Wings of Darkness, Champions of Light

by James Adams

This is the fourth installment of Memory Mondays, where we give you a glimpse into XY Unlimited’s turbulent, glorious, and frequently embarrassing past. You can compound our shame or bolster our pride by leaving a comment below. 

[We published this inspiring parable as part of our May 2013 bid to be #1 on ArtistSignal]

Today may be our last blog about pigeons until we play for them on tour. Actually, it’s more a glimpse into Michael’s brain, which pigeons inhabit.


Michael and this guy share a life condition.

Michael has a special connection with the earth’s winged creatures. The pigeon, especially, has fascinated him since childhood. Not only do pigeons embody gentleness and determination, Michael eagerly points out at any opportunity, but they are essentially doves of a different color – and don’t we all love doves just soooooo much? Indeed, his steadfast defense of pigeons causes one to reexamine one’s groundless contempt for the birds.

Thus Michael has assumed the role of Pigeon Paladin, in both our band and the wider world. For those of you uninitiated in fantasy archetypes, paladins are holy knights who seek out and smite evil wherever can find it. Though there’s rarely any evil to smite that threatens pigeons, Michael almost found some on our April 2013 Midwest tour.

The scene of the crime. And of good burgers.

The scene of the crime. And of good burgers.

We were dining at a local grill called Bubs (pronounced “boobs,” according to their menu) in Winona, MN. Michael opened the menu to look through and select his dead cow product of choice (had to insert a bit of irony, sorry). In doing so, he happened upon a disturbing menu item simply labeled “pigeon wings.”

Michael stared at his menu and grew quiet. When our waitress arrived to take the food order, the other band members asked for a variety of delicious meat and non-meat burgers. Then it came time for Michael to order. With the restraint of a patient tiger and the holy flame of justice burning in his eyes, Michael asked the waitress if the restaurant truly served pigeon. The rest of the band exchanged knowing looks. Uh-oh.

The waitress raised her eyebrows at Michael in polite disbelief. “Umm…that’s chicken” she explained with a hint of scorn in her voice. “It’s a joke.”

Michael deflated a bit in both relief and, I think, disappointment. He ordered the taco salad and let her continue on her way. We enjoyed a peaceful, pigeon-less meal – and only teased Michael a little bit for being the one person in 1,000 who would actually ask if a menu item contained real pigeon.

Though the Pigeon Paladin rarely finds a quest worthy of his zeal, he remains ever vigilant.

Have you ever encountered a menu item that made you raise your eyebrows? Would you have asked about the pigeon wings? Michael will be taking notes. 😉

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Will Pigeons Enjoy XY Unlimited?

by James Adams

This is the fourth installment of Future Fridays, where you find out what XY Unlimited dreams about when it’s sleeping. Sometimes you can change the future by leaving us feedback about our plans!

After confirming six shows for our November 2013 West Coast Tour, I think we’re about to close in on our golden goose: a private show for the staff and volunteers of MickaCoo Pigeon and Dove Rescue!

On our very first Future Friday’s blog, I asked the universe to make us MickaCoo’s spokesband. Since the universe rarely listens to me, I emailed MickaCoo directly:

XY Stairs

I mean, how could you say no to these guys?

Subject: Can we play a show for MickaCoo staff and volunteers?
Dear MickaCoo,
My name is James Adams, and I’m one of four members in the acoustic pop/rock vocal group XY Unlimited. One of our band members, Michael, is absolutely obsessed with pigeons and doves. He loves the work you do, and so do the rest of us.
We’ll soon be heading up the West Coast for a tour (you can read about it on our blog) and we though it might be fun to play a free private show for MickaCoo staff and volunteers. Moreover, it would give us a great excuse to promote your work!
It would be an unplugged show, so it would probably sound a lot like this (music starts at 2:50). We wouldn’t want to disturb the birdies, so it could take place anywhere you feel is appropriate.
Let us know what you think – we’d love to find a way to make it work out! Thanks for your time, and all you do.Sincerely,
James Adams

I’ve sent plenty of emails into the aether with never an acknowledgement. Imagine my surprise and delight when the following reply popped into our inbox:


Valiant, one of MickaCoo’s residents, provides valuable PR for the sanctuary.

