and our relationship is so much at the core of what this band is and what we represent, so I wanted to have a song that’s representative of that.

x ambassadors

Gas stations, prisons, and malls are recurring motifs in your music. How do these locations tie into the overall narrative of Townie?

That’s mostly what New York is – it’s gas stations, prisons, and malls, alongside incredible natural beauty. That is mostly what upstate New York is for upstate New Yorkers. If you’re visiting, you’ll just be like, “Ah, what beautiful nature.” But if you truly live here, it’s not always the prettiest place in the world, but it is what it is, and I love it for that. So, that’s why there’s so much of that baked into the DNA of the record, lyrically speaking.

Your music has been featured in several major films, including “Deep End” for Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. How does creating music for film differ from creating music for your albums, and what do you find most rewarding about contributing to cinematic soundtracks?

The most rewarding thing for me is getting outside of myself and having the ability to do something that is for the band but then also for a project that’s not at all related to the band. Any chance I get to be in service of something other than myself, I leap at the chance to do so, because it feels so good, and I generally leave feeling more inspired.

You’ve recently been on tour across Europe and are touring the US now as well, what can someone who’s never been to a show of yours expect?

You can expect some good storytelling and lively entertainment. We like to put on an exciting show, even though this record is very introspective, quiet, and slow. We are still a rock band at heart, so it’s a good healthy balance of high energy and some pretty dynamic and emotional performances as well.

x ambassadors