Chat with BANNERS, he’s starting a riot!

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With SXSW coming to a close, hundreds of bands got their chance to make new fans and friends with plenty of tacos to eat and beers to drink. One of those bands is Banners, an act that we were able to catch in Boston just last week. This talented act is currently on their first US headlining run and we knew from first sight, it’s something that will only explode!
We were able to grab a few minutes to chat with Banners a.k.a. Mike Nelson where we walked tour essentials to the new EP to the biggest pro or con depending on how you’d like to see it of touring the states. Read our new one below and check out his music stat, including my personal favorite, ‘Start a Riot’!

You’ve been on this tour for a little while now with The Moth & The Flame and Pop Etc. What are the three things you must have with you while on tour?
One is my Amazon Kindle. I read a lot of books so that was really important to bring because obviously you can’t bring loads of books around with you. Another one is my guitar obviously I need that otherwise I won’t be able to look cool and my guitar is my best friend. I always need a soccer ball.

Perfect, then how has this tour been going? I know you’ve kind of been alternating when you play each night with everyone. 
It’s been amazing. It’s been really great. Just before this tour, I did a little tour of Canada. Like Ontario and Quebec. We did seven dates with a band called Young Empires who are a Canadian band. So that was cool, it was kind of a nice warmup into this one. So this one is with a band called Pop Etc. and The Moth & The Flame who are both really great bands and really lovely dudes. So it’s been great! It’s been a real nice communal atmosphere and it’s just quite fun to travel in America. I’ve always wanted to do it. I’ve only ever really spent proper time in New York and LA really so it’s been great. To get to go to Boston was brilliant the other day because I’ve always wanted to go. It was loads of fun!

Then maybe how has the been, for your first US run.  Maybe the biggest pro and maybe even if there is a con, like the long drives or something?
I mean the pro and the con is possibly the same. The con is I’m in a van for fourteen hours with lads that smell more and more as the hours pass by. The pro is that I get to spend fourteen hours in the van with my best friends which is great. Like I said, it’s such a pleasure to just meet people and play in different cities that I’ve always wanted to go to. To be able to get out and play these shows. I spent so much time in a recording studio writing day after day that this is what it’s all about. To get out and just do it and play these songs.

Perfect, then the EP only came out in January of this year and obviously some of the singles are doing really great right off the bat. Like ‘Start a Riot’ and ‘Shine a Light’. Maybe ho wrong has that EP been in the making for you? Were they all songs that were written particularly for this EP? 
Well, I moved to Toronto about a year and a half ago. To work with my producers. We got together and really without any sort of label or anything like that, we just wrote and recorded a bunch of songs. That obviously I got signed to Island Records and we wrote a couple new songs to put on there and I remixed some of the stuff. So yeah I guess it’s probably been about a year and a half in the making.

Then how do you normally go about the songwriting process? I know you said you’ve worked with producers but maybe do you kind of bring an idea to the table or do you guys co-write together? 
Well, I think there’s two ways to look at it really. One is inspiration hits you. Maybe in the middle of the night you get your guitar out and record something really quickly. Maybe write this thing, let the inspiration come out of you onto a page or you record it on to your iPhone. And that doesn’t happen very often. I feel you can never really rely on that otherwise getting an album out would take forever. So the other way and just as important of a way is really you go into the studio at eight o’clock in the morning and then you write until six o’clock and you do it the next day and the next day and the next day. I think songwriting, it’s like a muscle, you go into the gym in the morning and you work it out. So they are the two ways really. One is inspiration and the other one is just hard work with a bit of inspiration thrown in there but the main thing is you have to think about what you want to say and you have to really, really feel it. If you want other people to feel it, you’ve got to feel it. If you want people to really connect with it. It’s still important to really dig into what you want to say and how you feel about it.

And you talked about how you’ve been working on this for a year and a half and you have these songs. Is it something where a full length is ready to go? Are you working on it or do you think that’s  still a while away for you? 
No, I mean, I think we did a good chunk of what’s going to be on it when we were going into the studio every day. Got as many songs as we could. I think we’ve got it all written and I’ve done the vocals for everything. We tried to record the vocals as soon after we had written it as possible because then you’ve got that spontaneity and that kind of excitement. So yeah I’ve recorded all the vocals. We have everything else to kind of demo first but I think we’ve got enough. Maybe we need to write like one more song possibly but we’ll see how it all fits together. The nice thing about that is because I’m on tour and I can’t get in the studio to record them, so my producer can be building things up while I’m away. I think I’m going to have a little bit of time off in the short future to get working back on it.

Then for you a softer one, the first CD or cassette you can remember getting as a kid then the first concert you can remember going to? 
The first CD, and this is totally true, was Hunky Dory by David Bowie. I have a twin sister and on my dad’s side a younger brother. Our dad bought it specifically for us to have and I’m pretty sure he did it so I can say it when I got asked in interviews. What was my first CD and I can say Hunky Dory by David Bowie. I’d like to thank my dad for that! The first gig I ever went to I think was a band back in Liverpool called The Coral, I used to really love them. They had some really great songs and I think that was my first gig. My mom bought me tickets for that one.

Then kind of obviously you know the EP just came out and you’re doing this run. Kind of what’s coming up for Banners in 2016, what’s the plan? 
So obviously this tour is going brilliant. We’re playing SXSW which is going to be really cool. We’ve got a really good set of shows lined up for that. Then when I started doing this, I was already living in North America so I’ve never played a gig in England. So I’m really excited. I’m playing Liverpool on the 23rd of May. I’m really excited to go home and play for my parents. So they can see I’m legitimately doing it. I spent my childhood going to see my friends play in bands and now they can finally come and watch my crappy band. Then after that, I’m going to be playing some festivals. I’m playing Osheaga which is in Montreal and one in Ontario and one in Detroit which is really cool. It will be loads of fun.
So you’ve never actually played a show in England? 
I’ve done like open mic nights and stuff but never played a proper gig. So like I said I’ve been to so many of my friends bands. It’s about time they repay the favor.

About Author


Colleen has been writing about music since 2009. Interviewing bands since the glory days of Warped and has continued to do so for now over fourteen years. As well as doing freelance for other publications, the love for everything rock continues today.

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