Romy on her spectacular solo debut: “This album is an invitation to dance”

The xx’s vocalist discusses lesbian representation in dance music, the influence of Madonna and debut album ‘Mid Air’

Despite being co-lead vocalist and guitarist in The xx, perhaps the most influential indie band of the last 15 years, Romy wasn’t sure about making a solo album – at least to begin with. Well, thank the gods of dance music that she did, because her trance-fuelled LP ‘Mid Air’ is a transcendent triumph. “I don’t think I felt like I could do it, self-confidence wise,” she says modestly. “And I didn’t have a burning desire to have all the attention on me.”

When The xx broke through in 2009 with their Mercury Prize-winning debut album ‘xx’, it almost became a cliché to call the London four-piece – Romy Madley Croft, Oliver Sim, Jamie “xx” Smith and Baria Qureshi, who left later that year – “introverted” and “self-effacing”. Today, speaking over Zoom from Ibiza, where she’s flown for a DJ gig, Romy isn’t quite either. Though softly spoken and in no way showy, she is also friendly, self-aware and keen to make a connection, especially through music.

When NME mentions ‘Get Together’, a heady house gem from Madonna‘s 2005 LP ‘Confessions On A Dance Floor’ – which Romy has cited as an influence – she replies: “It’s funny you should say that because that’s my favourite song [from the album]. I have this sampler where I play bits of my own songs in DJ sets, and I realised that ‘Loud Places’ is in the same key as ‘Get Together’, so at All Points East last week, I played ‘Get Together’ with bits of ‘Loud Places’ over it, which was just fun.”

Romy readily admits that the prospect of performing her upbeat, club-focused solo material was initially daunting. “Can I stand on stage and dance to this 130 BPM song? My inner critic was going no,” she says with a laugh. “But then I was like, ‘Oh, just go for it!'” Does she feel more confident now? “It’s still very new to me, honestly. But I think the overriding thing is I love it and I’m having a lot of fun.”


It must help that ‘Mid Air’ is such a gorgeously transportive album. Largely co-written and produced with red hot DJ and producer Fred again.. and Madonna’s ‘Confessions’ collaborator Stuart Price, it draws from the “club classics” that Romy grew up on but also feels modern. That’s partly because some of its musical reference points – pulsing trance and Balearic chillout – are currently enjoying a revival thanks to summer smashes like Calvin Harris and Ellie Goulding‘s ‘Miracle’ and Peggy Gou‘s ‘It Goes Like (Nanana)’.

Romy’s richly emotional songs about love, grief and self-actualisation also raise the album well above pastiche. ‘Enjoy Your Life’, which samples ‘La Vita’ by singer-songwriter Beverley Glenn-Copeland, has Romy and Glenn-Copeland repeating the seemingly simple line: “My mother says to me, ‘Enjoy your life.'” Given that Romy’s own mother died when she was 11, it feels brave and profoundly moving. ‘Loveher’, a house-flecked celebration of Romy’s feelings for wife Vic Lentaigne, whom she married in 2021, would also work as a stripped-down piano ballad – or “candlelight mix”, to borrow a term from Eurodance star DJ Sammy.

‘Loveher’ is an especially personal moment on an album that shimmers with intimacy: sometimes jubilant, at other times poignant. “Won’t be ashamed, no, I can’t wait to tell them,” Romy sings. “Love her, I love her, I love her, I love her.” It’s one of several songs on which Romy uses she/her pronouns – something she previously avoided with The xx, who have always tried to keep their songs as “open” and “inclusive” as possible.

“To remove that kind of cryptic and veiled songwriting style felt quite exciting, and it felt like the right time to do it,” Romy says. Not only does it differentiate her solo music from the band’s three albums to date, but it also strikes a blow for “lesbian representation” in dance music – something Romy felt was lacking when she was growing up. “I was thinking back to the songs I loved as a teenager but trying to add a new storyline [and] a new sensation,” she says.

Credit: Vic Lentaigne

Writing about her sexuality in an unambiguous way also underlines the album’s roots in the queer clubs she frequented at a formative age. When she was “16 or 17”, she discovered the now-defunct Soho venue Ghetto. “It was an amazing feeling – first to get in, because I was underage,” Romy says with a laugh. “And though I didn’t have a really challenging time at secondary school, I never felt like I could let my guard down. Suddenly I felt this liberation of being able to explore my sexuality and talk to other [queer people] and have role models.”

The music at Ghetto’s fondly remembered club nights Misshapes and Wigout also proved revelatory. “I was definitely more of an observer of the dance floor [rather] than being in the middle of it,” she recalls with a self-deprecating smile. “I was always noticing what songs were going down well, and I loved seeing big bold pop music being celebrated [and] not listened to ironically.”


Because Romy spent so much time there, the club’s manager eventually offered her a DJ spot, which she accepted despite not knowing how to mix. “I definitely relied on those songs where you could just press play and everyone’s hands would be in the air,” she says, citing Haddaway’s ‘What Is Love’, Kylie Minogue and “pop-dance Rihanna” as her go-tos. In a gratifying full circle moment for Romy, the latter would sample The xx’s ‘Intro’ on her 2011 power ballad ‘Drunk On Love’.

Credit: Deanie Chen

In a way, ‘Mid Air’ is another full circle moment for Romy because it finds her fully embracing her love of dance music. When The xx became major indie darlings in the early 2010s, she enjoyed DJing at their post-show afterparties until a guest questioned her taste. “Someone came up to me and said, ‘Are you taking the piss?'” she kind of recalls. “They’d been to see The xx play, so they weren’t expecting to hear this music afterwards. And because I was so young and the band was so precious to me, I didn’t want to mess anything up. So I froze and stopped DJing like that.”

Now, more than a decade later, Romy feels no such shame. After a gig at Manchester’s Warehouse Project last year, she was approached by a fan who had responded deeply to ‘Strong’, her throbbing collaboration with Fred again.. that now serves as ‘Mid Air”s centrepiece.  “They said that ‘Strong’ reminds them of their friend who died and was helping them to grieve,” Romy recalls. “It was an incredibly special moment. I was like, ‘We’re in a club, and I’ve written this dance song about grief, and it’s helping people to talk about it.'”

In a way, this sense of dance floor catharsis is the album’s raison d’être. “When I DJ, I like to feel my heart rate go up as the chord progressions connect with my emotions,” Romy says. “So for me, this album is an invitation to dance and connect with your feelings – on a night out with your friends, or in a different way, maybe, when you listen alone.”

Romy’s debut solo album ‘Mid Air’ will be released on September 8 via Young


More Stories:

Sponsored Stories: