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Banoffee’s homecoming

Words by Jasmine Wallis

The singer, songwriter and producer returns with a vulnerable debut record.

As I type Banoffee’s number into my phone, I realise I find it hard to believe that she has just released her first full-length album. The call doesn’t go through and knowing that she’s gotten off the plane from the US literally hours before, I wonder if our interview’s slipped her jet-lagged mind.  

It turns out that she was ready and waiting for the call but didn’t have her sim card back in the right phone; a consequence of the fast-paced life of an international musician. When we eventually connect, her tone is warm and inviting. Much like her new album, she’s an open book ready to share the last few years with her fans.

Since 2013, the singer-songwriter and producer has been releasing singles and EPs, performing on the Australian festival circuit and gigging around the country. But it was her move to LA that gave Melbourne-born Banoffee, whose real name is Martha Brown, space and momentum to create her debut album.

“For a lot of people, especially in the States, they don’t count EPs. It’s like ‘Oh [a] five-track? Doesn’t count,’ she laughs. “You could take it as an insult, but I love it.” 

The past few years have been formative for the musician, who’s known for expertly blending pop, electronic, indie, and club music. Like other Australian artists, she moved to LA to work on her craft and now lives there eight months of the year.

“You move there to get things done,” she says. “It feels like band camp living in LA. If you want to work on music seven days a week with different people, you definitely can.” Moving to the States proved to be the right decision professionally for Banoffee – it resulted in her being picked up as the support act for international tours with pop star royalty, Charli XCX and Taylor Swift. 

But it wasn’t quite the all-American Dream. “It was a very exciting year but also really difficult for me. Having material I wanted to release and feeling like a really big part of who I am was being put on hold for a more long-term vision.”

And the transition from intimate gigs in Melbourne’s North to worldwide stadiums proved to be more of a challenge than she initially anticipated.

“I remember going into rehearsals for Charli XCX and the Taylor Swift shows. When I first went in, I was struggling so bad from anxiety that I was hospitalised twice with migraines that wouldn’t leave. I couldn’t sleep, I was having dreams that I would walk onto the Taylor Swift stage and I’d forgotten all my parts.” 

But ultimately, it was her experiences of moving across the world, dealing with anxiety and nerves, putting her songwriting on hold and taking control of her mental health that resulted in her latest record, Look At Us Now Dad.

Now a few years older and wiser, Banoffee is nervous about sharing a more vulnerable side to the world, especially to her loyal fan base back home.

“I feel like this record is nerve-wracking to release because people who are fans of my older music might not feel as connected to this record,” she says. “I’m hoping they do, and they can accept it and welcome it but it doesn’t follow a trend from my last releases.”

Her title track ‘Look At Us Now Dad’ is a particularly emotional song full of tender lyrics to herself and her family that she says she’s previously “… hidden in metaphors”. “It’s actually really hard for me to sing. I tried to play it last time I came to Melbourne and I cried a lot on the stage. I’m practising it to learn how to harden my heart so I can get through it.”

Banoffee describes the album as “a coming-out record” that leans more into the pop music genre. It seems her time working with some of the biggest pop stars on the planet may have rubbed off on her. “It isn’t afraid to be quite bubble gum which is something I’ve never really done before.”

Banoffee’s homecoming and first headline show (she supported Wafia over the summer) is at this year’s Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival, which is a perfect pairing for the visual artist who has collaborated with indie fashion label Skodia previously. 

“I see and feel music a lot more than I hear it, so for me it’s like texture and colour which is exactly the same as fashion, you know? I think style, fashion and set design can really enhance music. And I don’t see music as something that you just listen to on its own anymore. I want it to be a world and for me, fashion is such an infinite world in that way.”

There’s no doubt that the last few years have been formative for Banoffee and despite the challenges, she’s come out the other side grateful, motivated, and excited to bring her debut album back to Australian shores.

“I can hopefully bring it around the world a bit more and tour into new territories,” she says. “I’m just really excited to see what comes from doing my first full release. It almost feels like my debut all over again.”

Banoffee’s album, Look At Us Now Dad was released on February 21.

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