While many aspiring musicians would kill to work in the studio with big names like Pitbull, Ricky Martin, and KC & the Sunshine Band, the two brothers who make up XAXO found it soul sucking. "We were producing, writing, engineering, vocal coaching, and working as a psychologist for all these musicians," Dav Julca says. "But the only thing I learned from it is what not to do in the studio. We needed to start pursuing our creative satisfaction and create music with no deadline."
Since November, Dav and his brother Johnny have been performing synth-heavy pop as XAXO, but their travels span the Western hemisphere. Born in Panama, they were raised by their parents in Columbus, Ohio. "Our parents were pastors," Dav says. "Watching them in church every week was training as a musician. You learn you have to make decisions based on the emotions of people watching you." The brothers played in punk bands and even signed with Atlantic Records with their band, New
The siblings see the entire musical journey as a learning process and XAXO as the final destination. "When you see us live, we have that rock and roll fuck-it attitude. We use the old-school salsa that we got into working with Latin artists." When on stage — as they will be at Bardot on June 29 — they have a live drummer and Dav sings and takes turns with Johnny on guitar, bass, and keys.
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"Johnny is a genius behind the computer making our sounds. He goes from a Rage Against the Machine guitar riff to a Beastie Boys drumbeat to a salsa conga drum."
One big milestone for the brothers was moving to Miami in 2010 and setting up their own recording studio in Wynwood. "I love the electronic music down here. It's incredible." The global diversity of Miami was something that inspired the Julca brothers as well. "We're Latin guys who grew up in Ohio. For me, the U.S. is the Midwest. Being [in Miami] is the best of both worlds. Getting off a plane like I did the other day from Indiana and hearing Spanish and reggaeton being played everywhere makes me smile. And if I miss the Midwest, I can drive up to Fort Lauderdale and have a Bud Light."
While they currently only have one song available to the public — "Safe Unknown" — the brothers are working hard on recording their first EP, Looking for Nothing, which will be released under their label Space52. "XAXO came out of being unsatisfied creatively. Now we're creating music freely and are excited to represent this city in a cultural way."
XAXO. 11 p.m. Wednesday, June 29, at Bardot, 3456 N. Miami Ave., Miami; 305-576-5570; bardotmiami.com. Admission is free.