Mixing his Nigerian heritage with the alternative music he grew up on, PETER XAN is creating something new with his just-released debut EP ‘God Save The King’. Read our latest Hype playlist cover feature now.
Words: Sam Taylor.
Peter Xan is an indie-rock icon in the making, with roots deeply embedded in a rich cultural tapestry of British and Nigerian heritage. His musical journey has been a vibrant one, but it wasn’t until the challenging times of 2020 that his narrative took a decisive turn. Having made music for several years, the global pause during the pandemic provided him with the space to introspect and re-evaluate his artistic direction. As the world around him went into a mode of contemplation, so did Peter. The lockdown acted as a catalyst, urging him to delve deeper into his authentic self. “Lockdown made me reflect on who I am and what I want to be spending my time doing,” he recalls.
Growing up, like many, Peter found himself caught in a homogenised culture, where fitting in often took precedence over individual expression. This led to a musical output that, although fitting into certain molds, didn’t resonate with his true essence. “You listen to certain types of music just to fit in but that leads to making stuff that you just don’t really believe in,” he explains.
The standstill prompted him to retrace his steps back to the indie music he genuinely cherished. This reconnection was not merely a nostalgic trip but a rejuvenating experience that fuelled his creativity anew, emboldening him to create something that was an unadulterated reflection of his true self. His music began to embody a blend of the British alternative music he grew up on and the rich Nigerian heritage he was deeply connected to. He reminisces about the dual cultural immersion of his childhood, “When I went to school it was London, when I got home it was Lagos. From sounds to smells I remember my grandma playing a lot of African music and my mum would play Magic FM in the car on the way to school. This musical blend happened early on in my life and it gave me a connection to a heritage I wasn’t born in.”
As Peter embarked on this new phase of his musical expedition, a distinctive sound began to emerge, bridging worlds that seemed far apart yet were intrinsically part of his identity. This profound artistic evolution culminated in his debut EP, ‘God Save The King’, a piece of work that stands as a testament to his growth and newfound artistic clarity. Released via FADER Label, it sees him joining forces with notable names like Grian Chatten from Fontaines DC and Dan Carey on production, creating big hits characterised by big sounds and unbridled enthusiasm. “This is a coming of age,” Peter states, clearly marking the significance of this project in his musical odyssey. “This is my manifesto.”
Hello Peter Xan! How’s it going? What are you up to today, anything fun?
Right now, I’m in a studio in northwest London working on a new exciting project. I’m wearing a black suit. Making new ideas is always fun.
What music did you listen to growing up, and what drew you to it?
My grandma showed me James brown growing up. I used to listen to rap, rock, and soul. I loved Gorillaz; I found them through the song ‘Feel Good Inc’. The combination between rap and indie-rock made me feel accepted. It was the first time I saw that blend.
Did you have a musical upbringing?
I played guitar at Walthamstow apostolic church. It was cool because I got to mess about with the instruments after the service. My mum got me a guitar. I taught myself some bits on YouTube. Found even more indie-rock acts like Bon Iver and James Vincent.
When did you first realise you wanted to make songs yourself?
It was shortly after I lost my Nan; it was a coping mechanism of sorts.
“I loved Gorillaz; the combination between rap and indie-rock made me feel accepted”Peter Xan
What were your first steps to getting your music ‘out there’?
I used to produce my own compositions and then go straight to SoundCloud from Logic – no mix engineer, no nothing. Straight from laptop to online.
Is being a musician living up to the hype so far?
It’s always been my life to express my life through art.
Tell us about your new EP – what’s it about, where did it come from?
‘God Save The King’ is an ode to the Sex Pistols. I felt I’ve brought back rock’n’roll in the era of the new king. I think it was only right I created my own national anthem.
You’ve been working with Grian from Fontaines DC, how did that come about? Are you pals? How does your partnership work?
When we crossed paths in Los Angeles. We engaged in deep conversations about our respective backgrounds; his as an Irish individual and mine as Nigerian and British. Surprisingly, we discovered numerous shared experiences despite our contrasting origins. One aspect that stood out was his unconventional approach to work, which opened my eyes to the idea of capturing moments like a live performance instead of rigidly reciting lines. He’s a really chilled guy, a real poet!
Are you creative in non-musical ways too?
I actually used to refer to myself as an artist rather than a music artist. In fact, I still do. My passion for art started with painting, which I still do in my dream time. I’m also into film, photography, and I find my eye paying attention to anything that I find creatively stimulating.
Who do you think is the most exciting band or musician around right now?
I like what KennyHoopla is doing, for sure. Sounds mint as well! I know people will be saying I’m biased for shouting out my friends, but honestly, they’re the most exciting for me at the moment.
“It was only right I created my own national anthem”Peter Xan
Have you toured much yet? Where’s the best place you’ve visited?
It doesn’t feel like I have. But if I look back, I realise that I definitely have been on stage in more places than I could have ever imagined at the start of all this. I’ve played all around Europe, Paris, Brussels, Dublin, Berlin, Glasgow, Bristol and Manchester. And obviously, here in London. My favourite place is definitely Dublin. The Irish crowd definitely know how to elevate your energy.
Is there anywhere you’re especially keen to play?
I can’t wait to play in the States. I really want to rock up to a place like Houston, Texas, and tear that place up! Or even Nashville.
What do you do for fun?
I’m a rock star! I obviously love to party. But when I’m trying to have a wholesome time, I like to be a family man. I’m very close to my family; I have a niece that I love to spend time with. When I’m not spending time with my family, I like to chill with my band and come up with new ideas for songs; in all honesty, that’s where I’m having the most fun.
What does being a successful musician look like to you?
For me, it’s not about success; it’s about spreading my influence to the youth who look up to us artists.
I think I’m successful already. I’ve been able to come a long way from where I started singing into a mic in my uni closet. I’m not stupid, though; I know that my talent could set my family up with a decent life. I want to be financially successful to a point where my mum, dad, brother, cousins, friends, and everyone I love, don’t have to worry about money ever again.
Is there anything else we should know?
My lucky number is 13. ■
Peter Xan’s debut EP’ God Save The King’ is out now. Follow Dork’s Hype Spotify playlist here.