Interview with Sam Harris, Casey Harris and Adam Levin of X Ambassadors


Photo of X Ambassadors
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Q:  You guys have known each other for a long time? … how has that done something for your music and the type of music that you create?

Adam: I think that it’s just sort of embedded in us as people and that comes through in the music. Noah, Sam, and Casey all grew up together in Ithaca and have literally learned their instruments together, and then I met them ten years ago. All the things that we’ve been through, just the ups and downs of being in a band, you know, through ten years of that, since I’ve been on the scene, it’s just reflected in the music. Our songs are usually about real life and about things that are happening in Sam’s life and in our lives, you know, it definitely comes through the music. Also, just the bond that we have comes through live and when we record together, it’s just always how it’s kind of been. It’s why we’ve stuck together so long.

Q: What was the inspiration behind the name X Ambassadors?

Sam: It’s a really boring story.

Casey: It’s really a lack of inspiration.

Adam: We were just trying to figure out a band name, first we were just “Ambassadors” for a couple of years before we added the X. So we were Ambassadors and had been touring and releasing some music under that name and had made a little bit of a name for ourselves. So, we got brought to Interscope Records, there was a copyright issue with the name of Ambassadors, so we had to change the name. The original source of Ambassadors was from a drum head. We were literally just looking around the room trying to think of a name, and my drum head was a Remo Ambassador, so I said “What about Ambassadors”? Usually most band names sound terrible when you first hear them so that was the first word that any of us had suggested in a while that we didn’t absolutely despise.

Casey: So we were Ambassadors for a while, and then we had to add the X. When copyright issues came up…

Adam: We either had to add X or pay lots and lots of money. We were just trying to keep it as close to the old name as we could.

Q: Amy Poehler or Tina Fey?

Sam: I think they’re both great! They both are pioneers of a lot of this new wave of female comedy that’s coming out that’s really, really incredible and great to see. It’s finally…there are so many talented women in comedy and Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are giving them more of a spotlight because with their success they’ve been able to endorse shows like Broad City, which is so great. And they’ve got a new show called Difficult People. I think they’re both amazing. And I love Tina Fey’s show on Netflix, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It’s hilarious. They’re both incredible.

Q: Describe your genre of music in your own words.

Adam: I’d say we are alternative rock with a lot of soul, R&B, and hip-hop influences.

Sam: We grew up listening to everything. Our generation was lucky enough that we had music everywhere. It was on TV, it was on MTV, we were part of the generation that discovered downloading, Napster and stuff, and now streaming. You can have any song anytime you want, anything you can think of. So, our influences vary across the board. We really want our music to reflect that.

Q: Is there a group or a person you really see as an influence?

Sam: I mean, there’s so many. But honestly, the deeper we get into this, the more important it is for us to not look so much at what everybody else is doing. We try to focus on who we are and what we have naturally gravitated towards in the past. Not to say we don’t want to discover new music, because we listen to new music all the time, there are new artists that I love, that Adam and Casey and Noah love. But, growing up, we wanted to be like The Red Hot Chili Peppers, because they were my favorite band, and Noah’s favorite band, and that’s why we started the group in seventh grade. But we got older, tastes changed, we drew influences from all over the place.

Q: If safety wasn’t an issue, what animal would you want for a pet?

Sam: Probably like a bear.

Casey: Honestly, I’d go for a wolf. I knew a guy who had a wolf for a pet once, and it was actually pretty cool. It was sort of tamed, like pretty well tamed, but it was still a wolf, it was not a dog. It was cool. It would live in his house, was house-broken, it was wild.

Adam: A lion.

Q: Have you ever played a small college campus before?

Sam: This will probably be the smallest we’ve ever played.

Casey: We find that those shows are usually the best.

Sam: The first college show we ever did was three, four years ago in a college cafeteria. The only people there were the guy who promoted the show and some guy in the back playing on a pinball machine. The promoter left halfway through, the guy playing pinball, I think, stayed the whole time.

Casey: It was a glorious time.

Sam: But that was the most we’d ever gotten paid for a show at that time, which was pretty cool.

Q: Which song are you most excited to play at the concert?

Sam: We’re always really pumped to play new stuff. We’re going to play some new songs off the record tonight that we haven’t done live in front of an audience yet.

Q: How do you usually prepare for a show?

Sam: Everyone does their own thing, but personally, I have to do this whole routine with my voice. I do yoga, and a little bit of exercise, and then I do my vocal warm-up which lasts around forty minutes, and then I have this steamer that I steam with for about thirty minutes. I’m not allowed to eat two or three hours before I play, so I have to eat earlier on in the day. And then after the show, I have to eat immediately because I’m not allowed to eat two hours before I go to sleep.

Adam: We have much less intense preparations.

Casey: It usually involves nothing. Just stretches and stuff. For me, I stretch my hands out.

Q: What was the inspiration behind your hit song, “Renegades”?

Sam: That was a song we wrote towards the end of the record writing process. I was in LA doing a bunch of writing for the record, and Alex hits me up sometimes with titles. Like he’ll give me a song title and he gave me Renegades. We thought through a few different ideas, and settled on this one. And we brought the song with the lyrics and the melody and a little bit of foundation back to the guys, and they all liked it. It wasn’t a lot of thought, but it’s a song about celebrating being different and celebrating carving your own path.

Q: Who has been your favorite band or artist to collaborate or tour with?

Sam: It’s so hard to choose a favorite because we’ve worked with so many great artists, both recording and on tour with great artists. I mean, we don’t ever want to pick favorites, but these guys (points to Adam and Casey) are my favorite people.

Q: Do you have any gigs or new music coming out that the fans should know about?

Sam: We’re going to be putting out a new single soon, but we can’t tell you what it is.

Adam: It’s off the record, so if you pick one of thirteen, you might be right!

Sam: We’re shooting a video for that soon, and we’re going on tour. No new music, because our album just came out. We are starting on our second record, though, because you never know how long it’ll take, or when things will come up. Our first record took about two years


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