- - Tuesday, May 10, 2016

When you think of hotbeds of rock ‘n’ roll, Ithaca, New York, doesn’t exactly top the list. Maybe that is what makes X Ambassadors such a revelation. The quartet of Sam Harris (lead vocals, guitar, saxophone), Casey Harris (keyboard), Noah Feldshuh (guitar) and Adam Levin (drums) was discovered by Imagine Dragons’ lead singer Dan Reynolds.

Since then the band has released their major label CD, “VHS,” to both critical acclaim and fan sales. The lead single, “Renegades,” has become a staple on pop and rock radio.

In advance of their gig at Echostage in the District Thursday, X Ambassadors lead singer Mr. Harris spoke about the band’s meteoric rise, the thank-you gift he sent to Mr. Reynolds for helping launch them, and where in D.C. he’ll be be hanging out before and after the gig.

Question: Are you the biggest band to ever come out of Ithaca?

Answer: [laughs] I don’t know about that. We are certainly proud of our hometown and are trying to bring awareness to this tiny little town in upstate New York.

Q: Has there been any sort of parade or hometown celebration?

A: [laughs] We are coming back to perform at the State Theatre, which is like an old classic theater in Ithaca. I used to see shows there when I was a kid.

We are doing a benefit for the State Theater as part of our “VHS” tour. That sold out pretty quickly. We have a bunch of friends and family coming out to that one. So that should be a celebration for sure.

Q: The core of the band is you, your brother and a friend of yours since kindergarten. When did you first start playing music together?

A: [Guitarist] Noah [Feldshuh] and I started our first band in seventh grade. [Keyboardist] Casey [Harris] started playing with us in high school. Then after high school we moved to New York City and met Adam Levin, our drummer. That’s when the four of us started, back in 2006-07. Same members that we are now.

Been a long, long haul man. Feels like we’ve been playing together forever. It’s a part of our sound. Part of who we are.

Q: Who got into music first, you or your brother?

A: I think we both found our paths. He started taking piano lessons when he was 8 years old. I started taking saxophone lessons around the same time. I had always been singing. Our mother is a singer. Sometimes we would sing with her at family gatherings and at shows in town. It wasn’t until high school that I asked him to join the band. We were both doing our own things musically. Eventually Noah and I felt like Casey just had to be in our band because he was so damn good.

Q: Do you ever worry about the brothers-in-a-band curse that affected everyone from The Kinks to Oasis?

A: Just accept the fact that there is always going to be conflict no matter what and work through that conflict. Be willing to work through it. That’s big.

You gotta make sacrifices in a democracy. That’s what we really love so much about our band. The collaboration is what makes it exciting. We can take something that one person has started, and by the end of it, once we’ve all got our hands on it, it is completely different.

Q: Is it true that Dan Reynolds from Imagine Dragons is responsible for launching your career?

A: The whole band actually. They heard us when they were doing a show in Norfolk, Virginia, and we actually had a song on the radio down there. They heard our music and really loved our sound. They heard we were unsigned and brought us to the attention of Alex the Kid, the CEO and president of Kid in the Corner records, which is with Interscope. We met him, did a session.

Dan actually came in and co-wrote the song “Stranger” for our first EP. They took us out on our first big arena tour, which was an amazing opportunity for us. They have been real supportive of our music since Day 1. It’s great to have them in our corner. They are a great bunch of guys. Love them and their band. It’s awesome the friendship that we have.

Q: How has your life changed since your album “VHS” came out in 2015?

A: It’s gotten a lot busier. We’ve been on tour for the last year and a half straight — nonstop on the road. It’s very exciting, very exhausting. We’re never home.

I had to learn to keep my voice in shape. Living in our own bubble, it’s been hard to have any perspective on it. We have been in “GO! GO! GO! GO!” mode.

Q: Are you working on a new album?

A: We’ve been writing constantly. We never really stopped writing, even after “VHS” came out. We have been constantly writing new material. We have around 30 to 40 songs right now that we put together. We’re probably going to write 30 to 40 more before we’re ready to put anything new out.

It’s a process man. You gotta get through all the bad stuff before you get to anything good. It takes a long time.

Q: Is there more pressure because the album and song “Renegades” was such a hit?

A: There’s always the pressure that we put on ourselves. There’s only that. That is the only pressure that we feel. We want to be always one-upping ourselves, constantly making new material that is better than our last. It’s silly to think about any external pressure: money or radio play. That is just a product of how much work you put into your music. And if it’s good or not, combined with the luck of the draw.

All we can focus on is making music that we are really proud of.

The X Ambassadors play Echostage Thursday along with Robert Delong and Sara Hartman. Tickets are $43.45 by going to Ticketmaster.com


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