Keeping It Real (ft The XO, Tom Featherstone and many more)

We’re in the second week of September – can you believe it? The year is flying by and it seems like it was January only yesterday. To make things a little more exciting and overcome Monday Blues, here is a melting pot of music. Ranging from alternative rock to folk, this instalment features acts like Tom Featherstone, The XO, Paul Moleta and Kaysien.


Considering the number of sub-genres popping up in today’s music industry, I keep wondering if it’s worthwhile trying to label a band. Fusing elements of alternative rock with indie-rock and grunge, Well-Known Pix create genre-bending music. With the band members coming from different cities in Germany, Well-Known Pix shows and integrates their various influences as part of their unique sound. The German rock group seems to be a combination of Radiohead, Nirvana, Holy Holy and Queens of the Stone Age. After two full-length albums, one EP and several singles, Well-Known Pix are back with a brand new tune – ‘BRBC’.

The follow-up to their 2018 single ‘Chrysalis’, ‘BRBC’ is filled with melodic harmonies and a kick of bad ass in the heavy guitar riffs. Sticking to their distinctive rock style, the throaty vocals enhance the strong, bold instrumentation. Moving, compelling and intriguing ‘BRBC’ is a track for those days when you want something edgy to blast from your speakers.

“The lyrics for ‘BRBC’, written in 2019, describe the moment just before losing your mind and are different to the usual issues Well-Known Pix sings. Whilst working on the song and exploring a new sound, it became somehow a homage to the Band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.” – Well-Known Pix on ‘BRBC’


Describing themselves as a “little dark pop trio thing”, The XO is one of the latest emo-pop bands on the US circuit. All the way from Dallas, Texas, Jake Harris (lead vocals), Andre Casares (bass) and Tanner Vaughn Stephen (guitar) are a fusion of Gorillaz, Tame Impala and Twenty One Pilots. While all three lads had been in separate bands, it is The XO that brought their skills together. Already receiving coverage from notable publications, such as AnR Factory, as well as playing gigs like Six Flags, this group is building a good reputation and loyal following.

The follow-up to their 2017 single ‘DWYWU’, The XO adopt a softer, smoother indie-pop stance in ‘November’. Written about three years ago, ‘November’ has been in the works for some time as Harris, Casares and Stephen try to redefine their sound. Using pop-rock combined with emo rap, The XO tries to bridge a gap in two popular musical styles. The melodic sound is just right for the underground scene while still appealing to a mass audience.

“We really want to find our sound with this track. It bridges from modern rock mixed in with emo rap. While the styles are incredibly popular, it was incredibly difficult to find the perfect blend of the two.” – The XO on ‘November’


Music can save lives. It might seem idealistic, but music really can save a person’s life – just look at Kaysien. After a shift in his personal perspective, multi-instrumentalist producer and singer Kaysien dropped all his musical projects to image two versions of himself – Kaysien and Buster Cat. Both deeply layered personalities, Kaysien began his sonic journey in late 2019. Influenced by spirituality, emotion and the human condition, this artist uses music as a narrative for self-expression.

The third part of a ten-part musical journey, ‘Go!’ is an engaging and emotional track with raw honesty and sincerity. Merging pop and afrobeat, ‘Go!’ is a catchy, complex and addictive single. What I truly enjoy about this single is how the vocals enhance the prominent instrumentation. I wouldn’t be sure where to place the track from a genre perspective, but what I do know is ‘Go!’ is an empowering song that everyone can enjoy.

“To me, music is primal, raw, delivered from the spirit of the one or many creating it. It’s the intention behind it all that directs the human connection. It counts for each instrument part as there are many messages in what I do that lie beyond the song and its words.” – Kaysien on ‘Go!’


Paul Moleta began his musical journey at a young age with the ambition of being a professional singer-songwriter. While Moleta recorded his single ‘Hypnotised’ at Windmill Studios, Ireland, as well as playing some major Irish festivals, he is actually an Australian. Born and raised in Melbourne, Australia, Moleta relocated to Europe in 2017; however, he returned to his roots and currently continues to pursue music back in ol’ Aussie-land.

‘Hey Young Soul’ is Moleta’s third release in 2020 and the follow-up to his well-received single ‘Hypnotised’. Written during his days in rehabilitation following lower spinal surgeries, ‘Hey Young Soul’ is an upbeat and positive track. The optimistic lyrics are enhanced by the bright, cheery and contagiously catchy harmonies. A raw honesty with sincerity can be heard through the bold, effortless vocals and complementary instrumentation. I can see ‘Hey Young Soul’ being a summer anthem and sung at those summer camps instead of ‘Kumbaya’.

“I wrote the song to remind myself and other rehabilitators and families that love, persistence and a positive mindset will help us conquer the challenges each day presented us with.” – Paul Moleta on ‘Hey Young Soul’


Reminiscent of The Cure, R.E.M., Bloc Party and Joy Division, Preventer is a bright and shiny new post-punk/goth solo project from Deedee Ashlee. Formed only a few months ago, multi-instrumentalist Ashlee is diverging from his preferred metal music to enter the synth-driven world of post-punk. Having worked as a metal musician for over 13 years, this is a bit of a leap; however, it is an intriguing leap. The debut EP from Preventer is the nine-track The Club Downstairs.

