Interview with Sam Harris of X Ambassadors [TMN EXCLUSIVE]

TMN: Hey guys! Thank you so much for taking some time to answer a few questions for us today. Currently, you’re in the midst of a pretty massive tour, playing with Panic at the Disco for some dates, and Imagine Dragons for some. How has it been going so far?

XA: So far, so good! We’re back in New York now for a couple days, so we get to see friends and girlfriends for a minute. Doing laundry and shit, ya know.

TMN: After you wrap up as support for those guys, you head out and headline a few shows of your own, wrapping up at Firefly Festival in Delaware. Are there any shows during that span that you’re particularly looking forward to? Maybe the Bowery show so you can have your home crowd supporting you?

Yea we’re all super excited about Bowery. I remember when I first moved to New York thinking that the day my band headlined Bowery Ballroom would be the day I’d feel like I was a real musician. And now that day has come and I don’t think any of us feel like any of this is real yet hahah.

’X Ambassadors – Unconsolable’

TMN: As you already know, we’re huge fans of your work over here at TMN. We’ve posted your music in the past, including a couple of premieres. Talk to us about the songwriting process that you went through to write Love Songs Drug Songs.

LSDS was a culmination of a lot of years of independent work, combined with stepping into the big leagues with a producer like Alex. He really made us all so excited about making music again; we banged out the whole EP in like 2 weeks. Love Songs Drug Songs and Stranger were two brand new ones we wrote in the studio with Alex and those came together in a day or two.

TMN: Speaking of that EP, how did you come up with the title?

I was in the studio early in the morning with our engineer, and I needed to come up with the verses for Love Songs Drug Songs. That line just kind of came to me, I don’t know how. Then we decided that it was appropriate for the EP title, considering that half the songs had a real dark vibe to them and half a more light, uplifting vibe. We call that shit a dichotomy.


TMN: Touching back on one of the premieres we did with you, your cover of “Power Trip” was one of our favorites to date. How did that decision come about?

We all just fucking loved that song so much and loved that record. That’s pretty much it. We had done a series of covers in the past that we all really liked and figured it was time for another. I think that Born Sinner was one of the best hip-hop albums of the year.. it could even give Kendrick a run for his money. And Miguel is one of my biggest idols, so that was another reason why we did it.

’X Ambassadors – J Cole “Power Trip” (cover version)’

TMN: Let’s talk a little bit about your musical background. How did you all get into playing instruments, and how did X Ambassadors come to be?

Well, it all started around Kindergarten… I met Noah on the first day and we became best friends. We started our first band in middle school and then Casey started playing with us around high school. Casey and I had been playing music together since we were little kids, but it wasn’t until then that we were cool enough as siblings to work together creatively. Then we moved down to the big city, met Adam in the freshman dorms at The New School University, and started jamming a bit. Wasn’t until after we graduated in 2010 that we went into the studio to make our first serious EP, Litost.

TMN: One thing that we’ve noticed about your sound, is that you’re very drum-centric. While your (Sam’s) voice is truly unique and incredible, we’ve noticed that drums somewhat of the backbone of your sound. Why did you guys go with this approach over others?

It’s probably because we all grew up listening to so much hip-hop and R&B, in which the drums are the backbone of everything. If the radio was playing super quiet in the background, you could always still make out the beat. And if it was a good beat, then you’d probably pay attention to the song.

TMN: Another thing that’s apparent is the amount of raw emotion that goes into the songwriting. Between the lyrics themselves and the tone and inflection, it’s music you can really feel. Is this vibe born out of personal experiences? Contemplation on society and the world in general?

Like anything else, it’s a healthy combination of both. I use a lot from my own life and my own experiences, but I also draw a lot from the experiences of the people closest to me– mostly family and friends. You can learn a hell of a lot by listening to other people. But growing up the way Casey and I did, I learned a lot about the world at a very young age. That’s stuck with me.

TMN: Another tune you guys just released was a collab with label mate Jamie N Commons. He’s also another soulful artist. What was it like collaborating with him?

Jamie is the SHIT!!! We love his music and would collaborate with him forever. He’s just got this incredible voice and is a great songwriter to boot. Plus he’s a super chill dude and he’s got great hair.

’Jungle (from the film “Welcome To Yesterday”) – Jamie N Commons + X Ambassadors’

TMN: Looking ahead to 2014, are there any artists that you’d like to work with that aren’t on the books just yet?

I’d really love to work with Chance the Rapper or Isaiah Rashad. Everyone has been loving up on Chance this year cuz he’s SO nasty and is really ahead of the game, but not that many people are on to Isaiah yet. He’s one of my favorite new rappers to come out in the past year. His song “I Shot You Down” is incredible. We also tried to get Joey Bada$$ on a remix of ours earlier this year, but I think that ended up falling through.. he’s the shit though, we’d love to do something with him too.

TMN: Side note – if they read this and reach out to you, can we go ahead and reserve the premiere right now? 🙂

You got it. haha

TMN: Alright, before we get into some fun questions, feel free to fill us in on 2014. LP in the works? More touring?

Both. To the max.

TMN: To break things up a bit, we always close out the interview with some random questions. What was your first job(s)?

My first job was as a bus-boy at this shitty Italian restaurant called Franco’s when I was like 13, but before that I had an un-paid internship at a local recording studio in Ithaca. Me and my friend Sam Farhi would use it record our own stuff (we had a rap/R&B duo thing going on… my shit was pretty god-awful) and as an excuse to hang out downtown. We’d sneak off and beg for change on the corner so we could buy dub sacks. Pretty grimy shit.

TMN: If you were forced to only listen to one album for the rest of your days, what would it be?

I think i was talking about this with someone the other day… “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” by Stevie Wonder.

TMN: Speaking of “end of days,” what would your last meal be?

A cheeseburger that would make me invincible.

TMN: What’s the first restaurant you eat at when you get back to Brooklyn from a tour?

My breakfast spot called Jessi’s Coffee Shop. It’s a tiny little place run by this adorable Mexican lady and her 3 daughters. They have a bomb-ass breakfast platter for like, 4 bucks.

TMN: What three things are always in your fridge, no matter what.

Beer, butter, and jelly.

TMN: If you weren’t in a band, you would be….

Oh man… I went to school for acting so I’d probably be doing that. Still a struggling artist, just in a different realm.

TMN: Last but not least, we have a question we ask everyone. If your music were an animal, what would it be?

A fuckin’ tiger 🙂