British electro-pop band The XX had a lot to live up to with their recently released sophomore album, Coexist.
Their self-titled 2009 debut, written when they were just teenagers, went on to win England's coveted Mercury Prize and topped many end of year music lists.
Now singer-guitarist Romy Madley Croft, 22, and singer-bassist Oliver Sim, 23, and multi-instrumentalist-producer Jamie Smith, 23, are back with a similarly cool sounding collection of love songs that just debuted at No. 2 in Canada and No. 1 in England.
"In the beginning (our sound) was just a lot of happy accidents," said Sim, in Toronto for one in a small string of North American club shows before return visits in October to Vancouver and Quebec City.
"A lot of the simplicity in the songs came from the fact that we didn't know how to play much more than what we were. Me and Romy didn't have very loud voices, so it wouldn't make sense to make a huge sound that we couldn't compete with vocally."
Like it's predecessor, Coexist is also mired in matters of the heart although Sim says he was really inspired by British soul singer Sade.
"I'm such a fan and I'm shamefully late to her music as well," he said. "But I got into it because she was touring her last record. Not only does she have the most beautiful voice ever but the way she writes, to me she kind of compacts really complex emotions and delivers them in a very simple, brave way, and I find it very inspiring."
The trio tucked themselves away in a North London studio for 15-hour days over six months to create Coexist and Sim says they were basically left alone by their label, covering the walls in black velvet for atmosphere.
"It was pretty boudoir," said Sim.
In between records, Smith went on to become a DJ and remixer of note -- Adele's Rolling in the Deep, Drake's Take Care, to name a few big ones.
Also, Sim and Madley Croft -- who previously wrote separately, sharing songs over the Internet for days at a time -- decided to write together in the same room.
"A few of the songs on the last album were written before Jamie had joined the band and he was more involved in songwriting than ever on this album, from the very early stages which was really good to have," said Sim. "I think he's creatively brilliant, but I think the thing we don't have, he has a very technical mind as well."
As for Sim and Madley Croft writing together, it couldn't have gone any better.
"I always saw what we do as being two separate artists coming together and collaging what we do," said Sim. "But we wrote four songs like that that ended up on the album and I was just surprised by how immediate and how quick we were doing it. We wrote two of my favourite songs (Unfold, Our Song) in less than half an hour each. It just felt like more of a band than ever."