Romy Madley Croft has been best known for over a decade as singer and guitarist for The XX, a band that soundtracked the sad tumblr scrolling of many a mid-2010s teenager. But now, using only her first name, Romy has released Mid Air, her debut album. The melancholy bedroom walls give way to prisms of club lights and intimate shadows. Singing more boldly than ever before about queer love, she summons the night out feeling of being both entirely by yourself yet in sync with so many others.
Mid Air is noticeably more uptempo than most of your work with The XX. What prompted the move away to “emotional music to dance to”?
I was excited to challenge myself to do something new, I wanted to see what happened when I put down my guitar and embraced my other love of DJing and dance music.
Have you always loved house music? What is your relationship with it?
Definitely. I started DJing when I was 16 or 17 at a queer club in Soho, London. I’ve never been the most confident dancer but I love being in the atmosphere of a club and being behind the decks gave me a purpose and a connection to the dance floor. It’s a very beautiful feeling being a part of the changing energy and emotion of a group of people. I stopped DJing for most of the time The XX was on tour but I reconnected with it about 5 years ago and it’s now a huge part of my life again.
On the other side of the same coin, how has the moody, introspective aspect of The XX helped to shape Mid Air?
I don’t think we ever set out to be specifically moody or introspective, I think it’s only ever been made on instinct. Some of the songs we made on the first album were written when we were 16, so it’s almost like looking at a teenage photo album and being like, ‘Oh wow that's what I chose to wear back then, ok cool!’ I’m so proud and grateful for what we've done with The XX.
What’s your personal way of tapping into this combination of sadness and euphoria, creatively?
I’ve always gravitated towards writing songs as a form of self-therapy. When I was a teenager and even still now, I find it pretty hard to talk about how I’m feeling, but I find a huge amount of healing and connection from songwriting. I’m so captivated by songs that are a perfect balance between happy and sad all at once and was inspired to try and reach for this feeling in my music.
How is the dynamic of working with Jamie, different when working on Romy as opposed to The XX?
I love working with Jamie so much, we have such a huge history of collaborating together and we know each other so well. I think there is a subtle, respectful, unspoken shift between working on a song for my album, for The XX or for his solo project. I worked with Jamie on a few songs for this album, but in the end we had a conversation where I said I think I needed to go and collaborate with other people too, to learn and have new experiences to bring back to our process. He was very understanding and encouraging of that, which meant a lot to me.
An emotion that cuts through the whole album is nostalgia. There’s a vaguely European feeling that we’re in a club somewhere on the continent. Where do you think that comes from? Is it intentional? If so, why have you chosen to evoke this feeling?
I’m obsessed with club classics and big pop dance tracks that unite the dance floor. I have a dream fascination with what it would have been like in Ibiza in the early ‘00s and late ‘90s. These songs and fantasies have definitely been a big inspiration for the album. I wanted to reference the past but my hope was also to create something modern and new with those influences.
A lot of the album has been produced by Fred Again.., but you were writing together before that. What was it like when you first began writing together?
I met Fred in 2018, we were basically matchmade together – to write together for other artists. We started writing a lot together but not thinking it was for either of our projects before he had released any of his solo music. After a few sessions we wrote Loveher and I said, ‘Maybe this is for me?!’ This was the unlocking of the album for me and from then on we wrote a lot more.
 When did you realise you were such a good songwriting team?
I felt an instant connection and friendship with Fred, I think that trust and friendship made me feel safe to open up to him. Musically we just had a lot of fun; he’s so talented and works very fast, which is an exciting atmosphere to be in in the studio.
This feels like the first time that you’ve sung so explicitly and consistently about queerness and queer love. What made you want to do this now? Why do you think now is a good time to do so?
When I was writing I was thinking about myself as a teenager and how much it meant to me when I felt lyrically represented in music, which didn’t happen that often. Lyrically it was exciting and important to me to be more open and honest about my relationship and say she and her, the same as I would in conversation with my family and friends, without any shame.  Hopefully the songs can provide more representation and visibility and another queer storyline. I’m so inspired by young queer artists being bold and open in their music, this feels like a really positive and exciting shift and definitely was a factor in me feeling ready to be more direct in my own lyrics.
Who would you like to work with next, and how do you see yourself building on what you’ve done with Mid Air?
I would love to collaborate with Fever Ray, I recently saw them play live in Paris and they were unreal. It’s been really freeing making this album and I definitely feel like there's more I want to explore with this solo project. I’m also very excited and intrigued to see what music we will make together as a band with The XX!