When you hear their music, you know about it. A criss-cross of glitchy textures, grungy 90’s trip-hop beats and heavy metal grit, the production factor is huge on an x/o track. Their serene vocal harmonies hit differently, pulling on your throat strings and forming a teary lump in the process.
They’re due to drop their debut album ‘Chaos Butterfly’ in April via the always-brilliant, Precious Metals. In this body of work x/o reflects on their journey towards their non-binary identity, through the lense of an anti-hero who battles with their trauma through whirlwinds of grief and anger. All in all, ‘Chaos Butterfly’ is an allegory for transcending societal concepts of gender. In our conversation, we get personal with x/o as they lift the veil on their journey and experiences.
Below is our digital conversation with x/o.
Sophie McNulty (SM): In your own words, who is ‘x/o’? How did you come to this pseudonym? What does it stand for?
x/o: I’ve always been interested in duality and the name ‘x/o’ means the two opposite halves becoming whole. I had previously heard that X(Batsu) means wrong/no and O(Maru) means right/yes; a reference to the original Japanese playstation controller, and my favourite Sanrio character Bad Batsu-Maru (who also I consider to be an “unofficial mascot” haha)
(SM): You’re based in Vancouver, so technically this is home for you? But where else are you most at home?
x/o: To me, home is a good meal together with friends and family. I love this kind of shared experience- and it can take place anywhere really. I also feel at home when I’m immersed in a good story whether it be from films, anime, or video games. At the moment, I’m really enjoying the anime Ranking of Kings. But if it’s a physical place, then I would also consider Berlin as a second home.
x/o: When I started producing the song, one of the synths I used reminded me of an alarm sound, and by the time I had written the lyrics, these ideas of protecting yourself from harmful patterns became Red Alert. The moment I had an opportunity to create a music video, I knew I wanted to use colour to tell a story. In the narrative, my character discovers various ‘red’ signs, from traffic lights, doors, and a red butterfly. Over time, the colour slowly consumes them and by the end of the story they become ‘red’. I wanted to reveal these manifestations as something that came from within; representations of our intuition and instincts that protect us from harm.
(SM): Every journey with gender is unique and personal and on your forthcoming album, ‘Chaos Butterfly’, you explore your journey with yours. Why was now the right time to put those reflections into something more physical?
x/o: When I first started x/o, I didn’t even have the words to describe gender. So when I had first heard the term non-binary or genderfluid it made a lot of sense, “isn’t that me?”. I thought about this for several years and it took a very long time for me to come out of my shell. Along the way, music has always been there as a safe space for me to explore the duality I found within myself; a way for me to process these thoughts. A lot of what I write musically begins as an intuitive process that I try to understand or rediscover, almost like analyzing a dream. From there I create meaning as I slowly assemble each puzzle piece. There are many layers to Chaos Butterfly, one of which is the encouragement to be true to myself in my own evolutionary journey.
As a closing question, what has been a guiding light for you throughout this process? If you could talk to your younger self, what message would you give them?
x/o: The symbol of the butterfly represents transformation, growth and self-actualization, that has definitely been a guiding light. If I could speak to my younger self I would tell them that it's okay to be who you are and to define that for yourself despite what others may want or expect you to be. There will be a time where you will feel safe to do so. <3