Interview: BANNERS

UK artist BANNERS has come a long way since the days of singing in a cathedral choir in Liverpool. Now he’s performing solo on stage with his own set of adoring fans and embarking on a US tour. We caught up with him to chat about his new EP and and his New York City musical following.

Congrats on your show at Rockwood Music Hall, we were really impressed by your performance and on stage presence!  Is this your first time touring around America? How has it been on the road and what has been your most memorable experience so far?

Thanks! I’m glad you liked it. I suppose it is, I’ve been in New York a lot recently because that’s where my record label (Island) is and I’ve done a couple of gigs there, but this is really the start of everything as far as touring goes. So in my very limited experience of being on the road in America it’s been great. You spend so much time in a recording studio, writing and recording the songs, that by the end it’s easy to lose perspective on what is good and what isn’t anymore. It’s just an absolute pleasure to get out there and play the songs to people and get actual feedback. So far it’s been really positive!

You started singing in cathedral choirs in Liverpool and performing in concert halls around Europe at a young age. Do you think this is the main influence to your sound?

I think more than influencing a sound it instilled in me a love of making music and of performing. I think it also taught me to always give everything to every performance. Singing from such a young age alongside such talented and passionate people instilled in me an understanding of melody and harmony and the fundamentals of singing. I was in the choir for eight years, five days a week, so after that amount of time I think it becomes hard-wired in you.

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When did you first realise you wanted to pursue music professionally and are there any bands or artists that have inspired you creatively during your musical journey?

My dad works in the music industry, so I spent a lot of time in recording studios when I was growing up as well as singing in the cathedral. So, honestly, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a singer. I do remember being in the studio as a kid and never wanting to be anywhere else. Singers and musicians were the coolest people I could imagine growing up and becoming. I love Jeff Buckley and Joanna Newsom. I love the idea of using your voice as an instrument, of experimenting with it, and I love how Jeff Buckley and Joanna Newsom do that.

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What is the story behind your alias BANNERS?

To me a Banner is something that you’d use to convey how you feel. A way of wearing your heart on your sleeve, and that’s what music is about for me. I loved the synchronicity between the two.

 

Tell us about your new EP and the process behind creating it? What is your favourite song on this album and why?

One of the songs I’ve had for six or seven years and the rest I wrote with my producer, Stephen Kozmeniuk. We wrote “Start A Riot” together with a writer called Todd Clark. In many respects I was presented with a blank canvas when we started working together, and the EP is the finished painting!

There’s always something exciting about embarking on something new with new people, and I traveled from Liverpool to Toronto to do it. I think the EP captures that sense of excitement, but it also captures a sense of longing for home, of feeling a little lost.

My favorite song is “Ghosts.” It’s an old song of mine and the subject matter means a lot to me. I’ve done a few recordings of it over time but they never felt right, and now it sounds exactly like it always did in my head, completely realized, which I’m so happy about. In terms of process, I got together with Stephen and Todd and wrote a bunch of songs over a period of a couple of months. So we had a number to choose from. During that process Stephen would create demo versions of them, of where he thought they could go production-wise using string samples and electronic drums.

When we were happy with how it was sounding, we’d replace those electronic instruments with real instruments. Guitar, drums, strings, bass, everything and I’d sing my vocals on top. We used a mix engineer called Matty Green who’s very talented and VERY patient!

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Our favourite song of the night was ‘Shine a Light’. We love the video for this too. What was the concept for this video and did you get to be involved in the creation process when shooting it?

I’m really proud of it. It was shot in England by a director called Chris Ranson. I’d seen some of his earlier work and loved the look and the feel of it. I wasn’t actually on the shoot but I was involved with working on the storyline and spoke a lot with him about the look and the feel. “Shine A Light” is about desperation and hope; about needing to be saved by someone and asking for salvation. I really love the way the video deals with those themes.

 

  • Check out the video for ‘Shine A Light’ below. BANNERS has added more dates to his US tour and will finish in San Diego, CA on March 31.