Banners is a one-of-a-kind musician who crafts beautiful pop tunes that delve deep. Following a major-label deal in 2015, he charted hits like ‘Start a Riot’ and ‘Half Light’ in the millions on streaming services while releasing a string of EPs in the lead up to his 2019 debut, ‘Where the Shadow Ends’. He also recently released the critically acclaimed new single ‘It’s Gonna Be Okay.’ Fortunately for us all, he stopped by for a chat.
Alanis: Hello, Banners; thank you for taking the time out to speak to me. How have you found working in lockdown? Did it inspire you to come up with new material?
Banners: It’s actually been really productive….somehow. I generally write my songs with other people so once everything got all locked down there was a moment where we all had to figure out a new routine wasn’t there? For me the only option was to try to work with people remotely over the internet which was a bit weird at first but once you figure out the rhythms of it it can actually work pretty well. You definitely have to do things differently and hearing each other can be a bit tricky so you’ve gotta have a lot of patience and i’ve found that you can’t do too long because everyone burns out after a little while staring at a screen but it was a real relief once I started getting good songs! I suppose the alternative was my career grinding to a big useless halt. I got my label and my publisher to set up a load of writing sessions for me so I wrote with a lot of new people. I’ve got a little studio at home so I can record vocals in Liverpool while a producer in LA, for example, is working on the production and we can fly ideas back and forth which has been amazing. Doing the writing and recording trips flying around all over the place can be great but sometimes you just need to do a day or two and it’s so great that you don’t have to go anywhere to do it! I suppose it’s not a new idea at all, Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello made the Postal Service record by sending tapes to each other, this is just the slightly quicker 2020’s version.
That’s not to say it’s been easy creatively, by the way. There’s been great big bits where it’s been hard to get motivated or to have new lyric ideas when all you’re doing is sitting in an apartment on your own being broadly a bit worried and anxious all the time. I think a lot of people feel pressure to have used this time creatively and productively and feel frustrated and guilty that it’s not quite happened. That’s completely understandable because being productive is a rhythm and something to learn how to do. I’ve got loads and loads of help from a huge team of people to help me and I’ve had lots of days where i’ve done absolutely nothing good.
Alanis: Did you expect the great reaction you have received from your new single, “It’s Gonna Be okay”?
Banners: I don’t really have expectations for new music really. I’m really fortunate because I’ve had a good few years with songs doing quite well and I think i’ve built quite a solid foundation with things. I don’t really feel the need to prove myself to anybody. It’s hard when your music career starts to take off because you’re completely unexperienced and there’s such an unbelievably steep learning curve. It’s a huge honour to sign with a big label and have a publisher and management and all that stuff but it’s easy to lose sight of who you are and what you want to say. You’re not writing music for just yourself anymore and that’s intimidating. But I’m a lot more experienced with it now and I think i’ve proven myself enough to be able to relax into it. So now I just want to make music that I’m proud of because I think ultimately that’s what will keep people coming back. I’d like people to be listening to these songs in 10 years so I don’t judge them on the first few months of their little lives….but yes, I’m really happy with how they’ve been received!
Alanis: Have you got anything exciting planned now that everything has reopened and is back to some normality?
Banners: I’ve got absolutely loads of new songs because of all the writing I did, so we’re just figuring out in what order to release them really. I moved back to Liverpool last year to be closer to my family so i’m just really loving getting to see my family and make music with my friends. I’ve got such a talented group of mates that I want to bring them all along with me on my little musical adventure. So I’m just really excited to figure out how I can make that happen. I’ve got touring plans over the next six months in Europe and America but it’s all still a bit too early to say how viable that all is going to be. It’s tough to not be able to make concrete plans but that’s true for everybody and I think if we’ve learned anything the last couple of years it’s to be resilient, flexible and take it as it comes.
Alanis: Which track of yours means the most to you and why?
Jones: I have a song called Ghosts that I’ve had for a really long time. I wrote it years before all the record labels and publishers and all that. I had demos of it but they never sounded right, I could never get it to sound like it did in my head. About 5 years ago I started working with a producer called Stephen Kozmeniuk whose an absolute megastar producer now. It was really working with him that opened things up for me and Ghosts was the first song we did. I remember the feeling of someone completely nailing the song I’d always heard in my head and every time I listen to it it takes me back to that feeling. It was also just written for a girl. Not really for anyone else, no labels or anything like that so it’s all honest and sad and lovely and I love it.
Alanis: If you were stranded on an island and were only allowed to have three items with you, what would they be and why?
Banners: When I was younger I used to do keepy ups with a football in the garden for hours and hours, just trying to beat my best score. I think I got to 650 once until it felt like my legs were gonna come off. I’d never get bored of it. It’s just that the sun went down so I couldn’t really see. So I’d take a footy. And then a guitar, obviously. Gotta say that haven’t I? Can I have a vinyl player with Grace by Jeff Buckley, Parachutes by Coldplay, Funeral by Arcade Fire, High Violet by The National, 1989 by Taylor Swift, You’ll Never Walk Alone by Gerry and the Pacemakers and Ys by Joanna Newsom? Well I’m taking them and the boat is sailing away now so you can’t stop me