Xander And The Peace Pirates: Blues for a brave new world
Interview: Xander And The Peace Pirates on learning from the stars, the importance of the blues, and why Liverpool could be the sound of the future
"Blues music is important as it can be used as a vehicle for expressing our deepest feelings about the world, and the changes many of us would like to see on this planet," says Keith Xander, frontman of Liverpool-based blues outfit Xander and the Peace Pirates. "It can be used to send a message to those who have the ears and hearts to truly hear and feel what needs to change within themselves, and to create a more united, beautiful experience within this realm we call Earth."
This mind not be what Robert Johnson had in mind when he did his deal with the devil, but there's no doubting Xander And The Peace Pirates' sincerity, nor their commitment to the form. With a growing list of A-List support slots behind them, heavyweight support from Gibson Brands, and a well-received debut album in the bag, the band have put physical restrictions behind them (Keith, who was born without the lower part of his right arm, cradles his plectrum in the claw of a prosthetic limb), to become one of the brightest hopes on the British blues scene.
The band have just released a new video for Let Go, taken from last year's 11:11 debut, so we asked Keith and fellow pirate Stu Xander to bring us up to date.
What's Let Go about?
Let go is about letting go of those thought patterns that hold us back and limit us in various ways during our experience. It’s a realisation or recognition that holding on too tightly to our ideas about life can cause us to suffer and not be able to truly embrace the life that we truly are.
Which guitarists do you most admire?
I love Stevie Ray Vaughan for his overwhelming passion and energy. It’s as if he's playing his last gig every time he plays. It's beautiful to hear such colourful passionate playing. I love any guitarist or musician that can make their instrument sing. It’s all an extension of the soul. I love Hendrix for the same reason.
What's the importance of the blues in 2017?
There are many emerging artists here in Liverpool that are really bringing that Soulful Blues sound back into the spotlight. It really is wonderful to be part of an explosion of blues and soul influenced music here in Liverpool, it feels like it’s a reaction to the turmoil in society and politics in some way, as artists are looking to challenge the status quo through their music. Blues, soul and country have always been about that.
Bands from Liverpool are often said to have a sound that marks them out as Merseysiders. Do you think this applies to you?
Liverpool is world famous for music. I think the music that has traditionally come out of Liverpool is rooted in the Beatles sound. However, the city has a strong history of blues/roots music as it was a port, and a lot of musicians from USA would come and play in Liverpool. We feel like are a part of a new sound coming out of Liverpool, which is rooted in blues, soul and country.
What up-and-coming bands from Liverpool should we be looking out for?
It would have to be The Adrian Gautrey Band, for country Seafoam Green and Robert Vincent, and for soul The Soul Rays. All amazing rootsy music with a message. Liverpool is the new Mississippi Delta [laughs].
It feels like right now in 2017 Liverpool is back in the 60s and 70s and is at the centre of a musical and social uprising. You could even say it was a Musical Spiritual Revolution.
What have you learned from sharing stages with the stars of rock and blues?
We have had the pleasure of supporting the legendary Manfred Mann’s Earth Band in Germany on two tours. Seeing the energy that the guys who have done this for decades give every night inspires us when we perform. We have learned to connect with our audience through sharing the stage with acts like, Manfred Mann, Bon Jovi, Vintage Trouble and most recently the guys from The Hooters – all who can really hold an audience and make the audience feel part of the show.
We are always aware the biggest lesson is to be humble and enjoy the experience. You can sense the love in the room when the artist gives themselves to the music and so does the audience. It joins them as one.
How has the association with Gibson Brands helped the band?
Being endorsed by Gibson has been very valuable to us in that the experience has offered so many wonderful opportunities to meet and work with some very inspiring talented people and play to captive audiences who love what you create. Some of the amazing people we've met along the way include Eddie Kramer, Simon Phillips, Robbie Krieger, Rick Allen, and — most bizarrely — we struck up a friendship with Shaun Stockman from Boyz II Men.
The Album 11:11 was born from meeting people in the trade shows such as NAMM and Musikmesse, which resulted in us signing to V2 Records. What the guys at Gibson Guitars did for us was fundamental to our journey to creating an album that would connect with people on a deeper level than the superficial. It is music from the heart, and we were given the freedom to create what we felt. We are very thankful for that.
What's next for Xander and the Peace Pirates?
We cant wait to play The Summer Time Blues festival in Warrington with Joanne Shaw Taylor, Stevie Nimmo and Bad Touch at The Pyramid and Parr Hall, 15th July 2017.
We are also playing at the Bospop Festival in Weert, Netherlands on 8th July 2017, playing alongside Anastacia, Beth Hart and our friends from Vintage Trouble. This is just mind-blowing for us.
This summer we will be touring in Europe with Manfred Mann’s Earth Band again and doing a few headline shows and then back end of the year we will be touring the UK. A busy and exciting year ahead.
We plan to record new material very soon. The plan is to hire gear and a cottage somewhere out in the sticks and immerse ourselves in the stillness of nature, so that we may all connect with that stillness that offers so much inspiration. So keep an eye and an ear out later in the year!
Jun 10: De Bosuil, Weert, NL
Jun 11: De Pul, Uden, NL
Jun 13: C-Club, Berlin, DE
Jun 14: Freilichtbuhne Schlossgarten, Schwerin, DE*
Jun 15: Fabrik, Hamburg, DE*
Jun 16: Capitol, Hannover, DE*
Jun 17: KAP Torgau Kulturbastion, Torgau, DE*
Jul 08: Bospop Festival, NL
Jul 21: Zeltfest, Tuttlingen (supporting Kenny Wayne Shepherd), DE
Jul 25: The 100 Club, London, UK
* Supporting Manfred Mann's Earth Band.