As someone who runs a music blog, I can tell you first hand that COVID not only gave many artists who were already pushing more time and energy to push harder – but it also seems to have helped to inspire a whole new wave of artists who were stuck at home with their thoughts and instruments. Taking the good with the bad, while the last year has generally been shit for most of us, some of the new artists who have come onto my radar recently help to shine some light into the darkness. Let me introduce you to Banji.
Hailing from the Netherlands, funky-fresh 4-piece Banji instantly caught my ear when they dropped, “Dogbreath“, in my inbox. Going through a never-ending inbox of submissions, it is always the weird, original, intersting tunes that tend to grab my attention – and Banji brings all that and more on their new single. With an impeccable arrangement, saucy performance, quirky lyrics and a slow-burning groove, every moment of Banji‘s latest offering keeps you on your toes and keeps your neck snapping.
From the jump – and I mean within the first 5 seconds – they had me hooked and I have been rocking this jam ever since. Always looking to put some fresh faces on your radar and never afraid to hop on too early, I thought it would be dope to chat a bit with my latest obsession. I needed to know more about the boys behind Banji and I figured once you heard this tune you’d feel the same way. Check out our interview below and then go give them a follow on your preferred platform. I’m positive you won’t be disappointed.
RDFO: There is something super funky and cool about your music. Can you share a bit about how you approach new music and what the creative process may be like for you guys?
Banji: We then send this around and all four of us try building upon it until we feel it’s nearing completion. Morris usually takes some time to figure out the message behind a song, and comes up with the lyrics and rhythmic phrasing of the vocals. After all that we try playing it live, together, and most of the time some new ideas spark when we do that too. Usually this whole process takes some time, so by the end we’ve become so used to the way the songs sound it’s hard to change anything. But on some occasions some last minute addition makes the whole thing work, like in Dogbreath when Morris added a sampled bicycle bell and Twan some cartoon gunshot sounds. That was the finishing touch and we all knew the song was done.
RDFO: How long have you all been playing together and prior to Banji, were you each involved in other bands/groups/projects?
Banji: We’ve actually known each other for quite sometime now, even though we only released our first song last November. Gilles and Morris practically grew up together, and the rest of us met in school. We formed some bands together and have been making music since. But at some point we realised we wanted to focus on one thing and make music that departed from the indie guitar stuff we’d been doing up until that point. So we formed Banji.
RDFO: I love the vibe and overall originality you brought to the table on your latest single. What do you think is the biggest driving force into the overall sound of the group?
Banji: We are inspired by so many different styles and kinds of music, I think our sound is just a blend of those. We grew up playing in indie bands, but thanks to streaming it was so easy for us to discover all types of music. From hiphop to electronic genre’s, and weird Japanese bands. We’re inspired by how you can put different songs like that in a playlist together and still have it be a vibe. I think our songs reflect that. For Dogbreath specifically we liked the wonky beat and baseline, but we always try to keep the song working well and not have the instrumental parts sit in the way of the vocals and the message.
RDFO: Has growing up in the Netherlands has an influence on your sound? If so, how?
Banji: Music over here is supported a lot, with music classes in school, tv shows and media aimed at giving artists a platform, and live venues being subsidised by the government so they can give upcoming acts a slot and a decent fee. But at the same time we wanted to do something different that our surroundings and were inspired especially by music scenes from different countries like Belgium, the US and the UK. So in a way, trying not to just sound ‘Dutch’ has influenced our sound as much as growing up here.
RDFO: I find the arrangements in your tunes super interesting and intricate, is there one person in the group who you think has a vastly higher understanding of music theory and plays the biggest part in the arrangements?
Banji: We’ve all studied music, but I wouldn’t say theory is our strong suit. At all. We just try to follow our ears. But if we’d have to point fingers Twan has some really creative ideas about arrangements and usually comes up with the weird stuff. Like I said above though we all work on the songs and keep sending the projects around, so there is a bit of each of us in every song.
RDFO: Of the four people in the group, who is each of your personal favorite artists at this time (could be a new artist or one of your all time favorites?
Banji: My all time favourite would be Bon Iver. I recently got really into the Weeknd, never gave him that much attention but something just grabbed me. I asked the others, and this is what the’re currently into:
Morris: My all time favourite artist is Kendrick Lamar, right now I’m really into Dominic Fike.
Gilles: All time favourite artist: Mura Masa, favourite artist now: Blood Orange
Twan: Jacob Collier is a really good source of inspiration for me right now.
RDFO: Can you give readers a quick into to each member? Names, nicknames, instruments they play, etc…
Banji: Alright! First of we have:Morris, or MoMo. the lead singer/guitar player. Really loves skateboarding.
Next up:Gilles, or GiGi. Our guitar, bass, bass synth, keys, you know what he just plays everything.
Then:Twan, or Twan. Plays keys and doesn’t actually have a nickname.
And last but not least we have:Me (Jasper), or JapJap. Drummer, player of the samples. I’m really just a big nerd that likes hitting inanimate objects.
RDFO: I dig the aesthetic of your artwork so far. Is someone in the group handling the art or do you have someone else you work with for artwork? Anyone you want to shout out?
Banji: We definitely want to give a big shout out to Zack Rosebrugh here. Zack has made all of our artwork and the typeface I used when I built our website. He’s amazing, we just found him on Instagram and asked him to do the artwork, and man has he delivered! Actually, wait until you see the ones coming up! It seems like the more we work with Zack , the better he understands what we’re looking for.
RDFO: Having just launched the project last year, what has been the groups most exicting moment so far?
Banji: It was so weird launching this band in the middle of a pandemic, with no chance to play real liveshows. We got to do some livestreams and radio shows. But it was really special when we were invited to play the first test event in the Netherlands. It was a regular old festival with 1500 people and it felt so amazing to be inside what felt like a long lost memory again. And to play these songs for a real audience on a festival for the first time was incredible!
RDFO: What else do you have in store for 2021?
Banji: We’ve been working hard on new track and a lot of cool music is on it’s way! But we loved the feeling of playing live so much, we’re working really hard to set up some cool shows when it’s possible to tour again.
RDFO: What has it been like working with PIAS recordings?
Banji: [PIAS] is crazy. You have to be to sign a band right when a worldwide pandemic hits. But they really believe in us and have given us a lot of support, so we should give them a shout-out here too! It’s really fun working with theme and their experience helps us grow a lot.