Back in 2011, we saw Liverpool based rock band Xander And The Peace Pirates support Bon Jovi in Manchester. We were very impressed so followed the band on Twitter. Fast forward to this year, when we noticed the band tweet about being vegan. We got in touch with the vegan Xander brothers Keith and Stu (whose album '11:11' is out now) and asked them about disturbing the comfortable, spreading truth and not lies, and why some humans don't care about animal pain.

By Shari Black Velvet




Shari Black Velvet: In ‘Let Go' off your '11:11' album, you sing ‘life can be hard, we all know this to be true'. What hard times has the band had and how did you come through them?

Keith: As all humans, we have experienced hard times which have become opportunities to rise above the darkness. Our father passed away suddenly when we were young. The night his awareness left his body, I had a vivid dream of spending time in the sun with my father. It was real to me. I was eight years old at the time and we lived in a large Georgian Hotel that my mother and father ran. I woke up with a deep sense of peace in my being and when my mother picked me up and placed me on the kitchen surface to tell me that Dad had gone, there were tears because I already knew, but beneath the tears was a sense of peace and acceptance, a feeling of letting go naturally occurred. Harder times came after that, but my being was always guiding me and the fear only served to chip away at the person I thought I was. I experienced a similar experience when I was 15 and had an accident. I impaled myself on a fence post and was rushed off to hospital with severe internal injuries, I collapse my left lung, ruptured my spleen, damaged my liver and lost pints of blood. My mother overheard the doctors saying that they didn't think I would make it. Whilst she was weeping over me, I had a sense of peace, even though I was in pain. I accepted what was happening and was strangely intrigued to see what would happen if I died. The fear had gone. We find ourselves getting caught up in petty mind quarrels on a daily basis, as we live in the belief that life should be the way we want it to be, I want this, I want that, but when this wanting falls away there is a feeling of liberation, and I have come to see that intense suffering can often be the gateway to liberating our mind from the fearful mind patterns we have around death and not being in control. It's as if that when we realise that a person is just made up of thoughts, and when these thoughts are seen to be essentially unreal, our mind begins to become quiet, and out of this stillness is a sense of wellbeing and freedom, Our being can finally be truly sensed within itself. The person is a contracted sense, our being is a spacious and free and not touched by the petty thoughts of the wanting mind.

SBV: You've said ‘Let Go' is about ‘letting go of those thought patterns that hold us back and limit us in various ways'. What sort of thoughts have held you back? How did you learn to let go?

Keith: The thought patterns that hold most of us as humans back is the fear of the unknown and an unwillingness to step out of our comfort zones, which really are just patterns that we become familiar with and give the illusion of safety. To be truly liberated, we must transcend these limiting mind patterns that hold us in repetitive behaviours that aren't at all satisfying. Thoughts become habits and habits make up the behaviour and belief systems of the human experience. To go beyond our conditioned mind makes space for the expression of our deeper knowing, our essence can be fully expressed when the mind is still, it is entirely spontaneous and free and will guide us into a more balanced and free experience. Letting go for me is really an ongoing process, the thought patterns arise and we have a choice in these moments to listen to the repetitive voice that lives on fear and separation or the stillness of our true being, which is simply intuitive and free and not limited by these conditioned patterns. It is one thing understanding this conceptually, but a completely different experience when we fully understand what we are on an energetic level, it becomes about feeling and flowing with life effortlessly, rather than resisting the changing phenomenon that appears in our collective awareness. This is truly living and not being limited by fear of the unknown. Our true being is missed for this very reason, it is completely beyond our conceptual identity, meaning it is unknowable on a conceptual level, concepts appear within it, as does the body, mind and all objects, it is our our truest identity, our true Nature. We are pure beings experiencing ourselves as all we perceive.

SBV: You also sing ‘When you live here and now, you'll find everything is new, so listen to your soul'. How important is it to live in the present and to listen to your soul? What sort of things has your soul told you?

