The Netflix drama and music film “XOXO” follows six strangers whose lives collide at a most vibrant EDM festival. Among those strangers are Krystal (Sarah Hyland) who is hoping to find true romance in a place she expects to find it, and Ethan (Graham Phillips) who is about to make his DJ-ing debut at the biggest EDM festival of them all, XOXO. During their time there, Krystal and Ethan come to find now what they wanted, but what they need most as will the other characters around them.
“XOXO” offers a cinematic glimpse into the world of EDM which has gone from being played in illegal underground rave parties to becoming a major part of musical festivals around the country. We see all the characters get dressed up in exotic costumes as if they are headed to another planet, and drugs of all kinds are in heavy supply to where some innocent fans don’t realize right away when they have just been given some. Either way, they are all there to experience the glorious emotions EDM gives off, and none of them can wait for the bass to drop.
Both Graham Phillips and Sarah Hyland recently dropped by the London Hotel in West Hollywood, California to talk about their experience making “XOXO.” Courtney Fairhurst Howard from Sassy Mama in LA asked them both if they had knowledge of EDM music and if they had attended any EDM festivals before shooting began. This would soon lead into my question about the preparation Graham underwent to become a truly talented DJ.
Sarah Hyland: I have been a fan of EDM music for a while. I had never been to a rave so to speak, but I have been to places like Coachella where there’s always rave tents. So I kind of experienced something like that before, but it was really cool to just indulge myself in this culture. It was great. I learned a lot from it, and it was a lot of fun.
Graham Phillips: I too have enjoyed EDM for a really long time. I’ve sort of been drawn to more of the sweeping symphonic vibe of EDM like Above & Beyond or Madeon. Whenever they can integrate some organic sounds as well into all the electric sounds, I tend to really like that. I came from a musical theatre background as did Sarah, so maybe that’s why. I actually started DJ-ing my freshman year in college just to meet the social chairs of the eating clubs at Princeton and just because as a freshman male you’re the bottom of the social ladder and you can’t really get access to any of these clubs until you’re in a fraternity. And so I learned to DJ and they needed DJ’s so I was like okay, I will learn to DJ. I like the music anyways. I did start liking it more and more, and I started to throw some parties in Orange County with some of my friends who actually liked the music even more than I did. They were the people who were finding these new tunes as they were coming out. I loved hosting parties and still do, and that’s sort of what it grew from. I guess sophomore year it kind of petered out, but when I got this script at the end of my sophomore year I found it so funny because this was just what I experienced but on a much smaller level. Actually Chris, the director, didn’t even know that I had any DJ-ing experience when he cast me, so that was kind of a fun surprise for him. He didn’t have to teach me everything.
Ben Kenber: Was there any specific research you had to do in terms of understanding the equipment your character uses?
GP: I actually used almost all my own equipment for this. I just brought it to the set and asked if I could please use this instead of something completely foreign (to me), and they were like yeah, sure. It didn’t require a lot of research for me which was really nice because a lot of the shots we grabbed at real festivals where we had a five-minute slot onstage in front of 80,000 people. So when you have just a small amount of time to get the shot, the last thing you want to be doing is fumbling around with the knobs. It was nice that I had some background in it.
It was great to learn how Phillips had plenty of experience in DJ-ing before filming “XOXO,” and his expertise with it certainly shows when you watch the movie. “XOXO” is set to debut on Netflix on Friday, August 26. Please be sure to check out the poster and the trailer below.