Jamie Stewart (musician)
|Birth name||James Cyrus Stewart|
|Also known as|
|Born||March 2, 1978|
|Origin||Los Angeles, California, U.S.|
James Cyrus Stewart (born March 2, 1978) is an American musician and writer best known for his role in experimental rock band Xiu Xiu. He has appeared in other bands, including XXL, Former Ghosts, and Sal Mineo.
Early life and career
Stewart was born in 1978 and raised in Los Angeles. He was in several bands before Xiu Xiu, beginning in his youth. While in school, he played in a parody band and a Bauhaus cover band. After high school, he played bass in a group with guitarist Kenny Lyon and members from bands such as Devo, Geza X, The Screamers, and Sparks. Stewart has said that this experience was particularly formative for his career, but he did not realize this at the time. He later quit the band and moved home to attend college. During this period, he came out to his parents, although this was not received warmly.
At home, Stewart briefly played in several other bands before being kicked out, and a high school friend suggested that he start his own band, which became IBOPA.[a] His father also played in the band, and Stewart also played with Korea Girl during this period. Metro Silicon Valley described IBOPA as a collision of "dance, lounge, disco, and ska" with the horror of Red Asphalt, and noted the band for bringing attention to South Bay music. IBOPA was briefly signed to an Elektra Records subsidiary in 1999, and broke up in July 1999 when the label dropped most of its artists.[b] The band announced that five of its members—Stewart, Cory McCulloch, Kurt Stumbaugh, Tim Kirby, and Don Dias—would continue into a new acoustic and experimental band called Ten in the Swear Jar.
Ten in the Swear Jar (XITSJ) continued IBOPA's "unusual approach" with eccentric and erratic music.[c] Metro's David Espinoza described the band as "futuristic in instrumentation and erratic in mentality" with the traditional instrumentation backgrounded by baritone saxophones, banjos, accordions, and synthesizers. He added that the band's sound was minimalistic and that the unusual instruments were not used to excess. XITSJ members included Jason Albertini of Duster and Miya Osaki of The Chinkees and The Bruce Lee Band, as well as Don Dias, the namesake of Xiu Xiu's song "Don Diasco". XITSJ disbanded in September 2002 and Stewart formed Xiu Xiu.
Stewart started his third band, Xiu Xiu, with Cory McCullouch (from XITSJ), Yvonne Chen, and Lauren Andrews. The band forgoes traditional rock instruments for programmed drums, indigenous instruments, and others including harmonium, mandolin, brass bells, gongs, keyboards, and a cross between a guitarrón mexicano and a cello for bass. Metro Silicon Valley's David Espinoza likened Stewart to an explorer charting new territories of sound in 2001 as he started Xiu Xiu. He compared Stewart's voice to a combination of Robert Smith's in its fragility and The Downward Spiral-era Trent Reznor's in its anger, and noted Stewart's deliberate choice of tone in light of the individual instruments' disparate wackiness. The name Xiu Xiu, pronounced "shoe shoe", is taken from the titular character of the 1998 film Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl. In Stewart's description, the film's theme is that of no resolution—that awful things happen to the protagonist throughout the film and she ultimately dies, tragically, at the end. The band found its first tracks to match the "rotten realness" spirit of the film, "that sometimes life turns out with a worst possible case scenario". Stewart said Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car", which Xiu Xiu covered on A Promise, had a similar theme.
Stewart visited Vietnam around 2001, where he took the picture that appears on the cover of A Promise. To afford the trip, he opened his equipment to local punk and ska bands as a recording studio. Stewart described the period between Knife Play and A Promise as full of "really bad things" in his personal life. In 2003, Stewart said that he had been very influenced by gamelan and Korean and Japanese folk music, and that he had been listening primarily to contemporary classical and "gay dance music".
Brandon Stosuy of Pitchfork said that Stewart, "one of underground music's consistently brilliant anomalies", "came into his own" on A Promise, and that his vocal style was compared with Robert Smith, Annie Lennox, and Michael McDonald. He noted a "continual poetic and romantic beauty" behind "the violence" in Stewart's lyrics.
When interviewing for The Air Force in 2006, Stewart said that the year was "one of the first not dominated by personal tragedies", though the tone of the album reflects his experience internalizing the events of the previous years, which he felt was "almost more difficult".
Stewart released an album with Eugene Robinson of Oxbow as Xiu Xiu & Eugene Robinson Present: Sal Mineo on Important Records in April 2013. He has also appeared in the album Christmas Island by Andrew Jackson Jihad. In addition, he has released an album with Jonathan Meiburg of Shearwater under the name Blue Water White Death.
Outside of music, Stewart said that he had written a "failed attempt" at a humorous novel based on "very, very peculiar sexual encounters" he had through his life. He wrote for two years ending in 2005, and circulated the book to friends. Among his favorite authors, he listed Yukio Mishima, Dennis Cooper, Charles Bukowski, and Kenzaburō Ōe.
Stewart is openly bisexual, and has identified as queer. He is the son of Michael Gassen Stewart, the nephew of John Coburn Stewart, the half-brother of sociologist Benjamin H. Bratton, and the "long-lost" cousin of former Xiu Xiu member and multi-instrumentalist Caralee McElroy.