Keith: I feel it is the most important achievement of any human to remain in the presence of our shared being, Our soul is really our true nature, which is whole and connected to all we perceive. So if we can find our own way to still our mind so that we can listen deeper to our being, this is very good for the whole of the planet and beyond. When we stop listening to our conditioned mind, we leave space to hear and feel the more subtle energy of our true being or soul, and when we can still our minds to the point where we are living fully in the present as presence we are able to see that everything is always new, it is never the same, everything is always growing and changing. It is only the mind that is repetitive and gives the perception that we are stuck or need to escape. When our soul is revealed beneath the noise of our condition, everything is new and beautiful. My soul has written all of these songs, just as it expresses everything in our experience, the words come from truth, and the words are the expression of this beautiful being that we all share, that everything is appearing in, our true nature is the backdrop to all of it. We cannot exist without awareness, so it is important to go deep into our awareness and enquire, What am I essentially? The thoughts are not the answer, the expansiveness emptiness that we feel when we relinquish control and relax on all levels becomes the answer we are seeking, as no thought will satisfy the question ‘Who Am I?'

SBV: Have you written any songs related to animals, animal rights or veganism? If not, what are some of the other subjects that you HAVE written about?

Stu: None specifically about that, but we may well do - all of our music is informed and driven by a desire to spread a message of peace and love and to challenge the old patterns of thinking that imprison us and all conscious beings.  Music comes through us and not from us so it's about tuning into what is already known as a truth. 

SBV: You posted an image on Instagram recently, which said ‘Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable'. Do you think your art has disturbed anyone?

Keith: In this context, the word comfortable is about comfort zones and we feel that the UK and the West in general have settled into a great big fat cosy capitalist, war mongering and fearful comfort zone. The comfortable we refer to are people like Theresa May and Donald Trump and the many deluded folk who follow their rhetoric of war, fear and consumption - these people are disturbed by our music and message. The disturbed are to us the humans that have been disenfranchised from nature and the world and made to believe in lies for profit - we often receive messages saying how our music has either comforted or placed in a new light ideas they once held close. We just want people to awaken to the fact that our lives are informed by our internal views and not external forces - that if you focus on good, good things happen and vice versa.

SBV: You have a song called ‘Truth Lies'. How important is it to spread the truth in your songs and music?

Keith: To see that most of what we as humans believe about ourselves and the world is false, is very important. The truth has been hidden beneath our individual and collective beliefs for too long. In fact, it is what appears to be thousands of years, that is a whole lot of conditioning that must be seen through and understood and met with a deeper awareness of who we are before the layers of conditioning arise. ‘Truth Lies' is pointing to the realisation that opinion and thought is not essentially truth. Truth is beyond all concepts of the conditioned mind. This is the reason these songs are written, they are written from the space of truth and music is one of the best mediums to drive the message back deep into our unconditional awareness, music speaks to the depths of our being, that is why it is so powerful and can manifest such beautiful emotions within us, it can literally make your hair stand on end. The music expresses from the depth of our being which in turn directs our attention to a deeper feeling of who we are. It resonates with our true nature. I love the word ‘Universe' as it literally means One Song, Uni - One, Verse – Song; we are the sound of that one song and that is the recognition of the ultimate truth.

SBV: In ‘Dance With The Devil' you sing ‘when you see through his eyes, you see a world full of lies'. What do you think some of the biggest lies in the world are?

Keith: The biggest lie is belief that what we are thinking has anything to do with reality or truth. We deceive ourselves by believing the thoughts that have been imposed onto our being through thousands of years of conditioning. It is the biggest conspiracy. This deception is the biggest because there needn't be anything to blame but our own ignorance. We are conditioned to look out at the world as individuals. We are given an identity that is then conditioned through thought processes imposed on its consciousness to believe that it is separate from the world. This separate self is false. It is the biggest lie and throughout our lifespan at some point we either see through it or fall victim to it. So “when you see through his eyes you see a world full of lies", means seeing the world through the lens of ego, the conditioned mind or the false identity as some refer to it. When we see the world without labels, we see that what we call things is not what they actually are, just what we perceive them to be, hence the saying by the French novelist Anaïs Nin “We don't see the world as it is, we see it as we are”.

