Xylo brings lyrically complex electronic music to Fox Theater

Alexandre Bui/Staff

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L.A.-based electropop brother/sister duo Xylo — stylized XYLØ — breezed on stage in a rush of sleek punk style and attitude. Wedged between two acts, the group opened second for the Naked and Famous on its last night of tour Wednesday at the Fox Theater. Lead singer and sister Paige Duddy’s sophisticatedly sexy fashion — black trench coat over high-waisted black leather shorts and fishnet tights — perfectly contrasted the aesthetic of the largely dressed-down, early-30s Naked and Famous fans filling the crowd.

If there was any small doubt about Duddy’s command of the stage after her bold entrance and fashion choices, it was immediately dispelled by her loud echoing opening dialogue and bright smile.

With nothing more needed as an introduction, she pulled the mic from the stand and sang the urgent and vaguely threatening opening lyrics of “Gossip,” one of the duo’s more recent and less notable songs about the rumors and deception that are a part of fame. This was a slightly unexpected set opener given the group’s usual lyrical focus on more complex, meaningful topics.

One of Xylo’s most popular tunes, “America,” features lyrics about U.S. immigration policies (“And if the stripes keep us apart / I will write your name up in the stars.”) Performed live with glaring red and blue spotlights and passionate fist pumps from Duddy, the song came across as explicitly patriotic, emphasizing Xylo’s penchant for making a statement.

Xylo’s melancholy political lyrics paired with more traditional aspects of the indie electronic pop genre — sweet autotuned feminine vocals and a smooth synthetic baseline — cement the group’s niche sound.

The duo experienced relatively instantaneous success this year, beginning with its debut single, “America,” which was self-released and shared through Hype Machine and NoiseTrade in February 2015. It was then uploaded to Youtube where it reached 250,000 views in less than a week. Between February and June, the number of views spiked to nearly one million, leading to the release of the duo’s second single “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.” Most recently, Xylo was featured on “Setting Fires” by popular DJ group the Chainsmokers.

The group’s year of success but fundamental newness to the stage mapped onto its performance in noticeable ways. Duddy’s banter was frequent, but repetitive and rehearsed. She name-dropped Xylo frequently, ensuring the crowd would memorize its name by the end of the night. Duddy’s constant comments and bold stage presence created a strange dynamic that, however unpurposefully, upstaged her brother, Chase Duddy.

It’s clear, however, that the group’s musicality is due entirely to him. The addition of two guest band members amped up the energy and volume of the songs without losing any of the original instrumental appeal that Chase Duddy created on the tracks.

The drums and guitars were more distinct over the lighter production in the live songs and Duddy’s original, overtly feminine pop voice was less breathless and soft. This was most noticeable in two of the later songs in the set. The deeper, stronger tones in her voice came out in the chorus of “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” and the slower, more enunciated a capella intro she sang to “America” showed off her natural voice nicely.

This was a further illustration of Duddy’s refreshing self-assurance; she didn’t shy away from her assertiveness vocally or in her movements on stage, strutting around with confidence and commanding the crowd to wave their arms in time with her forceful repetitions of “come on.”

Right before the band’s last song, “Fool’s Paradise,” Duddy asked for the lights to come up so she could take a picture of the crowd and closed with an encouragement to fans to come meet the group at the merchandise table after the show. Their eagerness revealed Xylo as the talented, up-and-coming group that it is. With the close of this leg of the tour, expectations for the future of the duo’s musical career are high.

Contact Olivia Jerram at [email protected].