BANKS is back and things have gotten pretty serious – ups and downs, personal struggles, empowerment, hope. All packed into her newest album – The Altar. In our interview the young woman is not afraid to face her darkest moments and experiences. For her, they are creating her art.
It’s been two years now since Goddess. A lot has happened, you’ve been on tour, travelling the world. Do you feel any difference between then and now, especially when it comes to your music?
Yeah, I’ve gone through so much and I developed. I think that new new experiences equals new music. You know… I’ve changed because of my life is changing. I just put everything into my music. It’s still me, but I think there’s a little bit more fire inside of it.
Fire is a good definition for it. Your latest single is called Fuck With Myself, months before you’ve released Better. When it comes to the lyrical content they are extremely contradictory. The latest is an anthem to yourself, being critical but confident at the same time. Better sounds more like a begging for someone else’s love. What happened during this time?
I think every song has its own story and its own moment. When I write it – that’s what I’m feeling. Sometimes I feel weak, sometimes I feel strong. And sometimes I feel jealous, angry. Sometimes I’m in love… So just because you write one song, it doesn’t mean you can do an opposite thing the other day. But…inbetween of this two songs I’ve gone through a lot, personally and mentally. This last year, in particular. I really worked hard to overcome some stuff that I felt. Like, I could have maybe been holding me back a little bit from relishing my full-potential mental strength and I feel like Fuck With Myself is the metamorphosis of me coming to the realization of my own strength. The idea that I don’t need nobody else. Being my own best friend and my own support; my own army.
‘Fuck With Myself’ is the metamorphosis of me coming to the realization of my own strength’
Was it different with Better?
I was going through a different time with Better. I just finished a tour, I don’t even know what tour it was. I just lost my focus, somehow. Better was the first song that I wrote after touring for a long time. I was going through something different. I was lost and mixed with anger. Fuck With Myself happened after I digested the last few years. It’s the last song I wrote on the album. I needed to give myself the gift of not caring what others thought. Of not being affected by expectations or judgements from people. It was what I needed to hear that day. You know, my music is my heart. It’s my everything, the most pure essence of who I am. And it’s a lot to put yourself out there like that. For millions of people to say if they like you or not. So I think that I needed to give myself a gift before I finished the album. Saying that ‘I fuck what you think – this is me. And if you don’t like it, I don’t care.’ I’m doing it for the people who like it.
Speaking about your music as being your most pure thing. Let’s talk about one song in particular – Mother Earth. Compared to your other songs, which are dealing with weakness, emotional instability or insecurity, this one is much warmer and lighter. It’s about being the support system for a special person.
I’m so happy you understood that! Mother Earth – oh gosh, I just got the chills. That song…it makes me emotional talking about it. I wrote that song when I was coming out of a depression and I felt the way of…like just pressure on women. Just in every way. I feel like society is scared of femininity and women are chained to take in the business as little space as possible, being polite. It’s not empowering. It feels like we’re being smashed down. My sister had a daughter, just a year ago. I’m aunt for my first time and I felt the way of having her grow up and feel how I felt, how my sister had felt, how my mum felt, my friends. And it just made me so sad. I wanted to take this pain away. From her, from me, from everyone. This song was so important for me to write. I love that you felt that. ‘When you’ll fall, I’ll be here. Just follow me when you fall.’ We’re all in it together. And it’s not just for women. It’s for men, too. Anytime you feel like bigger entity is stealing your strength. Anybody is part of that and it’s so important to support each other.
BANKS: ‘I feel like society is scared of femininity and women are chained to take in the business as little space as possible.’
It is, for sure! We will definitely get back to this topic later, but let us skip back first to the music itself and go a bit behind the scenes. How is your process from writing a song to the finished piece?
It depends. Sometimes I start a song alone. About an hour ago I used to play at the keys and felt this new melody. That happens when I’m alone sometimes. I write a song and than bring it in to the studio and I’m like ‘Ok, I got this song, let’s give it an atmosphere and this and that’. But sometimes, like on Mother Earth, I want it to be very stripped back. Then there are the songs when I found myself with SOHN or DJ DARKY and we make a chord progression or I sing a raw melody. Usually it’s like a chord progression and a melody, some sorts of syllables that melt together and turn into a word, a sentence, a concept. It’s very fluid.
Do you prefer to write alone or with other people?
It depends on what mood I’m in.
