7 Questions

7 Questions with XELLE

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Photo by Vincent Vega

By Ryan Meehan

You’ve heard of XELLE. They’re that girl group that threw an illegal dance party on a moving NYC subway train for their debut video, Party Girl. They’re the indie band whose songs and videos are lighting up TV shows, radio stations and dance floors around the world. They’re those sexy girls with huge voices who rocked the stage at your favorite club last night. They are XELLE, and you’ve been waiting for them to come along.  Fronted by dance floor divas JC Cassis and Rony G and produced by international hitmaker Zach Adam, XELLE makes megapop music that the world can’t get enough of. With over 1.5 million views on YouTube, their incredible music videos have whipped the international press into a frenzy. CBS News called XELLE “anything but ordinary,” Perez Hilton proclaimed their videos “an effing good time,” and Edge Magazine says that “XELLE excels at delivering a pure dance floor confection.” Together with Zach Adam, XELLE creates and produces music video masterworks. With a fresh sound that mixes the fun of The Spice Girls, the swagger of Ke$ha and the gorgeous vocal harmonies of ABBA, XELLE is an exciting addition to the pop music landscape. The girls have brought their high energy live show to fans around the USA, and they’ve shared the stage with legends such as Joan Rivers, Lil’ Kim, Salt ‘n’ Pepa, Mya, Dev, Mo’Nique, Aubrey O’Day, Blu Cantrell, C&C Music Factory and Deborah Cox.  XELLE’s songs have been featured on MTV, LOGO, Oxygen, Sirius XM and terrestrial radio around the globe, but the band is as much about personality as it is about music. The girls of XELLE have appeared on VH1’s hit reality show Big Ang and been featured guests on Oxygen’s outrageous Jersey Couture, where they celebrated their curves, showed that real bodies are beautiful, and inspired millions to love themselves just as they are.  XELLE promotes a strong message of self acceptance, empowerment and kindness to others. This message inspired the band to collaborate with the nonprofit Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN), which works to provide safe school environments free of bullying for students and teachers of all backgrounds. XELLE released the hit single, “Invincible,” and donated the proceeds of song sales to GLSEN.  To protest anti-LGBT crackdowns around the world, XELLE unleashed the powerful human rights anthem, Red Flag. In conjunction with this release, they also started the #iRaiseARedFlag online protest, which aims to inspire everyone who cares about equality to make their views known and raise their voice against oppression.  Most recently, XELLE released the smash music video for their sizzling single, Sweat, guest starring Bianca Del Rio, Courtney Stodden, Andrew W.K. and Sherry Vine. The video features over-the-top parodies of 80’s fitness fanaticism, as well as a fierce cast of full figured dancers who, alongside XELLE, remind viewers that you don’t have to have a “perfect” figure to be sexy.   Whether it be with catchy party songs or unforgettable, politically-inspired hooks, XELLE is taking over the world, one dance floor at a time and JC Cassis and Rony G of XELLE are our guests today in 7 questions.

RM:  You list your influences on your Facebook page as “All the best guilty pleasure pop music you love to love”.  What are some of those guilty pleasures of yours from the many eras of dance music whose roots can be found in your music?

JCC: We grew up listening The Spice Girls, Madonna, Britney, Ace of Base….

RG: TLC, En Vogue, ABBA, groups that made pop songs so good, we still go nuts for them today. We like to incorporate elements they used, like soaring vocal harmonies, girl power lyrics and synth lines you can’t get out of your head, into the music we make. Our producer, Zach Adam, always aims to keep our sound fresh while still drawing inspiration from the pop greats that have come before us.

RM:  Which section of New York City do you call home; and what is it about that neighborhood that is so conducive towards creating the type of music that you make?

JCC: I’m in Brooklyn and Rony’s in Queens. My neighborhood is full of artists and musicians, and though they outwardly talk about liking the cool, indie rock bands most, at night I hear Britney Spears playing from rooftop parties, so it’s a constant reminder that no one’s too cool for some unabashedly fun pop music.

RG: My neighborhood is full of creative types also, which is a constant inspiration to me to keep creating my art as well. I love that every artist is in New York to make something different, and yet we have so much in common.

RM:  What was the inspiration for your most recent video “Sweat”?  Who directed that clip; and how were you able to get Andrew W.K. to appear in the “Svet Thunder” portion of the introduction?