Re: Can we play a show for MickaCoo staff and volunteers?
Hello James, Michael, Christian & Macain!
Yes! What a kind and wonderful idea! We would love that! We’re honored by the offer and welcome your support and serenading.
Regarding MickaCoo staff & volunteers, we’re spread out all over the Bay Area. That said, I’m sure we could find a place to hang out and listen to your great music and appreciate some pigeons. Let’s figure it out. Do you have a date in mind?
Thank you! Yay for pigeon & dove love!
MickaCoo Pigeon & Dove Rescue

As you can see, the powers-that-be over at the rescue are also quite personable. We we we we we so excited. Now only one question remains: will the Pigeons like our music?

At this point you might think our blog is mostly about pigeons and pizza. You’re not far off. Actually, that’s pretty much all we stand for. Case in point, our upcoming Memory Monday: “Michael, Pigeon Paladin.” Subscribe now and never miss an entry!

If you could espouse the cause of any creature on earth, which would you choose? And how would you do so? Personally I’d put on armor and defend rhinos, but there’s some red tape with that one.

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Domino’s May Be Right

by James Adams

This is the fourth installment of What’s Happening Wednesday, where you find out what XY Unlimited is doing right now – or at least right now-ish.

Robot Pizza

Robots: powered by pizza. Lets just hope they don’t start eating it.

Good things happen over pizza. Domino’s argues this point well in their newest ad campaign and, though some halibut enthusiasts object, recent experience forces us to concur.

Amidst the chaos and beauty of preparing for our West Coast tour, we’ve squeezed in two pizza-fueled moments of progress:

“Happily Retired”

A fan recently commissioned us to produce a composition he wrote and sang for his wife upon her retirement. The song is not only incredibly sweet, but also pretty darn catchy – he’s hoping it will become the “Happy Birthday” of retirement celebrations.  Since last Wednesday, we’ve recorded old-timey drums, bass and guitar, and have now successfully created a track that sounds like the overworld theme from Super Mario World. This pleases us.

A pizza

Dat kale. Dat vegan cheese.

After six long hours of recording, we took a break to enjoy some gluten-free, dairy-free Pitfire Pizza. I know that such a pizza seems really lame and wimpy, but consider the serious determination it takes not to order cheesy, meaty goodness. Actually, Pitfire makes it pretty easy – their gf-df pizza is atrociously good.

Ninja Assassin Christian

XY hit another milestone this week: our first record label meeting. Michael and I invited Christian along to get a third XY brain in the room, assuming he would match our uninformed scrappiness with his own. The label reps brought us up to a classy boardroom in Burbank and delivered what I thought was a rather thorough and appealing proposal. I asked a couple of carefully-considered questions intended to make me appear wise and informed, as did Michael. After receiving satisfactory answers, I assumed the meeting would soon wrap up.

Christian had other plans. Like us, he began with a couple of soft-pitch inquiries about the label in general. Then, pleasant and charming all the while, he launched into a series of specific and technical questions about the label’s business operations, experience, accounting, and a number of other topics that would have made even a music business robot‘s brain explode. I lost count of the questions, but when one of the label execs started explaining the inner workings of an obscure instrument one of his colleagues had invented and Christian actually knew what he was talking about, I realized that Christian had somehow assumed complete control of the meeting.


Needless to say, Michael and I were impressed and awed. We rewarded Christian with more Pitfire Pizza, where we gathered afterward to discuss the meeting. While waiting for our order, Christian leaned over and inscribed the house colors into a nearby chalkboard. We’re still getting to know Christian, but it seems a vigilant and loyal XY warrior has joined our ranks. The gods smile on us. Especially the pizza gods.

Is Domino’s right? Does pizza truly inspire greatness? Weigh in with your pizza experiences (or doubts) below.

When you’re finished, check out our new “Band Member Quotes” section above, updated every Wednesday and filled with the most heartfelt and embarrassing sentences that someone takes the time to record!

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Pizza or Ice Cream?

by James Adams

This is the third installment of Memory Mondays, where we give you a glimpse into XY Unlimited’s turbulent, glorious, and frequently embarrassing past. You can compound our shame or bolster our pride by leaving a comment below. 

[We published this scandalous secret as part of our May 2013 bid to be #1 on ArtistSignal]

Ian Malcolm

Little known fact: Macain does a jaw-dropping Jeff Goldblum impression. We are perpetually impressed.

