Sitting with brothers Dav and Johnny Julca in their new studio space, they have a kind of synergy unique to musicians, but they have something else: a lifelong bond through music. They sit across from each other on some of the only seating they have up to now, a bean bag and a chair at a desk, looking very similar but thinking very differently.
“He’s a perfectionist,” 30-year-old Dav says. “He is extremely clean and [has] that kind of vibe. So he does a ton of the engineering and the more technical side of the production, and I’m more like musician, songwriter, singer...crazy kind of mind...so we balance each other out.”
“I think I can speak for both of us and say we use it to our advantage, that we’re so different,” Johnny adds.
Everything about the brothers seems unique and a bit mysterious, including their band name: XAXO.
Johnny said the name came out of a period of intense brainstorming while he and Dav were on a trip to Ecuador with friends. After spitballing “anything and everything,” Johnny had an idea while showering on the last day.
The Julca brothers’ dad, who is a pastor at a Hispanic church in Ohio, goes by “Lalo.”
“So I said, ‘Ok what if we were named Lalo? But then how can I substitute the L’s?’ and I put an X in...XAXO,” Johnny said.
He went downstairs, wrote the four letters down on a paper and showed it to Dav and some other friends who were there.
“And my brother goes, ‘Dude, that’s dope, Chacho.’ And I was like, ‘What?’”
That was when he realized that XAXO could work because everybody would have a different interpretation of it, Johnny said.
XAXO sounds are undeniably groovy, they elicit head-bobbing reactions almost as soon as Dav hits play on their upcoming EP “Looking for Nothing.” But each track he plays has something else to it–a twist, an unconventional element or an unexpected sound.
The brothers said this approach to music began when they were young kids growing up in Columbus, Ohio. They played in punk bands and lived by skater culture, something they say they carry with them to this day.
“We always tend to want to [f***] everything up. I mean, we come from playing in punk bands and having that mentality. So even if it’s an electronic, perfect-sounding track, we’re still going to want to find a way to [f***] with it somehow,” Dav said.
Going from producing music for artists—Alejandro Sanz, Paulina Rubio, KC and the Sunshine Band and Ricky Martin, to name a few—XAXO was the first time they ever decided to make a band with just the two of them.
“We’ve been going at production for a good amount of years and we just needed to make more music the way we wanted to and that was it,” Dav said. “We didn’t really need much more ... I think it was a way of taking care of ourselves. Creatively, taking care of your mind and taking care of your body and taking care of your spiritual life and taking care of your creative mind is so important.”
Now, Johnny said, every song the brothers make becomes their favorite because the work is hyper-personal.
“When you put that all together, it feels like home. It feels like yours,” he said.
Listen to XAXO at soundcloud.com/xaxosounds and catch them at their next show at For the Love Music Festival in Ft. Lauderdale on March 12.