XY&O began as a songwriting collaboration for other artists that gew into a trio making their own music. Their hazy pop sensibility is curently heard on a cover version of Tina Turner classic ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It?’. We spoke to vocalist Skip Curtis about re-imaging a song of such prestige.
Covering an iconic song like this is always a risk.
Tell us how the band came about.
Tudor [Davies, beats] and I met through a mutual friend. Our first meeting was actually in a recording studio I think too… fate! I knew Nick [Kelly, lead guitar] as a young, too-talented-for-his-own-good guitar player with a few bands in Cardiff, so when we started writing songs I was keen to rope him in asap.
Why the name XY&O?
Why does a peacock have all those feathers?
You first became known when your demos were picked up by US radio and the listeners thought you were from Cardiff-by-the-Sea in California, not Wales. How surprised were you to hear your music had reached the States?
I don’t think we were surprised that our music had reached the States, music is shared so much now that stuff gets played everywhere. I think the real surprise was just how well received it was in the States. We were getting people emailing us asking when we were playing, who we were, if we available for radio interviews. That was the surprise.
How do you reflect on the success of your debut EP ‘Shimmer & Shade’?
Fondly! We didn’t expect anything like the reception we got for our first record. But, we also realise that in the grand scheme of things, we’ve got a long way to go yet.
Your first release of 2017 is a Tina Turner cover version of ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It?’. Are you big fans of Tina Turner?
Most definitely, isn’t everyone? If you’re not a fan of Tina’s then you should be. She’s an icon.
What did you want to do with your version of ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It?’? Is the version we hear what you first set out to achieve?
When we decided we were going to work on a cover it wasn’t really with the intention of releasing some officially. We were working on one to bring into our live show more than anything. I’ve also been a massive fan of ‘What’s Love’ and I was conscious that covering an iconic song like this is always a risk.
We didn’t have any real preconceived ideas about how we wanted to re-work the track, it was more just making it fit with our sound and trying to putting on our stamp on it. We could never take on or surpass the original, so it was just about putting our own spin on a track that most people wouldn’t have expected, but that lots of people know.
How challenging was it to write this cover? Did you feel the pressure of re-imagining a classic?
The original is a superbly well written song, so it was very easy for us to re-work in our own way. I think great songs are translatable to any style; so it was more about making it fit with our own original music. Personally, I was definitely very un-easy about releasing a cover, especially one as big as this track was (and still is). But, as I said, it was never about trying to make the original better or anything like that, it was a ‘haze pop’ take on a banger from a living icon!
Can you give us your top three Tina Turner songs?
‘Nutbush City Limits’
‘What’s Love Got to Do With It?’
And what’s your favourite cover version of all time?
Johnny Cash – ‘Hurt’. That’s a pretty powerful cover, especially given the context of it’s release and the video etc.
You’re signed to Kobalt which prides itself in allowing artists to retain ownership of their master recordings. How have you found working with Kobalt?
So far it’s been good. It’s very early days for us working with them though. This track is the first track we’ve released since we’ve signed with them and because it’s a cover version we haven’t really utilised all of the services we’re signed for. Time will tell, but yeah, Kobalt are a very progressive company to be working with.
Do you feel you have more control of your artistic output than a ‘big label’?
100% yes. We can’t speak from first hand experience of course, but, let’s say I’d imagine we do…
You played at Glastonbury last year on the BBC Introducing stage. How did you find that experience? What reaction did you get?
It was an incredible experience, Glastonbury was our 10th gig as XY&O. Which, looking back on, is ridiculous. The reaction we had was incredible too, I think that again exceeded all of our expectations.
What live dates do you have coming up in 2017?
We’re pining a few things down for the spring and into the summer so we’ll be announcing things shortly, I think. Shocking answer, I know.
Finally, if you could choose one thing to achieve as a band this year, what would it be?
For Nick to achieve a 2:1 in his degree so he can stop moaning about how busy he is as a student… he needs a taste of the adulthood that guy.
Listen to XY&O’s cover of ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’ on SoundCloud below. For news and tour dates visit xyando.com.