Today, we finally reveal how XY stays entertained for entire 4-8 hour car rides on tour. Once Macain stops doing Jurassic Park character impressions, it can get pretty mind-numbing to stare at miles of open road; we’ve collected the following standbys to ease the long hours:

1) “This or that.” A simple but effective game of elimination, this or that pits our favorite things against one another to see what we truly value. For example, I might ask “basketball or football,” to which Michael answers football, Macain answers basketball, and Zack answers basketball just to piss off Michael because he has no preference. Basketball wins, and football is eliminated – FOREVER. Basketball then goes up against, say, unicorns, unicorns win (obviously) and basketball is also then eliminated. Unicorns then do battle against something else…you get the idea. Endlessly entertaining!


Would you? WOULD YOU????

2) “Would you for $50 a day?” For $50 a day, would you drink an entire gallon of milk every day? Would you chase a rabid gerbil through your house until you caught it with your bare hands – every day? Would you watch the same episode of Teletubbies three times a day? When sleepyville starts to hit, we keep one another awake with these important considerations.

3) “Notes from Hell.” Once our brains are mush and we can no longer play games that involve thinking, we resort to more drastic measures: turn on the radio, find a nice pop or country song, and then see who can sing the most awful, insanity-producing note over it. Simple, and deadly.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into our exciting lives on the road. Who knows what wonderful advances in driving entertainment Christian will bring! Of course, we can use new ideas from whoever has them. What do you do to stay entertained when you’re pulling long travel hours?

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Will Canada Greet XY With Fireworks?

by James Adams

This is the third installment of Future Fridays, where you find out what XY Unlimited dreams about when it’s sleeping. Sometimes you can change the future by leaving us feedback about our plans!


Look at all that peninsula!

Vancouver is exactly 1,294 miles away from Los Angeles. Google maps says it would take us 425 hours to walk there, but we’re hoping to drive.

That’s right: XY is currently in the process of booking our first international show (!!!) as part of our November 2013 West Coast tour. Michael is chatting with a Vancouver acapella group right now about setting up a joint performance.  It’s not official yet, but that still qualifies it for Future Fridays material.

Needless to say, we’re excited for this XY milestone. I was pondering this potential show earlier and staring obsessively at the map above, and I noticed some exciting things:

Vancouver Skyline

Dear Canadian Government: it’s not too late to give us the welcome we deserve. Please consider fireworks.

  • Vancouver is right next to Burnaby and Surrey which, though I know nothing about them, sound delightfully British.
  • The entire city is surrounded by water. I took the liberty of finding some actual images of the city, and they look amazing. Case in point, our new blog header.  –>
  • Canada’s major interstate highways are marked with a fancy green and white maple leaf logo. Excellent choice!

The possibility of our band crossing a border has already got us thinking about where we might go next. Should we tour the African Savannah on the backs of Rhinos? Should we make a Bollywood movie about “Carmen” using an all-Indian cast? Should we somehow become really, really popular in Japan?

What do you think?

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Leveling Up, XY Style

by James Adams

This is the third installment of What’s Happening Wednesday, where you find out what XY Unlimited is doing right now – or at least right now-ish.

This Autumn is full of dangerous quests, and we’re working hard every day to make sure we’re ready for all of the boss battles we might encounter. Here are three things we’re doing this week to increase our strength, endurance, and magic abilities:

Getting Pumped

Getting PUMPED UP in a USC practice room thanks to Christian’s ninja moves.

1) We’re making new music and tightening up our usual material for the tour. Christian continues to learn parts at such an astonishing rate that scientific research teams from around the globe have begun to attend our rehearsals and take measurements while he sings.

2) We’re finishing up the ArtistSignal rewards from our May/June 2013 campaign. After a live-streamed voter concert plus nearly 200 custom haikus, Happy Birthdays, CDs, and Twitter shoutouts, we’re down to less than 100 t-shirts, postcards, notes, lyric sheets, and cover videos. I just sent the t-shirts, and Michael will send the last of the lyric sheets before Friday. If you’re still waiting for a reward, hang in there – we’re almost through!


Not even gonna lie – this is what I imagine when I think of expanding the XY team.

