Kevin Morby (Woods, the Babies) Talks Xiu Xiu’s Nina

Xiu Xiu leader Jamie Stewart finds himself walking along a boardwalk during the twilight hour next to Nina Simone, perhaps in a dream.

Who among us will avenge Ms. Nina Simone?

— A Silver Mt. Zion, “God Bless Our Dead Marines”



Xiu Xiu leader Jamie Stewart finds himself walking along a boardwalk during the twilight hour next to Nina Simone, perhaps in a dream.

Nina turns to Jamie, saying, “Honey, why’d you do it?”

“For you, Nina, for you! And for me too, of course.”




I am given a copy of Xiu Xiu’s Fabulous Muscles by my best friend Iggy.

Xiu Xiu is one of Iggy’s favorite bands.

The album art, band name, and music are all very confusing, uncomfortable, somehow dangerous.

But I liked it for all the above reasons.

Other popular underground bands at the time are: Cursive, the Unicorns, the Blood Brothers, and Bright Eyes.

Something about Jamie Stewart seems more mature than his contemporaries, but at the time I was 15, and not sure what it is or how to explain it.




I haven’t listened to Xiu Xiu in years.

I am on tour in Europe for the first time and our driver has just wrapped up a tour with Xiu Xiu.

Xiu Xiu?

Xiu Xiu!

“I remember them!”

And I am struck with a strange sense of pride, for something I once loved hasn’t gone away.

I also find myself thinking, “If they are still doing it, then someday I will be too,” realizing again that it is possible (to live the dream).

I ask the driver questions from time to time while bored in the van…

Q: Is Jamie Stewart nice?

A: Very.

Q: Do people really still like them?

A: Yes.

Q: Do they ever play “I Luv the Valley”?

A: Sometimes.

I try listening to Xiu Xiu as an adult.

I don’t like it.

I like that we have the same tour driver, though. Once more, a strange pang of pride.

The tour ends and I forget about Xiu Xiu all over again.




Xiu Xiu releases Nina, a Nina Simone tribute album.

I am happy this isn’t Xiu Xiu’s songs, in the event that I wouldn’t like it and I’d have to talk about how I didn’t like it.

I wouldn’t want to do that to another artist, especially one, who in some capacity, has held my respect, from a distance, for so long.

Nina is…

…really beautiful.

It was recorded in a day.

And that’s impressive because it sounds incredible, like it could have taken weeks.

The horns, the percussion, the guitar, the vocals, everything.

Not to mention the playing.

The playing is something they should be proud of. I would be.

On this record, Xiu Xiu is: Jamie Stewart and an all-star line-up of NYC avant jazz musicians: drummer Ches Smith, Tony Malaby on tenor sax, Tim Berne on alto sax, Andrea Parkins on electric accordion, and electric guitarist Mary Halvorson.

It’s making me listen to more Nina Simone.

I hope this was one of Xiu Xiu’s hopes in creating this album.

I bet a Xiu Xiu fan will get this somewhere who’s never heard of Nina Simone.

But not for long!

Jamie Stewart made this album in honor of his late heroine.

That is honorable in its own right, and I respect that whole heartedly.

Everyone should honor their heroes, build them a shrine, no matter the medium.

Especially those who have passed, for they are the most important people we have, and we must not forget them.

Maybe Nina is listening…

And maybe someday someone will do the same for Jamie.

All of it makes me appreciate a person like Jamie Stewart and his Xiu Xiu once more, for the third time.

Jamie is an artist.

He has devoted his life to art.

And that’s what I couldn’t put my finger on at 15.

“If they are still doing it, then someday I will be, too.”

^ <living the dream>

Kevin Morby, formerly of Woods and the Babies, is about to release his fifth solo album, Oh My God, through Dead Oceans. He currently lives in Los Angeles. You can follow him on Twitter here.

(Photo Credit: Barrett Emke)