Watch X Ambassadors at the Paste Magazine East Austin Block Party Presented by Ilegal Mezcal

Music Features X Ambassadors
Watch X Ambassadors at the Paste Magazine East Austin Block Party Presented by Ilegal Mezcal

This year at Paste’s East Austin Block Party, we experimented with something new: instead of our live sessions, we turned the indoor stage of The Coral Snake into a recording studio; allowing artists a chance to drop in and chat with us as well as record some music, while giving the crowd an opportunity to see a recording up close and personal. “Personal” is the defining keyword of our session with X Ambassadors. They dropped by on Wednesday afternoon, playing us three songs off their upcoming album Townie, out today via Virgin Music.

First was “No Strings” featuring lead guitarist Russ Flynn’s hypnotic tremolo picking beautifully melded with Sam Nelson Harris’ warm vocals and guitar, while Adam Levin created a perfect balance to both with rhythm on drum pad. Harris’ voice has an element that is unique to great songwriters, that they can tell you any story like it’s your own, and X Ambassadors have done that and more.

“No Strings”

After “No Strings”, X Ambassadors moved on to their unreleased track “Sunoco”, the first track off Townie. It’s clear why the band chose that name. As Harris explained between songs, Sunoco is the name of a gas station chain that was common in the Northeast where he’s from. “And that’s where I spent most of my time growing up,” said Harris with a little smile, ”hanging out at those gas stations.” The songs evoke a feeling of being homesick for a life I never got to experience, but still find myself nostalgic for.

With a playful nod to their manager just offscreen, X Ambassadors launch into the unreleased “Sunoco.”


X Ambassadors’ magical talent for universality ironically lies with their specificity, with lyrics like “paint a picture of a little anarchist/ making movies on his dad’s camera”, and “doing donuts in the parking lot / me and my friends will never get caught / 6 AM and I feel like I’ll never leave this place alive.”

“Sunoco” taps into the feeling that you’re destined for “bigger” things than the town you were born in while still feeling tied to your roots, where you’re from, and the life you were given, but once felt too good for.

For their last song, “Your Town”, Levin left the stage, leaving only Harris and Flynn. “Your Town” is the most recent release from X Ambassadors. Introducing the song, Harris took the time to speak personally to the audience. He mentioned a major inspiration for the album is his hometown of Ithaca, a college town, “hence the title of the album, Townie, I’m a townie,” Harris joked. Speaking of “Your Town”, he said, “this song specifically, I wrote for my teacher Todd Peterson, who passed away in 2021. Todd taught me everything that I know about being on stage,” Harris continued, “I think it took him passing away for me to really realize how special it is to be from where I’m from,” he added, “to have been raised by people like him, by my family, by my friends. This song is for him, it’s for my town, but it’s also for you and wherever you’re from.”

“Your Town”

“Your Town” leads us to a strong finish. It is an emotional gut punch of a song. It’s a love letter to Peterson, but also to youthful arrogance, to learning to appreciate the things you used to resent, to becoming whole with who you have become and who you used to be. Townie sounds like love, and X Ambassadors managed to convey that love in their three-song session, if the screaming applause from the audience that followed wasn’t indication enough.

Look out for “Townie”, out April 5th on Virgin Records.

Thank you to X Ambassadors, The Coral Snake, High Noon, and our friends at Ilegal Mezcal for helping us bring the East Austin Block Party to life.

Come back each Friday for the next few months to see the rest of the amazing Paste Recording Sessions we have in store.

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