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FashionMusicArtCulture

Xmunashe rises to the top

words ROB FEHER
photography ABDELELAH ABAKER
16 November 2023
Autonomy is the bedrock of xmunashe's artistry. Rising rapidly in the public eye, his performances—crafted in concert with long-time friend Joshuah and—thrive on improvisation, unity and adaptability.

RF How's life been? You've had a pretty big year. How are you feeling about it all?

X Man, it feels so surreal. Things have been taking off with music in a faster and crazier way than I would have expected. So, you know, I’m having fun; it's been a wild ride. People are telling me they appreciate the music or align with it. It's really cool to hear that about shit that I just made in my room.

RF Is it what you all envisioned?

X It's almost what I envisioned, but also not. I planned it and I've been envisioning this life for so long, but seeing it happen was also weird. It almost felt like imposter syndrome.

RF How do you deal with that feeling?

X I just keep pushing. Sometimes, I just try to remind myself that there's no right or wrong way. Everybody's got their own thing, talent and perspective, and I'm just showing mine. And it's like, okay, cool, people fuck with that. I've always thought that there's a right way to make music, there's a right way to perform, but I can't do that, I can't be somebody who pretend. I know I can set the level if I want to. I can make up what is cool or not cool, for lack of a better word.

RF I feel like it's also great for you to be able to experience that with the band. What's the dynamic like? Does everyone bring ideas to the table

X Joshuah, Jonti and I are all artists, and we all have our own projects, and we are all producers and writers. We all pretty much do a lot on our own. So, when we come together as a band, it's like all of us bringing our own ideas and letting go of the ego. We let go and all meshed together. Sometimes I'll start playing the chords of one of my songs and sing the verse and the chorus, and then Joshuah takes that off into some lyrics that he wrote a few weeks ago. We all bring our solid three pieces together and let them transform into one for the show.

RF I read that your rehearsals aren't really rehearsals because things happen very organically when you’re performing live. How do you guys get to that point?

X Well, we don't really like to rehearse. Most of the stuff we perform live is improv and responds to the room, to the crowd, to the day. Honestly, for me, rehearsing feels like an opportunity to gain confidence in yourself and reassure yourself that you can make music. Even before I go in the studio, I always doubt and think, Oh, damn. Can I do it again? Or, do I actually know what I'm doing? It's always a nice reminder when we just jam for a little bit before. I really trust the guys musically and they think the same of me. I know we've got it.

RF Sometimes making music by yourself is great, but it can be a lot easier when you're doing it with people, especially the people you trust. You can bounce ideas off each other.

X For sure, yeah. And it's probably something Joshuah and Jonti can relate to as well. Being producers and writers, they have to think about so much. They have to carry the weight of the whole project to produce the song on their own. Jonti is always thinking about how everything sounds holistically, all on his own, and he's playing to that. There are so many things I'm not even conscious of in that scenario, which I would need to be if I were to be by myself. And even with Ashley, I love having Ashli sing with us because can take a back seat vocally and she can carry us. I can focus on the piano, on the music side of things.

RF When I saw your show in Melbourne, there was a lot of repetition and chanting, which has definitely stuck with me. What is the intention or influence behind chanting the same phrase?

X True. That's cool. I didn't know you came to our show in Melbourne. The last one?

RF Yeah, I think so. It was above that little bar.

X Oh, yeah, above the Belfry Bar.

RF Yeah.

X That was our first show in Melbourne, I'd say.

RF Yeah, it was Melbourne.

X So, the chanting, I've been asked about it a lot recently. It's funny because I wasn't really conscious of it, but I did grow up in church with music and prayers and songs. In the church context, music is very repetitive with lots of mantras. I think I always want to keep the main idea of my song as simple as possible and then in the verses be able to be more poetic. And I guess, by writing simple songs that are just meant to be stuck in people's heads, they can start to sound like chants.

RF Besides growing up and playing music in church, what else influenced you to write? It might not necessarily be something creative.

X Ooo that isn't necessarily something creative? That's a cool question. I thought you were going to ask what inspires me besides music. There are a lot of inspiring artists and writers and musicians. But non-creative influences … I guess being bored is really inspiring. Periods of stillness are inspiring. They help to write.

RF I like that response. How do you feel about being an independent artist?

X Yeah, I think at the moment it's great being an independent artist. We can look at everything that we're doing, all the shows. And it's a pretty nice pat on the back to just be like, Cool, this is all in our hands. It’s our manual labour, we cleared this shit out for ten hours, set it up, we brought everything in here, we're paying for everything with our own money.

RF And how do you feel about growing up in the Australian scene and finding your place? Or do you not give a fuck about it?

X Yeah, I give a fuck about it. I'm conscious of making sure that everything I do is from me. For people looking in from the outside, they can engage with me, not a team or manager etc. I want to build a fan base and a community of people who fuck with my art in an organic way. That's definitely on my mind. I want to make sure that everything is organic, from the top down and from start to the finish. I think being independent is just the best way to do the things exactly how you want to do them and be able to really convey your world.

RF And in terms of releasing music, you're a fully-fledged artist who hasn’t really released anything, except a few tracks on SoundCloud. What's been your reasoning for not following the traditional trajectory?

X I initially wanted to start playing shows because my project wasn't ready to be released. But the shows took off – more than I expected. I thought maybe we could do two shows in Sydney and then I'd go back to mixing projects and start putting them out. But now, I don't know, it's pretty crazy that we're doing this without any music out and that people come to our shows without having heard our music before. I'm sure at some point people will want to have something to take away. Soon, for sure, at some point.

RF Yeah, when it feels right. You played a new single at the end of one of your shows, but I could never hear it again. I was pretty cut [laughs].

X I think I was actually planning on putting it out a month after. I'm always planning. I've been planning on putting my music out for so long.

RF How do you feel about sitting on old music?

X I feel good about the music I'm sitting on, specifically the tracks that I'm planning on putting out. There's so much music that will never see the light of day and I'll never even listen to again. But the songs that I'm sitting on, I'm confident about. They've lived the test of time and I still love them.

RF Yeah, absolutely. And for your Phoenix Central Park show, is there anything new or exciting that you've been prepping for?

X Mainly new arrangements, new music, maybe some new instruments as well.

RF What does the future hold for you?

X It's going to be summer and I'm going to have a spliff rolled up and a cappuccino, and I'm going to be walking the streets in Paris at some point. That's like a bucket list. And then I'm sure a bunch of other chaos as well.

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SEE ISSUE #06 HERE. The theme for this issue, Revelations, delves into the unfiltered aspects of life. It’s an appreciation and exploration of raw beauty, where authenticity reigns supreme; the unconventional is not just accepted but celebrated. In a world of manufactured perfection, this issue chooses to validate our quirks and idiosyncrasies. After all, they are what make us inimitable.

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