Stewart's father and uncle were both musicians and songwriters: Michael was the co-founder and guitarist of 1960s folk-rock group We Five and a music producer. John was a former member of folk/pop music group The Kingston Trio, largely credited with helping launch the folk music revival of the late 1950s to the late 1960s, and later found success as a singer-songwriter; he is perhaps best known as the songwriter of The Monkees' 1967 No. 1 hit "Daydream Believer." "Mike", the closing track from Xiu Xiu's 2004 album Fabulous Muscles, concerns Jamie's reaction to his father's suicide in 2002.
Notes and references
- IBOPA is an acronym of the Indestructible Beat of Palo Alto, based on the film The Indestructible Beat of Soweto and the Bay Area suburb Palo Alto, where Stewart lived.
- IBOPA was signed to Elektra Records subsidiary Spongebath Records in April 1999 with plans to release three seven-inch records and a retrospective CD worldwide, but decided to fold three months later when Spongebath dropped the majority of its talent. Their last show was on July 4, 1999 at the Grand Fanali Presents Fourth of July Celebration.
- Their debut album My Very Private Map was produced on CD and vinyl, and their next album, Inside the Computer Are All of My Feelings, was released on vinyl from Random Order Records.
- "Jamie Stewart | HuffPost".
- "Jamie Stewart". The Huffington Post. AOL. Archived from the original on September 23, 2013. Retrieved October 26, 2013.
- Stewart, Jamie (March 29, 2012). "Where Xiu Xiu's New Album Always Really Came From". The Huffington Post. AOL. Archived from the original on September 4, 2014. Retrieved October 26, 2013.
- The travails of Xiu Xiu leader and reluctant Durham resident Jamie Stewart . Indy Week. Retrieved on 2015-01-27.
- Espe, Erik (May 31, 1996). "They got the beat". Palo Alto Online. Archived from the original on October 29, 2013. Retrieved October 26, 2013.
- Inoue, Todd S. (April 2, 1998). "Beat Street". Metro Silicon Valley. Metro Newspapers. Archived from the original on April 6, 2014. Retrieved October 26, 2013.
- Inoue, Todd S. (August 1, 1996). "Beat Street". Metro Silicon Valley. Metro Newspapers. Archived from the original on March 4, 2010. Retrieved October 26, 2013.
- Quelland, Sarah (April 29, 1999). "Cutting Edge: Local music booker Michael Sullivan sets his sights east". Metro Silicon Valley. Metro Newspapers. Archived from the original on October 13, 2015. Retrieved October 26, 2013.
- Quelland, Sarah (July 1, 1999). "Taking a Bath: I.B.O.P.A. gets soaked by Spongebath". Metro Silicon Valley. Metro Newspapers. Archived from the original on July 16, 2012. Retrieved October 26, 2013.
- Quelland, Sarah (April 8, 1999). "I.B.O.P.A. Takes a Bath: Locals get signed to Spongebath Records". Metro Silicon Valley. Metro Newspapers. Archived from the original on October 3, 2015. Retrieved October 26, 2013.
- Quelland, Sarah (January 6, 2000). "Teen Dreamers: Moodfrye goes upbeat on new EP". Metro Silicon Valley. Metro Newspapers. Archived from the original on September 20, 2015. Retrieved October 26, 2013.
- Espinoza, David (December 2, 1999). "Swearing by Jar: San Jose's Ten in the Swear Jar delivers a compelling 'Private Map' for debut CD". Metro Silicon Valley. Metro Newspapers. Archived from the original on July 16, 2012. Retrieved October 26, 2013.
- Espinoza, David (November 7, 2001). "Rubber Soul: Los Dryheavers get into the protection racket". Metro Silicon Valley. Metro Newspapers. Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved October 26, 2013.
- Espinoza, David (September 6, 2000). "No Show Joe Show: RedHeaded Stepchild makes a Front Street Pub crowd wait". Metro Silicon Valley. Metro Newspapers. Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved October 26, 2013.
- LeMay, Matt (April 1, 2003). "Xiu Xiu". Pitchfork Media. Archived from the original on July 3, 2014. Retrieved July 13, 2014.
- Stosuy, Brandon (April 9, 2006). "Xiu Xiu". Pitchfork Media. Archived from the original on July 23, 2014. Retrieved July 13, 2014.
- "Sal Mineo = Eugene Robinson (Oxbow) + Jamie Stewart (Xiu Xiu); released an LP, playing shows (dates & stream)". BrooklynVegan. July 16, 2013. Archived from the original on November 3, 2013. Retrieved October 26, 2013.
- Breihan, Tom (July 21, 2010). "Shearwater's Meiburg + Xiu Xiu's Stewart = Blue Water White Death". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved December 19, 2017.
- Stewart, Jamie (October 6, 2011). "Anything That Moves". HuffPost.
- "Xiu Xiu - Pitchfork". pitchfork.com.
- Roldan, Erik. "Jamie Stewart interview with ChicagoPride.com".
- "Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart Opens Up About Nina Simone, Suicide and "Angel Guts"". February 16, 2014.
- "Jamie Stewart - Xiu Xiu - Interview - polarimagazine.com". February 18, 2014.
- Bratton, Benjamin H. (2018). "Music for Car Alarms (1998–2008)". Tank. No. 76.
- "Bio". Caraleemcelroy.com. December 27, 1983. Archived from the original on October 6, 2011. Retrieved July 22, 2012.
- Currin, Grayson Haver (March 14, 2012). "The travails of Xiu Xiu leader and reluctant Durham resident Jamie Stewart". INDY Week. Retrieved April 16, 2022.
Media related to Jamie Stewart at Wikimedia Commons