SBV: Do you think meat eating, things like ‘dairy makes your bones strong', ‘humane farming' etc are lies? What other things related to animals are lies?

Stu: These are not so much lies but advertising slogans and corporate propaganda to drive business. In a lot of respects I think the people in the industry and wider society have come to believe their own ‘lies'. The lie about animals that allows all the further cruelties is that we are somehow more advanced or special in comparison - this allows the complete range of cruelty that we apply to all other animals and plants on earth.

SBV: In ‘Dance With The Devil' you also sing ‘when pain has value, this world will take you'. Aside from human pain, why do you think some humans don't care about animal pain?

Stu: I think it's an ignorance and an arrogance rolled into one that supports the idea that we somehow have the right to torture and maim animals for our own wants.  Right now in Liverpool in 2017 there is an explosion of vegan cafes and restaurants, juice bars and wholefood vegan stores springing up in reaction to all the people who seem to be converting to veganism, and this, in part, is coming through a counter culture of musicians, artists and small businesses that are sick to death of the old way.  Speaking to new vegans a lot have seen the films Conspiracy or Forks over Knives and this has started the change for them.

SBV: When did you first connect with an animal? Did you have a pet/animal companions as children?

Stu: We had a lot of animals as kids and a lot of rescue animals.  My first memories are of our Newfoundland dog - Kerry and our Siamese cat - Sebastian.  But all through our lives we have had animals in our lives.  At the moment, we have two rescue cats and a snake, haha. During recording our album, the engineer Felix brought his dog in every day.  The whole band are animal lovers and Joel our bassist sometimes brings Bruce, his dog, to gigs or recording sessions.

SBV: When and why did you each become vegan? And did you find it hard or easy initially?

Keith: Was vegetarian for years, both of us - watched Cowspiracy and that was it. Initially, it was hard to shop and cook new things, but soon it was just a journey of discovery and now find it simple and fun.

SBV: You shared a post about a kitten in a rescue sanctuary called Xander looking for a home. Was the kitten called Xander after you?! Did you know the rescue sanctuary?

Stu: No, didn't know of them before seeing the post we were tagged in. I think someone who follows the band and who works there tagged us and may have named the kitten. It was a cute cat and he was rehomed, so all good.

SBV: Are you inspired by any vegan musicians or vegan celebrities? Who do you admire for being vegan or how they live their life?

Keith: We are meeting more and more musicians young and old - famous or trying to get there who have adopted a vegan lifestyle and it's seems to be gaining much more momentum.  We can tell as we now regularly see almond milk in riders. Haha.

SBV: What's the most disturbing animal cruelty image you've seen or witnessed?

Stu: Too many to talk about from films like earthlings - the worst have to be of people eating live fish or cooking dogs alive, but having said that every day in abattoirs and farms up and down the UK are atrocities that are just absolutely abhorrent.

SBV: You posted about Give Kitchen, a vegan restaurant, in April 2016. Tell us about your favourite vegan cafes/diners.

Stu: Give Kitchen is gone and unfortunately weren't as giving as they advertised!  Our favourites in Liverpool are Green Days on Lark Lane, Egg Cafe and a lot of places have really great vegan menus as well.  Purple Carrot is an awesome general shop for food and veg and is exclusively vegan.

SBV: You once wrote online urging people to watch Forks Over Knives. Which are the most important vegan/animal rights documentaries in your eyes?

Stu: Earthlings and Conspiracy - also have had our lives changed by vaccine nation and Vaxxed - no one in our circle is vaccinated, but that's another interview, haha.


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