By Jacob Rose
CALGARY — Are you “Unsteady,” “Loveless” or “Nervous”? Perhaps there’s a “Fear” that leaves you “Naked” feeling like a “Low Life.” Or maybe you simply feel like a lost “Feather in the “Jungle.” Just “Hang On.” You’re “Gorgeous” with your “Superpower,” so let’s begin living like we’re “Renegades.”
Sure, this could be a motivational speech. Or maybe it’s a slightly cheesy intro to an article about a band we’re stoked on. Obviously, it’s the latter and also a handful of choice songs by the Ithaca, New York-based alternative rock band X Ambassadors, who released their debut full-length album VHS in June, from which the aforementioned titles are culled.
The band plays a similar style as Imagine Dragons with harmonies befitting the Barenaked Ladies. Comprised of brothers Sam (guitar, vocals) and Casey Harris (keys, vocals), Noah Feldshuh (guitar, vocals) and Adam Levin (drums, vocals), their sound incorporates influences from R&B, hip hop, and alternative rock. This unusual blend makes them sonically stand out.
“Yeah, you know we always half think that we did and you know maybe even when we didn’t [stand out]. You kinda always have to believe that, to keep growing and keep writing,” says drummer Levin. “When we first started playing together like nine, 10 years ago, it sounded like a much different band… [We went] through a lot of different phases to get to where we’re at now.”
The band aims to connect with their audience on a level that is honest and relatable, and have been paid back in kind by gradually climbing up the charts around the world and selling out many of their upcoming shows in Western Canada in advance. The group tells a story of who they are and the struggles they have encountered, as individuals or as a family. Most importantly, they tell a story of overcoming, such as on their hit single “Renegades.” The foot-stomping, acoustic-anchored song lyrically encourages others to accomplish dreams and to defy the odds; it’s since been used for a Jeep commercial and also aired on an episode of the American television show The Flash as a motivational backdrop.
“Obviously we want our music to reach as many people as possible, but also to reach as many people as possible in a positive way; in a way that changes their lives or makes something they’re going through easier,” explained Levin.
“[To] see that maybe they’re not alone in what they’re going through or there are other people with maybe bigger problems or bigger issues that are powering through and are doing amazing things that might give some people some hope. Or some motivation to go after it themselves.”
Lead singer Sam Harris pens the lyrics; they are bourn from where the band is personally and collectively. His style has always been personal and relatable, through their debut self-titled EP in 2009, up to their Love Songs Drug Songs in 2013, the 2014 release The Reason, and the new album.
“We had songs about pushing through the hard times and also songs about people who go through life reaching for their dreams and sometimes they don’t achieve it,” says Levin. “And that’s okay too.”
He concludes, “We do take pride in having real songs about real subjects, things that people can relate to and we can relate to.”
The X Ambassadors perform at the Starlite Room in Edmonton on November 20th, at the Gateway in Calgary on November 21st, at Louis’ in Saskatoon on November 22nd, and at the Garrick Centre in Winnipeg on November 24th. Several of the shows are sold out.AB, Alberta, Gateway, Louis', Starlite Room, The Garrick, X Ambassadors