When it comes to the relationship between you as an artist and the producers in the studio – do you like to stay all professional towards them or do you prefer a deeper connection, maybe even friendship?
You need to have a deeper connection with them. I can only speak for myself, but I don’t work with to many people. My album has like five or six people which I worked with on it. And for me, when you’re making music, you have to be so honest and…
I don’t write about things that don’t fuck me. I write about real shit that I feel. Really intense and deep.
It doesn’t need to be dark, but my real life and I don’t want to talk about my real life to someone I don’t trust. Or to someone who I don’t think understands me. I had sessions before where I was the fan of someone and when we finally met at the studio I didn’t have the feeling that I need to share my heart with this person. So it doesn’t go that well. With SOHN, I worked with him on my first album, I found the opposite: he’s my home. He feels like my family. The same with Tim Anderson; DJ DARKY– he’s incredible. You just find certain people you can really express yourself with and they become a little family. It’s not just business. The music industry is not just sitting in the office from nine to five. You are in the studio all day and you get to know these people. So…
… it’s about trust?
BANKS: ‘I don’t work with too many people. My album has five or six people which I worked with on it.’
You’ve mentioned the music industry already. They say it is a very men-dominated area. Still, nowadays there are many female artists on top of the airplay charts and lists like that. Where do you see yourself in this circus?
I’m trying not to think much about it. I’m just being myself, trying to connect with people, I hope that I can be empowering for others. Not just women, men aswell. For me music is so natural, it’s necessary for me. Making music is so necessary for me that I try not to put it anywhere or thinking of it as a part of a big machine. You know, sometimes it is and you cannot avoid it. There are situations that come up where you really feel like it might be. A machine. But I don’t feel it like that.
What about feminism? Do you see yourself as a part of that?
I’m asking because there’s always this debate about being feministic but also work with men, not just woman…
Feminism means that women deserve equal rights as men. It doesn’t mean you have to be aggressive, it doesn’t mean you have to only work with women. Most of the people I worked on my album were men. Sometimes it’s important to have male energy. I have such a female energy, so it’s important to have male energy. There’s no better or worse.
We need women to give birth, but we need sperm to get birth.
It’s just to believe in equal rights. When you think about who you want to work with you don’t think about if that’s a man or a woman. You think about who they are. I love working with women, but I love working with men. I love working with people I connect with. I think feminism means you don’t care about what gender it is. It’s not about if you have a vagina or a penis.
BANKS: ‘Feminism means you don’t care about what gender it is.’
An extremely good point and advice for many people. In addition to that: You are among those artists who established themselves in the scene with their music. Plenty of other musicians, younger than you, are trying to do the same. Are there any do’s and don’ts in this business you would tell them?
Yes. I think a do is to always follow your gut. That’s something that I learned. There’s no explanation for art sometimes and you don’t know why you want something. Why it should sound a certain way, why you release a certain song first. It’s an intuitive thing. Some people weren’t sure when I told them I would like to release Fuck With Myself as the first single, but I just felt it. Follow your gut – it’s very important. Also: music should be pure. You should not try to be something, just be. That’s when you’re making the best music. When you’re present and you’re one hundred percent truthful to who you are. If you’re trying to be someone else or re-making something that others make it’s not going to feel…as amazing as it should.
BANKS: ‘There’s no explanation for art sometimes and you don’t know why you want something.’
But what about those people who are trying to make the next big thing out of a young girl or boy – who does not know better than saying yes to every sound, every lyric they get from the studio?
Of course there are those people, but you know what? I don’t think that is working as much anymore. I think there’s too much talent in the world and that people are tired of plastic. I think people, especially with the internet, you know too much about people. You can smell if they are fake. In this business, there are always going to be be those kind of brainless little packages. Packages of people getting written their stuff by other people. I just don’t think that it works that much anymore. I think people know more about this people and they are craving for more authenticity. I hope people are not interested in the other stuff. I’m not.
Would authenticity be also an advice for young artists?
Of course. You have to be patient with yourself. You have to know who you are before releasing your music to the world.
‘You have to know who you are before releasing your music to the world.’
Last question – what do hope and passion mean to you?
Everything. When you’re inspired and passionate about what you do – raising a child, working, making music – that is what makes life worth living. And hope, too. Being hopeless is the worst feeling in the world. Being hopefull is seeing your future and feeling excited. That’s the feeling everyone should feel.
‘The Altar’ is out September 30th via Harvest Records.
Photos by Thomas Whiteside