it could be love: alasdair mclellan on his collaborative relationship with the xx
Releasing a beautiful, physical artefact capturing the intimate time he and The xx spent together on a trip to Texan art oasis Marfa, Alasdair McLellan chats to i-D about the importance of creating projects that exist outside the internet.
It Could Be Love, the new photo book documenting Alasdair McLellan and The xx's trip to Marfa, Texas, to record their video for On Hold, is a rare piece of music business merchandise in the age of downloads and streams; an age where the physical product, printed matter, and one-off pieces of merchandise rarely find their way into our lives. It's a beautiful, physical artefact, documenting a moment in time and the making of a music video, a collaboration and coming together. Made from photographs Alasdair captured whilst he was with the group on location in the Texan minimalist art oasis in the desert, where the band had spent time recording their third album I See You in 2016.
Capturing love, summer, beauty, youth, and picturesque Americana, in On Hold the band hang out apart, call each other, go to parties. Kids kiss and pose, cheerleaders dance and quarterbacks flex, in the bright Texan sun. It's innocent and the intimacy is palpable. Alasdair describes Marfa as, "This beautiful, photogenic, small town kind of place, full of daylight and sunshine."
The marriage of Alasdair and The xx on It Could Be Love is a perfect encapsulation of the band's new direction; less introspective than on their first two records, more open and free, full of lightness and playful touches. Marking Alasdair's first foray into music videos, the four and a half minute long film is full of broken relationships and teen longing (and of course perennial favourite Blondey McCoy, in a cowboy hat). A perfect collaboration -- Alasdair's trademark light and balancing out their dark.
With a working relationship that reaches back to 2009, when he first shot them as a four piece for i-D, 2016 saw him shooting two music videos, this book and several portraits for various other print publications. "We talked at length before we really did anything," the photographer states.. "We wanted to work on something bigger than just pictures of them. I like projects that naturally turn into other things. So we started working on the music videos, the idea is to do one for each place they recorded the album. I took photographs of everything we shot for the music videos, but it was never for something specific. We wanted to make something that would be a nice object to have, and a book felt most natural."
There is something a little nostalgic in the time of digital consumerism, to be able to hold the visual manifestation of music in your hands. "I remember bands used to do more of these kinds of projects." Alasdair enthuses. "They looked so great, they were these exciting little special one off things. You don't really get them much in the internet era. I like that they were up for not making it totally about them, letting things in that told the whole story. I like to think of it as a memento of the time we had together in Marfa."
Text Felix Petty
Photography Alasdair McLellan