RG: “Sweat” was directed by our producer, Zach Adam. He’s a man of many talents! We sat down with him and wrote the script for the video all together, and he did an awesome job helping to bring all of the ideas the three of us came up with to life.

JCC: As far as inspiration for the video, we just thought that with a title like “Sweat,” and considering what a fun pop song it is, it would be awesome to have an 80’s workout video inspired storyline and make it funny and over the top. Andrew W.K. is actually married to our friend, dance music artist Cherie Lily. We know Cherie from the NYC nightlife scene, and she taped Andrew’s part for us and sent it over. They are both so sweet and we really appreciate their support of the video.

RM:  What’s the biggest difference between the type of dance pop that you write and the music that we hear from other New York City club acts such as the Scissor Sisters?

JCC: I think all dance pop that comes out of New York City has a certain grit to it, and our music is no different, but we tend to keep a high gloss, megapop sheen on our sound as well, whereas The Scissor Sisters often seem to jump between genres from one song to the next.

RG: Yeah, sometimes they sound like Elton John and sometimes they sound like a club kid doing a performance art piece, which we love. But we like to keep our sound megapop from start to finish.

RM:  If you each had to name five artists (musical, visual, or otherwise) that you would love to work with in the future, who would be on that list?

JCC: I will always be obsessed with early 90’s club pop, so I have to say it would be a real joy to work with people like Robin S. or Lady Kier, but as far as contemporary collaborators, of course Britney or Madonna, or Calvin Harris or Clean Bandit! Sorry, that’s 6.

RG: I definitely agree on Madonna, and I’d also love to work with Jay-Z, P!nk, Maroon 5 and Pharrell Williams.

RM:  What do we need to know about Zach?  Is his role in the group limited to being a producer, or is he also involved in a lot of the songwriting and beatmaking that appears on the records?

RG: Zach is a friend of mine from way back, and he’s been producing hit records all over the world since he was a teenager, actually. He co-writes all our songs and makes the tracks from scratch in his studio. He’s also directed, shot and edited lots of our music videos. JCC: He’s also a non-performing member of the band, so we collaborate with him on pretty much everything we do, from styling videos and photo shoots to conceptualizing the live show. XELLE is definitely a product of the ideas and efforts of all three of us.


RM:  Why do you think that so many people who make music they consider to be “underground” seem to shy away from using the term “pop” when describing their art?

RG: I think it’s a couple things. One, there’s definitely a stigma attached to the term “pop” for a lot of “serious” music fans, so depending on what type of audience you’re trying to appeal to, you might not want to call what you do “pop,” to avoid turning certain people off. Two, pop music seems to be completely intertwined with being signed to a big label and having a huge promotional budget at your disposal, so sometimes it’s hard to see what an indie musician is doing as “pop.”

JC: Which is silly, because whether something is “pop” or not is more dependent upon song structure, production style, and whether there’s a memorable, hook-filled chorus designed to make people start humming a song after just one listen. Anything that’s successful or made to be likeable could be called pop.

RM:  What do you consider to be XELLE’s greatest achievement to date; and why?

JCC: We’re lucky to be able to say there have been a lot of great achievements lately, from headlining San Francisco Pride in front of tens of thousands of people to coming out with music videos that fans all over the world get obsessed with!

RG: I think the most meaningful achievement for us, though, is touching our fans’ lives in ways that really matter to them. We’ve had so many people email us and say that our music helped them get through a traumatic process of coming out, or a life threatening illness or operation, or even just an awful breakup. It moves us so much to hear that, and makes us want to keep going for our fans no matter what!

RM:  What’s up next for XELLE in the remainder of 2014 and beyond?  Anything big in the works that we should know about?

RG:There’s always something big in the works with XELLE! Right now we’re focusing on promoting our new music video for Sweat and making sure it gets all the attention it deserves…

JCC: Yeah, and we’re also coming out with some incredible Sweat remixes very soon, so dance music fans should definitely keep an ear out for those to hit clubs around the world soon!

RG: We’re also writing new songs for our next releases, so fans can look forward to that!

Official Website:   http://www.xellemusic.com

XELLE on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/XELLEmusic

XELLE on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/XELLEMusic

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