The Brothers of XAXO
Release Their Debut EP
Photographs courtesy of Mishu Records
Brothers Dav and Johny Julca together make up the Miami-based pop, electrofunk duo XAXO. Born in Panama and raised in the Midwest, they got their musical start in a Hispanic church in Columbus, while learning songwriting from their mother.
After years of making music together and separately, the brothers have settled in Miami and are set to release their debut EP Looking for Nothing this Friday.
In advance of the release, the brothers talked about their past, current inspirations and what to expect from their music.
You have such a diverse background as brothers and individuals – is there a defining moment that helped get you to where you are now?
Dav: When we moved to Ohio from Panama I was 11 and Johnny was 13. A few days after we got there we went to an MxPx show. There was a huge mosh pit, people skateboarding, loud punk bands playing, cute girls, people crowd surfing. After that I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Johnny: Going to see MXPX as teenagers, I had never felt a stronger connection to a culture, to words, to an attitude, and to music, up until that point of my life. I knew I would do music my whole life that day.
Has settling in Miami had any affect on you or your music?
Dav: Totally! Being Latin but growing up in the Midwest made me a 'lil confused sometimes but Miami helped me find myself a bit more. Everyone speaks Spanglish fluently y si te gusta reggaeton, DALE!
Johnny: All the effect in the world. I don`t feel weird here. Being from Panama, from Peruvian parents, and raised in Ohio, for sure made us who we are today, but calling Miami home has helped us consolidate all our differences in cultures and channel it into one.
What’s your music making process like?
Johnny: There`s no real recipe and it's constantly changing; at least how and where the inspiration comes from. Once we do start working on something, it's usually Dav moving from instrument to instrument, then me, creating a mood, and a big picture, in the production side of things. Then I jump on guitars, or synths, then we fight at some point –that`s where shit get really good – and we push into something that we step back and say, wow…we can stand behind this. Sometimes there are magical moments like when we did the song “Looking For Nothing.” I worked on that song for about 3 hours before Dav got to the studio, and he finished melodies and lyrics in about an hour or two. A few months later we added bass, background vocals, and guitars, and the song was DONE. We had a special connection on that one.
Dav: I usually come up with something on the guitar or the piano or make a melody with a beat and I show it to Johnny and he makes all my dreams come true!
How do you bring your ideas together?
Dav: In the studio trying a bunch of stuff! Some ideas come together faster than others but the most important thing for us is listening to each other and trusting each other.
Johnny: We draw inspiration from so many places, individually, and together. For me sometimes its concepts, sounds, and movements. It all comes from personal experiences, then that explodes with all Dav comes with, and in the studio and rehearsal place it turns into a song or songs…
Going back to MxPx, you’ve cited punk culture and the early 90s as influences, why do you think that time resonates with you?
Johnny: Punk culture is all about being radical and having something to say – it's about making noise and disturbance to talk about real issues. Its being fearless and full of life. There is nothing subtle about it. All that connected deeply with me, I just wanted to rage and say a lot of stuff like any teenager, and I had deep convictions, and wanted to have fun in the process. I think Jesus was the first punk rocker to have existed and I think thats cool.
Dav: Maybe cause I'm a 'lil rebellious, I don't take myself too seriously. I usually like to play drums very loud and fast...I can't tell you exactly but going to punk shows and playing punk shows as a kid, it gave me a place to belong and it's something that I will carry with me forever. To this day I still listen to Rancid loud as fuck.
Who or what is influencing you now?
Dav: I've been really influenced by commitment and determination. Like Lebron's obsession with the championship – one game at the time.
Johnny: Music wise, there`s so much music out there – so much that`s hard to keep up – but there`s a lot of cool shit. Movement wise I`m inspired by people who are connecting with people, who are representing something, or people who have a longing for human connection. People like Skrillex, Kanye West, Trent Reznor, Twenty One Pilots… they are reaching out in whatever way it is they have, and they are connecting. That`s inspiring.
You’ve both worked with major artists before focusing on your own music, what did you learn?
Johnny: What to and not to do…and that no matter what, the journey is not easy!
Dav: SO MUCH! But one of the biggest things is to not be an asshole. I'm still working on it.
You have a new release coming out, what can fans expect?
Johnny: Our EP “Looking For Nothing” comes out October 28th. Maaaaaaannn, expect life experiences, its fun, and it touches a bit of real shit too. We always are bouncing back and forth between fun and serious, between fantasy and reality, I know you can label that as bipolar… but life isn`t a straight line you know…
Dav: Our music is real and truthful, what you hear is what it is! We write about real stories and play our instruments like we mean it. We produced the EP in our studio, in our bedrooms, in our travels, some of our friends played and sang on it too, Johnny mixed the whole thing, he also designed all the art work.
You used Wynwood as the location for your recent music videos, what about the neighborhood feels relevant to you and your sound?
Johnny: It's growing, developing, and making an impact. It feels like that's where we are as artists and what we aspire to do.
Any favorite neighborhood spots?
Johnny: Coyo Taco
Dav: Panther Coffee makes me happy, that's for sure!
Tell us about the warehouse – how did the come about? What are some of your favorite collaborations that have happened there?
Dav: One of my best friends owns this amazing space in Wynwood. We started calling it Space52 and our studio is next door to it and we call it Studio52. We started to hang out there a lot and then the jams started. That's actually how XAXO started too...being so inspired by jams that were so free that sometimes would last HOURS! Some of my favorites are probably one we did with Lenny Kravitz, that dude can drum! Or the amazing flamenco jams with Antonio Carmona and Alejandro Sanz.Recently we jammed with the guys from Maroon5 and that was killer. We've done so many good ones though.
And if you weren't doing music, if you did something else – what would it be?
Johnny: It would be art related – photography, graphic design, architecture –but really I don't know.
Dav: I'd be washing dishes somewhere or maybe be a professional boxer because that's what I dreamed about doing when I was a kid.
The band's EP release Looking for Nothing EP is slated for release Friday, October 28th. The EP will come out via Space52, a brand new record label and collaborative creative space, cofounded by the brothers, operating as an imprint under Miami's Mishu Music.
XAXO will also play the House of Creatives Music Festival in November as part of a lineup that includes indie heavyweights The Flaming Lips, Crystal Castles, The Drums, Breakbot, and more.