INTERVIEW Part #2: BANNERS chats American Idol, fan interaction & Brexit!

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Last week, we posted the first half of our chat with Toronto living, Liverpool raised BANNERS where he talked about his music making process as well as his current tour! Normally, we don’t do a two part interview but ours was surprisingly lengthy and I just couldn’t find myself cutting much out! Part two brings you BANNERS chatting about his experiences on American Idol this season, making fan interaction a priority and his views on Brexit!

And you’ve been really busy. Unfortunately you were supposed to be on a US tour with Echosmith last fall that got rescheduled but you’ve been so busy. You have festivals coming up, you’ve been doing American Idol, which I found out recently. As a mentor/coach position. Maybe something you told to those artists that you worked with maybe that you wish someone had told you in the beginning?

I mean to be honest with you, I’m not the sort of person that regrets things. The one thing I would only ever regret is not trying and I would never not do that.

Well maybe advice to them? Like to these kids you’re mentoring on the show.

Yeah I mean the funny thing is I think almost all advice has been the same all the way down with this stuff. The amazing thing with those guys, so I worked with two. Alyssa who is 15 and Ron who is 21 or 22. Either way, it’s wild the pressure that they’re under really. You always put pressure on yourself in music but generally, you can build it with experience and then when there’s a pressurized situation you’ve built up into it. You kind of have worked your way there so you’re ready for it. And I think the thing with them is I was just saying to them, this is as bad as it’s going to get. In terms of having that oh my god, I feel horrible moment. Katy Perry is there, Lionel Richie is there.

Yeah no pressure!

And like for me, it’s easy because I went on with my own song. I know how to do that, if there’s one thing I know how to do, it’s that. And after three years of playing live, I’m playing for two minutes it’s the easiest thing in the world. Just have to do the song, don’t have to think about things to say to an audience and I don’t have to figure out a bunch of lights. So I think for them, it was just a case of trying to get them to relax really. The really tough part and I think the bit that no one really tells you or can tell you is that it just takes forty gigs. It just takes twenty, thirty, forty gigs. You can get the vocals right and you can get the chords right but to make it look like a performance is a totally different thing. Because like I said, you’ve got a click in your ear maybe and you’re just trying to remember what the lyrics are. And you’re just trying to get the chords right and you just kind of are standing there, trying to do all of that shit. And then make it into a thing where you’re enjoying yourself, it just takes some time. And that’s why it’s so hard on them because they don’t have the time. For those guys, it’s probably one of the first times they’ve ever played in front of people. You need to do twenty where no one is there, when you can just make all of your mistakes. Then you can try some things and be like well that was kind of cool or that was stupid but I’m not going to do that. Then it all rounds out then you go up in front of Katy Perry and Lionel Richie.

Also making music, don’t get me wrong there’s a lot of rejection obviously there is, but there isn’t that feeling of do a gig then someone goes this is why you’re not getting through to the next round. It’s not that you’re an idiot, you’re horrible.
And while American Idol, it’s really fascinating, but it’s not a music show. It’s a reality tv show. It has nothing to do with the music business.

It doesn’t mean anything. Even if you win, it doesn’t mean instant success. It could help but as long as you love playing music, you just keep playing. Maybe they’ll give you that one major label experience. You’ve had a great major label experience from what I’ve seen but not everyone is that lucky.

I mean even for me, I never really played a bunch live before I signed to Island. So even that’s a trial by fire. And the thing is, it’s kind of tough. You kind of need people, my manager for example, he’s harsh when he needs to be. So you have gigs where you need someone to say, that wasn’t good enough. Because you don’t actually know. You can’t really see yourself, you can’t hear it. So that was a good move of being like here are the things you need to do better. And there’s two types of people. One’s a person who’s like oh my god, I can’t do it. And there’s the other type that goes okay I’m going to show you and you just step up to the plate and you do it. And you have those little moments of where you can’t really sleep at night because you’re thinking of witty banter to say or something like that. It’s funny like that.
So I think the guys on Idol, whatever happens, it’s good experience in dealing with a lot of pressure at once. It’s funny because they’re getting a load of Twitter followers, they’re getting free stuff at the moment, it makes them kind of think this is what it’s like. You just get free stuff and you’re just on the television and the reality is okay that’s cool but now we’ve got to start at the bottom and we build everything up from there. But it’s just about enjoying it because if you don’t enjoy it, it’s hard enough. You have to love it and those guys do so they’re going to be totally fine. And they’ve got great voices and they wouldn’t have been there otherwise.

It’s a hard show!

