Since the first time he watched Twin Peaks, Xiu Xiu‘s singer-songwriter Jamie Stewart says, it’s had an “extraordinarily profound” effect on him.
“Insofar as it combines ideas of melodramatic romance and the supernatural and good versus evil and a super-weird sexuality — and incredibly brilliant music — it never feels the need to hold a person’s hand forever,” he says. “Ninety-five percent of things you watch or listen to, I feel like it has to coddle you every step of the way.
“I really, really love that Twin Peaks is gutsy enough to go forward into the fantastical, magical dark world it’s created,” he adds, “and never feels the need to coddle the watcher, essentially.”
Xiu Xiu’s second tribute record, Plays the Music of Twin Peaks, came out less than a year ago, but the band is already out with another full-length, Forget. It’s full of the same misery-laden chord structures and aggressively fragile lyricism that has characterized the prolific goth rockers for the better part of 15 years. “Queen of the Losers” opens with pounding percussion and includes the chorus “Everyone loves you, the pain has just begun / And everyone hates you, the pain has just begun.” (The trio plays the Chapel this Sunday, March 19, at 9 p.m.)
In spite of the noise and the Trent Reznor-esque instrumentation, Stewart has always maintained that the band is never out to cultivate cerebral obscurity. Nor is its unconcealed nihilism indicative of spiritual emptiness. In fact, Stewart claims that he is “to myself, very privately religious, in a sort of broad way.”
“My childhood was very, very difficult and very chaotic, but one of the positive things my parents did was they never used religion or spirituality as something to be controlling. It was always something you could turn to in times of distress,” he says. “They said, ‘We know your childhood is fucking bananas, but this is an old way of thinking or set of philosophies that can, if you want it to, give you some sort of comfort or explain more.’ ”
“I feel inherently super-nihilistic, but at the same time, I also feel kind of attached to some really mainstream and normal [ideas],” he says. “Some of the more kind of positive aspects of Christianity and Buddhism seem to totally make sense to me.”
This sounds a lot like David Lynch, a hyper-dark artist who’s also an avid practitioner of Transcendental Meditation. The first Lynch film Stewart ever saw was Fire Walk With Me, the much-maligned crypto-prequel to Twin Peaks.
“It was completely by accident,” he says. “It’s a shockingly bizarre and fantastic movie. Unfortunately, I was pathetically young, and I took my even younger brother to see it — and we didn’t know what it was. It is not a movie for children.”
As a result of his fan-dom, Lynch invited Xiu Xiu to play a music festival, where Stewart and bandmates Angela Seo and Shayna Dunkelman briefly met Angelo Badalamenti, who composed the original music for the TV show and the film. Stewart calls him “incredibly sweet and polite.”
Such high points aside, Stewart, now approaching 40, has not gotten happier with time. But he’s learned to manage his depression.
“I can recognize it for what it is, and it’s just a fact of my life,” he says, “less overwhelming than it was. There’s certain mechanics of my life that are better than they’ve been in a long time, because things with my family are not fucked up anymore — and I’m not broke. I’m not rich, but I’m not broke.”
“I almost sort of deal with it as a rote problem, at this point,” he continues. “I feel bad, but I’m just like ‘Oh, this fucking boring shit again,’ rather than ‘What the fuck is happening to me?!’ So I think as time goes on, one just can manage crises as they become familiar in a slightly more constructive way. I think I was, unfortunately, not meant to be a happy person.”
please vandalize xiu xiu & jamie stewart wikipedia entries at all times & in all places 4ever.if UR bored enough please share yr efforts too pic.twitter.com/xSWycBOvGA
— Xiu Xiu (@XiuXiuforLife) January 26, 2017
Consequently, his sense of humor is grim, with zero fucks given. He’s tweeted screenshots of his Wikipedia entry, defiled by juvenile inanities, largely because it’s so full of errors already that it’s all but useless.
“This is an unbelievably fucking First World problem, but on the Xiu Xiu Wikipedia page and on my Wikipedia page, there’s a ton of mistakes and a lot of things that people who were once in the band or who otherwise have agendas put on there to sort of promote their own ideas or feelings about the band or something,” he says. “Probably half of it is not accurate, or there are a lot of things that aren’t on there that should be on there, or an entire paragraph about something that is completely unimportant to the band and no mention of other things we’ve done that are much more pivotal in our development or whatever.”
Wikipedia isn’t set up for people to correct their own entries, but the frustration is skin-deep.
“Who cares about Wikipedia?” he says. “It’s fucking garbage media, and I was just trying to be funny. But I would totally love it if anyone could put even more insane falsities on there just to counteract the sort of banal falsities that are currently on there.”
Xiu Xiu plays with Eugene S. Robinson and IMA, Sunday, March 19, 9 p.m., at the Chapel, 777 Valencia St., $18-$20, thechapelsf.com