17/06/2014
LA born BANKS has been capturing global attention. We caught up with her to chat songwriting, messages from the universe, and why she’s published her mobile number on Facebook.

Words by

Giulia Brugliera

If you haven’t heard of BANKS yet, you soon will. 

Already, she has been labelled ‘Artist to Watch’ in numerous publications (think Vogue, Billboard and BBC), featured in a Victoria’s Secret campaign, and wrapped up a European and sold out US tour. Yet her music career didn’t take off until early last year, when Zane Lowe pulled ‘Before I met you’ from a private SoundCloud and aired it on BBC Radio 1. 

In the years before that, a teenage BANKS (then Jillian Banks) taught herself piano from a toy keyboard. Her friend had given it to her as a gift, to help her through her parents divorce. 

Since then, BANKS has used music as an outlet, creating a series of raw, melodic tracks that it seems the whole world is relating to. 

Your career started with a friend giving you a keyboard. What did music mean to you then?

I needed an outlet at the time and it was just the perfect thing. It gave me my own, personal, little space to express myself and get out all the things in my head that seemed really hard to do with anyone else around. 

How about now?

It’s the same; it’s always going to be. It’s just another language for me, another form of breathing. It’s something that I need to feel centred and something that I feel so lucky to have discovered, because I feel happier and lighter when I write music. It’s everything to me. 

Why did you put your number on your Facebook?

When I first started releasing music I didn’t have a twitter, a Facebook, an instagram or anything. It didn’t feel natural all of a sudden just jumping into social media. So I put my phone number. 

It’s been really amazing. I get the most lovely and emotional messages, I get some silly ones… I’ve been getting calls from prison, which is kind of crazy.

Your career took off when a track from your private SoundCloud was played on BBC Radio 1. Have you worked out how that happened yet?

Yeah, I think we found out! I went to my manager’s house and there wasn’t even one picture of me on the internet yet, so we were going to discuss my first photo shoot. He was looking on twitter and people were tweeting about ‘Before I ever met you’. It had only been on a private SoundCloud, but all of a sudden, Zane Lowe played it on Next Hype Record. We were just like ‘what is happening? This is crazy!’ I guess somehow it was sent to his flat mate. I still don’t know exactly how it happened. 

That’s almost unheard of! For it all just to fall into your lap…

Yeah, it was definitely a little nudge from the universe pushing me forward. 

It was a very funny first song to start with because that song is very (pauses) raw. So it was a good little push from the universe telling me ‘keep going’ and ‘this is the right thing’.

Can you describe yourself for us, firstly as an artist and then as a person?

Well, I can do them both together because I feel like they’re the same. I think layered, honest and (pauses) dark. And black and blue and yellow and red. 

How about your style?

I like to feel very feminine and sexy, but also powerful, because those things are the same in my opinion. I usually wear black and I like feeling comfortable. And I like feeling like a goddess on stage. 

Tell us something that we don’t know about you.

I write short stories with my best friend based on a character we made up called Inside Out Girl. It’s all about a fun-loving creature that is inside out. She has all her organs and her veins and her heart and everything on the outside, and she leaves little blood trails everywhere she goes. But she feels beautiful and she’s the most fun-loving creature in the world.

BANKS debut album Goddess will be released in September.

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