Xander the Great released a mixtape called Royal Blood last year, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find it online anywhere. To be honest, it’s probably for the best, though, since unfortunately it lends itself to a few cringe-inducing moments, particularly in the lyric department. However, towards the end of that mixtape things improve, and Xander the Great‘s potential starts to come through.
Originally just Xander Taha, Xander the Great is now a duo after Ed Sanders joined, mostly on production duties. The pair met through a mutual friend, discovered they both had an interest in music, and started collaborating to try and make their own. Despite the changes, the duo decided to keep the name, even if it meant sacrificing Royal Blood.
As mentioned, it’s hardly missed, as it’s the pair’s collaborative work that is the most compelling. And while they said in their first-ever interview (look out for that next week) that they try to avoid sounding like any other artists, the references here are easy. The lo-fi-ish approach the duo take recalls the likes The Weeknd, or Drake‘s most R&B moments. Unlike these two artists though, Xander the Great adds a bit of bombastic flair to their songs, letting them really explode.
This explosiveness might come asa result of Sanders’ and Taha’s contrasting musical upbringings – the former was classically trained since an early age while the latter is completely self-taught, to the point of hardly knowing the notes. As they explain, this leads to some “boundary-pushing” (though they both hate the phrase) since it sometimes results in ideas that shouldn’t make sense and yet somehow work brilliantly.
The result is songs such as “Bloodhound” (their first official single, out today) or “Somewhere Tonight”, which is currently still in demo form. The former creates a striking contrast between the subtle verses and big, thumping chorus, while the latter while more subtle still throws some heavy guitar in the chorus to counter the fragile, more melodic one.
“Custom Love”, on the other hand, shows a bit more subdued side to the London-based duo, with guitars that wouldn’t sound out of place on a dream-pop song, though Taha’s rapping in the second half of the song certainly does its bit to add a bit spice.
Despite only just starting out, the duo have big ambitions, though they’re in no rush to get there. They’re aware of he risk of getting caught in the hype and rushing releases, preferring to dedicate time to their art. In today’s musical climate – where bands are thrust into the spotlight just as quickly as they’re forgotten – this seems like a sensible idea. So while it may be a while before we get anything new from Xander the Great, it’ll probably be worth the wait.