With the aim of creating a sound teetering on the edge of 1980s-esque post-punk and aggressive indie-rock ala Arctic Monkeys, Ashlee released the EP The Club Downstairs. Recorded and produced in his home studio, the EP is a collection of demos performed by Ashlee exclusively, but he does have plans to form a full band.

For the moment, but this could alter as we go ahead, Preventer’s music focuses on the darker and more melancholic aspects of life. The term ‘the club downstairs’ is a literal reference to hell and Preventer touches on sinister issues placed in a whirling and listless synth-driven ambience.

“The message I’m trying to put across is that there are always avenues out of the dark places. Lean on your brothers and sisters when you need to. Some notable additions are ‘Miss Used’ which casts a somewhat scathing look at the treatment of women in popular culture. ‘Earth Oil Vibrates Through The Gimp Cracks’ is about humans exploiting the plant and justifying it with their own agendas.” – Preventer on The Club Downstairs


Sheffield-based singer-songwriter, guitarist, drummer and vocalist Tom Featherstone has released his fourth single of 2020, ‘Alright (At Home)’. A reworking of the 2019 ‘Alright’, Featherstone moves from subtle indie-pop to a raw, synth-driven shoegaze style. Collaborating with electronic alt-pop Minimal Animal, Featherstone has a more ambient feel to his sound.

But what do we know of Tom Featherstone?

Over the past year, Featherstone has honed his craft fusing dreaming melodies with indie-pop instrumentation. Falling somewhere between Phoebe Bridgers and The 1975, Featherstone has become far more introspective and encouraging in his work. Leaning toward a philanthropic side, ‘Alright (At Home)’ consoles people through the lyrics, but is also raising money for the Sheffield-based community and cultural centre, Foodhall. All proceeds from track sales will be donated to this volunteer-led group supporting vulnerable families.

“The original single had been released way back in November 2019 and the chorus and sentiment of the track just came back to me in lockdown. It was important to sing over myself in a way to combat anxiety. I called Nick (Minimal Animal) with the idea of this new version exposing the vulnerability and intimacy of the lyrics. He was down and made it this beautiful track that we get to release together.” – Tom Featherstone on ‘Alright (At Home)’


We have already mentioned Ally Morton in our review of Not Myself’s debut single ‘Drown’, but we’re mentioning him again as we look at the solo project Massa Confusa. Formed in 2012, Massa Confusa was based in England and bassist Matt O’Brien alongside Morton. Currently residing in Donostia-San Sebastian, Basque County, Spain, Morton has rejuvenated the DIY alternative rock/post-punk project releasing a new single ‘Validation’.

The first release without O’Brien since 2012, ‘Validation’ is recorded and performed by Ally Morton exclusively. Examining areas of self-worth and the need to ‘validate’ oneself on social media, Massa Confusa contemplates a highly relatable area in contemporary culture. The synth-driven track is reminiscent of The Cure with steady, sombre lyrics. Finding the balance between alt-rock and post-punk, ‘Validation’ hardly requires validation to prove its worth. ‘Validation’ is the first single from the upcoming EP Evolve.


Foreign Television is the moniker for singer-songwriter and guitarist Francis Allen. Hailing from Wales, but currently residing in Moscow, Russia, Allen has a soft, smooth and genuine sound reminiscent of Radiohead and Teenage Fanclub. I like to believe that all Welshmen (and women) are natural singers, but there are some non-musical cases here and there; however, Allen definitely falls into the former category.

Written in Wales but recorded in Moscow, ‘Yeah Yeah’ is a song about finding peace and tranquillity by leaving all life challenges behind you. A strong dream-pop sound with cheery vocals and pleasant instrumentation, ‘Yeah Yeah’ oozes sincerity, confidence and positivity.

“The song came about after I’d bought a new guitar and was playing around, seemingly aimlessly. I started playing the main guitar section and the vocal melody of the chorus seemed to automatically come with it. Some songs take ages to get right, but ‘Yeah Yeah’ was so much fun to make because it seemed to just flow out as soon as I picked up the guitar.” – Foreign Television on ‘Yeah Yeah’


With a strong reputation for energetic and engaging performances, Sandcastle Jesus is an Essex-based alternative rock quartet with a serious bad-ass attitude. Charlie Jenkins (vocals and guitar), Fran Larkin (bass and backing vocals), Alfie Buddery (guitar) and Will D’arcy-Jones (drums) bring a modern twist to a Smashing Pumpkins meets Pixies sound. Despite their young age, the group has already received radio coverage and rave reviews from notable publications. The latest addition to this band’s repertoire is the single ‘Bombshells’.

Recorded with producer James Grant at Olympic Hall Studios, the lads and lady use a classic combination of pounding bass, heavy guitar riffs, driving drums and powerful vocals. The follow-up to their 2019 EP Left Knocked Out, ‘Bombshells’ is a frenzied and compelling single with a delicate balance between instrumentation and vocals. A far more sophisticated and mature sound, ‘Bombshells’ shows a heavier and edgier side to Sandcastle Jesus.

“It’s well documented that young people’s views don’t always get represented in the media and we wanted to highlight this in our own way. The deeper meaning of the song is open to interpretation, but it’s our statement on the way things are being handled in the public sphere at the moment.” – Sandcastle Jesus on ‘Bombshells’

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