When X Ambassadors formed seven years ago in Ithaca, N.Y., frontman Sam Harris wanted to do something a bit different than what we heard on the quartet's Top 10 debut album, "VHS."
"We wanted to be like the Red Hot Chili Peppers," Harris recalls by phone from the group's tour bus. "That was, like, our favorite band growing up, and we idolized them. This was back when we were 16, when Noah (Feldshuh) and Casey (Harris, his brother) and I started our first band back in middle school and high school."
The gold-certified "VHS," which came out last June after three EPs, is different and decidedly less spicy than the Chili Peppers, of course. Harris credits some of that to drummer Adam Levin as well as the group's subsequent move to New York City -- where it played as the Ambassadors before adding the X because another band had the name. But he also says a little maturity and a desire to find the group's own sound steered the X men towards the indie/melodic rock that's scored hits such as the double platinum "Renegade" and "Unsteady."
"when we started (recording) we didn't really have any one specific thing in mind; We were really just starting ot learn how to mix together all these genres that we grew up loving and being so influenced by," Harris explains. "It was just experimentation for years and years and years. We knew we wanted to sound different and knew we wanted to be true to who we were, 'cause we knew that was the only way to make something good.
"Too much imitation can hurt you sometimes. You've got to pick and choose, steal from what parts you like and then put them together and make it your own."
X Ambassadors has also made a mark outside its own work. The group has collaborated with Eminem on "The Marshal Mathers LP 2," the Knocks, Zedd and Skylar Grey. Harris, meanwhile, co-wrote the song "American Oxygen" for Rihanna, and he's been tapped by others to work on material. "I really like it," Harris reports. "It gets me outside my comfort zone and allows me to write constantly and not think about it." And he says the other work only "expands" what he's able to do with his own band.
"I can write something that I had no idea would be an X Ambassadors song, then all of a sudden I play it for everyone and we sing it and we're like, 'This is great. We should try this,'" Harris says. "We're also the kind of band that's willing to try anything. We don't like to put ourselves in a certain category and say, 'No, this isn't really our style.' You never know until you do something, so we keep as open as we can."
X Ambassadors, Robert DeLong and Sarah Hartman
Wednesday, May 4. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
The Fillmore Detroit, 2115 Woodward Ave.
Tickets are $10-$35.
Call 313-961-5451 or visit thefillmoredetroit.com.
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