It’s a really hard show. The interesting thing is we’ve never figured out a show like that that rewards songwriting I don’t think.

Yeah it tends to be a lot of shows for like boy bands and or like pop acts, not to discredit them.
Yeah totally. In reality, they probably just get songs thrust at them. They possibly can write really great songs, they probably will never get the chance to really find out. And the problem there is that in music, you’ve got to write your songs because that’s where you can pay for everything. Realistically, touring is so expensive. You’re not making any money from this bit of it at all, it just costs loads.

Some people don’t get it. You pay so much money for the vehicle that you travel in, you’re paying your tour manager, you’re paying for a place to stay every night, you’re paying for the gas.

You’re paying for the session musicians. So basically it costs you a lot of money and the way that sales kind of work these days, it’s tough to make any money from selling mp3’s or physical copies. But it’s possible if you write the songs, that’s the thing, and also that way you get your heart into these songs. You’re not performing someone’s ideas so I would say to anybody that wanted to get into the industry, learn to write songs. A million percent. Because that’s how you can get somewhere. And also, if you’re good at writing songs, then you can just become a songwriter and you can get some other idiot to go and drive all over. You just sit there and have five songs on the bloody charts! No, I’m joking, because playing live is absolutely awesome. But that’s really the thing I think. And a song that you wrote, people are going to sing back to you and that is the greatest thing in the world isn’t it? Don’t want people to miss out on that.

Then you announced that you’re doing Firefly, you’re doing Hangout Fest, you obviously have a lot coming up. And you’re going into Canada after this run, but BANNERS has been around for just three years, but both EP’s have done so well. Kind of what is maybe the focus or goals for your project in these next few months?

I mean you always want more songs. You never don’t need songs. So ultimately, you want to release an album. That’s the pinnacle of things really. But I feel like kind of recently, I’ve changed my thought process of things a little bit. The world’s really hard and I think living can be really hard for a lot of people. I don’t know if you’re the same but I find myself getting really furious about a lot of political things. As crazy as things are in America, it’s okay, it’s going to be okay. Britain is in a lot more trouble and it all comes from lies, people being lied to, peoples’ insecurities and being very much harassed. And a lot of people not really knowing any better. And I find it so infuriating because it’s just greed. It all just comes from greed. Brexit, the vote happened over a year ago and I thought it would have numbed by now and it doesn’t and I think part of it is because I’ve got a nephew and a niece, Europe is amazing, and they deserve to get to go and work and live and do things. Anyway, I don’t want to get angry about it but the thing I’ve realized is that I can’t change it. I would love to but I can’t but what I could do is present an environment where people feel positive and they feel safe. And they feel welcomed. And I’ve realized that you can help people when you do music. And if you engage with Twitter and Instagram or if you engage with people at a gig, you talk to them during it or you talk to them after. I like to say on Twitter if anybody’s having a hard time, just get in touch with me and we can just talk. I realized you can make people feel really good just by replying to a tweet or something. So that’s something that I’ve realized actually is my main concern now I think. Because you get to make a little difference. Normally people don’t have that opportunity and it would be a shame if you didn’t take it. So as much as I would like to keep releasing music because I would like to be able to do that for more people, and that’s the other great thing about playing live. People come to you and they talk about stuff. Even on this run, there’s been so many people coming up who’ve said oh man, I was having a really hard time and this song really, really helped. I had no concept of that. This person was in Delaware and I was in Liverpool but the idea that by what you put out there, it can help people is just a magical thing I think and it’s something that I really want to find new avenues to do. I think it’s just about positivity.

Especially for young women. Even music can feel like a hostile environment. You must know.

A hundred percent. Especially in recent times, with so many people coming forward about their stories. It can go both ways.

You do hear about that stuff happening. Difference is, I’m generally stronger and taller so it’s a different dynamic, isn’t it? I think its’ slightly different for me because I have a twin sister, so I’m not claiming to be anything other, but I think a lot of men genuinely don’t understand what women go through every day, on a daily basis. I think it really is up to men to take some ownership and be the ones to be very sympathetic to what’s going on. So my gigs and when I meet people, I never ever want for anyone to feel unsafe or that there’s anything untoward going on. That anything I’m doing is in any sense sexualized whatsoever. I don’t want anyone to feel like that. And it’s often a strange dynamic, the people who want to come and talk to me are often girls. One thing is that women mature a lot quicker and they’re just a bit more confident then lads. I wouldn’t have come up to a musician, even bands that I loved as a kid, so a lot of the time you have a girl and their boyfriend and the boyfriend always feels a bit weird. And I’m always very careful to make sure that I engage with the dude as well to show that I’m not like seeing this as anything other then a friendly interaction. I think it’s a really important thing to put that out there because in this age, we want everyone to feel safe. And if you create a really positive environment, where everyone feels good and everyone feels welcomed, then I think people then go out into the world and that gets branched out doesn’t it? They give them an experience that they’re going to think about for a week and they do positive things then you can create a web of positivity. And I think it’s just kind of true of the whole population. We can despair of the figureheads, that’s just such a small percentage of the people and realistically if we all look after each other, they can go and do whatever the fuck they want. It’s like that old saying, they held a war and no one showed up. You just have a lot of old white fellows arguing with each other. They said sort of the same thing but the government only works because we all say that’s the government but if we all said we’re not listening to them, not saying that’s everybody, but we don’t have to take our cues from them. It’s just frustrating with politicians and stuff.

