Since being discovered on YouTube by former Gibson CEO, Henry Juszkiewicz, guitarist brothers Keith and Stuart Xander haven’t looked back – and neither have their fellow ‘Peace Pirates’, Mike Gay (guitar), Joel Goldberg (bass) and Adam Goldberg (drums).
Keith, who was born without a lower right arm and plays with a prosthesis and hook that has a plectrum on its end, has been touted as Liverpool’s answer to Stevie Ray Vaughan, and his band collectively play soulful blues-rock, with their second album, Order Out Of Chaos, gaining traction.
“We all have different styles of playing,” says slide guitarist Mike, “which people could see as a negative. But it’s great because we couldn’t possibly sound like one person’s influences and go down that road.”
Power of three
Xander & The Peace Pirates join the likes of Radiohead, Iron Maiden and the Eagles with a three-guitar line-up, and Stuart, Keith and Mike make this dynamic work by giving each other space and voicing their own characters.
“Our styles work together well,” says Mike. “Stu does his acoustic thing, Keith does a lot of solos and I do more rhythmic stuff. It’s not one big guitar sound but small parts that work.”
“Their rhythms work together and I do echoey sounds over them,” adds Keith, “almost like a keyboard player. Obviously, I have my limitations, so I mainly play downstrokes because I have no wrist.” He pauses and laughs: “I can take off my [prosthetic] arm and do some stomp funk, but it just looks weird!”
The bright side
As the band’s name might suggest, their songs often focus on positivity. “It’s about finding a peace that’s beyond a reason,” Stuart says. “I like to bring the idea of getting back to the innocence of a child into our music. Rain is about coming out of our constant narration of life and just being.”
“We’re kind of a blues-rock band, but we’re less interested in singing songs about whiskey and trucks,” Mike adds, with a smile.
Taking the reins
Xander & The Peace Pirates weren’t afraid to shake things up for the recording of Order Out Of Chaos, which came six years after their 2016 debut album, 11:11.
“The first album was recorded in a studio in Holland, and it was a case of ‘get in, do it and get out’,” says Mike. “We had more time on this one because we did it here [in Mike’s studio] and could work more on the vocals and overdubs.”
“Mike produced the second one and pulled the sound into something that really represented us live,” says Keith. “The first one is great, but with this album we had the freedom to make it sound how we wanted.”
String ’em up
Following their online discovery by Juszkiewicz, the band earned themselves an endorsement from the company and “some great guitars”, says Keith. Mike adds: “Keith has a Gibson Memphis and I’ve got a Les Paul and 2014 SG, which is my main guitar, especially for open tunings.”
“I had a Hummingbird for a while,” says Stuart, “but now my main acoustic is a Gibson Dove. I used to play electric, but I love this dynamic now. I’ve always been driven by bands like the Eagles. The acoustic is so emotive and gentle in sound and has a different tonality. When I started working with Mike and Keith they got me back into it and made me see the nuances of music again.”
How Xander & The Peace Pirates got their big break
Keith and Stuart also found themselves being flown across the world by Gibson’s team. “We were flown out to Las Vegas to do [tech trade show] CES at first and then NAMM,” Keith tells us. “We had that all paid for and played a few times a day.”
“We were doing a Loop Station thing where Keith would beat-box,” Mike continues. “It was just the three of us, so we had a drum track and that kind of thing. And from there we made the contacts to do [debut album] 11:11. It opened loads of doors for us.”
- Order Out of Chaos is out now via BFD.