3) We’re adding members to our small but fearsome team of XY allies. I won’t name names yet, but pretty soon we might have a talented individual helping to manage and unify our online content. That means instead of me writing these blogs, this new team member will build a robot with my personality to write them so I can drink root beer floats in Tahiti, take spear fishing lessons, and receive massages from an extremely overweight Tahitian man.

Sigh…well, I can always dream.

On a serious note: we’re thinking about putting together an XY street team, and we need a good name for it. We know some of you out there are creative types. If XY puts together a street team, what should it be called? Let us know in a comment below!

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The XY Lemonade Affair

by James Adams

This is the second installment of Memory Mondays, where we give you a glimpse into XY Unlimited’s turbulent, glorious, and frequently embarrassing past. You can compound our shame or bolster our pride by leaving a comment below. 

[We published this infamous tale as part of our May 2013 bid to be #1 on ArtistSignal]

One of XY’s most tragic moments came tumbling out of a plastic lemonade pitcher.

Color coordinated outfits

Look at that color coordination!

It happened back in our early street-performing days, when we would set up our instruments on Downtown Santa Monica’s gritty streets every weekend and play for passers-by. It’s hard to get someone’s attention on a busy street, and we frequently tested new ways to make folks pause momentarily and listen to our music: Popular covers, cute stuffed animals, comics featuring band members, exceptionally color-coordinated outfits…we experimented quite a bit, and occasionally got the desired results.

One day, Michael mentioned that he had a top-secret idea, and, in his Michael way, would only tell us that it involved lemonade. Unbeknownst to us, Michael planned to make an entire pitcher of homemade lemonade –for the first time in his life – and offer free cups to anyone who stopped and listened to us. Since he had never made lemonade before, Michael had no idea how many lemons or how much juicing it takes to fill an entire pitcher (hint: a lot, and a lot). He began his lemon quest at 11pm; four sweat-and-lemon-juice covered hours later, Michael finally possessed a beat-up plastic pitcher filled to the brim with organic lemonade. He carefully recorded the lemonade’s ingredients in brown sharpie on sickly yellow scotch tape plastered to the pitcher’s exterior.

XY Lemonade

A lemonade product that takes “DIY” design to the next level!

We had an early performance scheduled that morning, and Michael and I had agreed to meet beforehand to pick up the band’s sound equipment. I arrived at our storage location right on time. In an unusual turn of events, Michael did not – in fact, he was quite late. I called multiple times and received no answer, but I assumed he would show up shortly, so I took the time to lightly snooze in my front seat. I awoke as Michael’s silver SUV screeched past my left side and swung into a parking spot a few cars in front of me. I sensed trouble. Sure enough, I heard the car door open, something clatter to the ground, and Michael scream an unspeakable expletive at the top of his lungs, shattering the morning tranquility and undoubtedly frightening a number of neighborhood sleepers.

Inigo Montoya

“Fezzik! Fezzik! Listen. Do you hear? That is the sound of ultimate suffering. My heart made that sound when Rugen slaughtered my father. Michael Kohl makes it now.” – Inigo Montoya, from The Princess Bride

It turns out that Michael couldn’t pick up my phone calls because he had been holding his precious lemony beverage wedged between his left thigh and the car door, left hand on top of the lid, right hand on the wheel. He placed it there after a couple of bad spills had already depleted the hard-won liquid, which prompted him to find a safe haven for his treasure. When he arrived at our meeting point, however, sleep deprivation, anxiety, and frustration conspired against him: he opened the car door without thinking and, in a single moment, gravity foiled Michael’s hard work and high hopes. Not to mention a good pitcher of lemonade.

Michael spiraled into an unshakable gloom. Out of respect for our wounded comrade and because Sri Lankan parade floats had unexpectedly taken over our usual performance space (true story, it was a Sri Lanka festival), we called off that day’s performance. Just as we were all about to leave with our heads hung low, saying our goodbye’s around Michael’s car, he burst out laughing with the abandon only three hours of sleep and utter disappointment can bring. Chuckles soon overwhelmed us all, and before we parted ways we exchanged hugs and smiled hard at life’s ridiculousness.


Life gave us lemons, and we made lemonade. Then we spilled all of the lemonade, but we had each other. So that was alright.

Do you have your own “lemonade” story? Have you ever had to laugh off an utter disaster? Tell us about it below!

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