It’s a funny country, England. America has it’s issues with race relations without a doubt but at least, they’re being discussed almost constantly. There’s very bad sides to it but they are really open. And the slave trade happening in America is a huge part of that. England was just as big of a part of it and it never gets discussed. Britain was the third point of that triangle and it never gets discussed. Same with Britain’s imperialism. They ran half the world at one point, they just took half the world and treated those people abombingly and it never gets talked about. It’s just all, isn’t Britain as a culture just castles and they drink tea? There should be reparations for that stuff. History is written by the victors and I think Britain is a wicked example of that. And I think so much of that is just bubbling over there. It just exists and Brexit is like kind of people wishing it was their childhoods for some reason. Their childhoods being the fifties and I always think, well what’s the time you wanted to go back to? Was it the second world war when your houses were getting bombed and people were dying or was it the fifties where everyone was still on ration coupons, do you want that? Did you want the miners’ strikes of the seventies? Because it might be the multiculturalism of the EU and the freedom of movement. This whole thing, I mean it’s frustrating. I know that’s not the question you asked.

No but it’s good! I’ve been doing this for several years and I feel like some of the best ones are when you just let someone speak and not keep it to like well I have this set of questions, so stop talking and let me go on to this next one.

And I realize that you just connect with some people. The feeling is just there. I love meeting Europeans and the way they do things, I love meeting British people as well, that the idea of separating from all of that is such a shame. It’s such a shame because economically, a lot of the people that voted for Brexit as well, are going to be in real trouble. There’s no argument that it’s a good idea, no one has ever given one. Whether or not we want control over our laws, we have none. And all the red tape they complain about with Brussels. It’s all stuff like we don’t want chlorine in our chicken, that’s not allowed. So you take that red tape away, well now you can have chlorine in your chicken. That is a genuine example. Was that what you wanted? You wanted this chlorinated chicken that they can’t have in the EU? Great. Sometimes regulation is important.

How big of a difference was the vote, was it close?

It was horribly close. I mean now it turns out that a lot of it was pretty fraudulent. Similar to the Trump thing with the election being heavily fraudulent. And they’re taking peoples’ Facebook information and some other stuff. The mad thing is none of the politicians that were fighting, that were on the leave campaign, wanted it to happen. They just wanted to fight, they just wanted to get kind of close. And people would go, oh my god you did really well. You didn’t manage it but it was an impossible task anyway. A lot of the blame has to go with David Cameron, it was him that introduced it because he wanted to get back into power again. He said well if you vote for me, I’ll allow a vote, thinking it would never happen so why would anyone vote for him. All the quotes are that people don’t want to hear from experts anymore. It is the craziest thing. If that’s true, it’s an awful sign of the times, isn’t it? I think it’s the dangerous thing with Twitter and Instagram, mainly Twitter, is that everyone has the right to their account don’t they and everyone thinks well therefore my opinion on this subject is just as worthy as this person’s. I’ve seen somebody arguing with a marine biologist, saying this whale hasn’t been extinct while the marine biologist is like well I did my dissertation on this and it has been for ten years. And this guy is like well I think it hasn’t therefore. It’s kind of an example of it all. And I think the EU, people should have never been able to be given the opportunity. It’s too complicated and sometimes we vote for experts to figure this stuff out because how can anyone truly understand the trade deal. They don’t. I’m sorry I’ve mainly talked about Brexit.

No I really enjoyed the interview, you were great.
Well mainly the point I’m making is that I feel so powerless with this stuff. And I think music gives you the opportunity to connect with people and to make a difference. Make an emotional difference. There’s not just one way. People coming to my gigs and singing those songs, it’s amazing. It makes you feel brilliant. It can be a communal experience if you do it right. It was a very long way of getting to that point.

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.