BANKS Is Gunning For The Title Of Goddess

banks_embedPhoto: Harvest Records.
It's a clichéd description, but the arc of BANKS' year has been meteoric, ascending at a rate only outpaced by someone like Iggy Azalea. (Though, meteors rocket down instead of shooting upward, right? Nonetheless.)
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She went from having one EP with the absolutely thrumming single "Waiting Game," to a full album, a world tour, sold-out shows in New York, and an appearance at nearly every festival under the sun. When we met her at SXSW, she was beginning to introduce herself to large crowds. Now, just six months later, people were clamoring to see her at our New York Fashion Week Party.
And, there's a reason why.
It isn't just that she's a pretty face (or, in her case, an absolutely gorgeous face). Her electronica-kissed brand of R&B is threatening, passionate, embracing, and sultry. Her new album, appropriately named Goddess, dropped this week to massive acclaim, and it's not just good, it's fantastic — hands-down one of the best albums of the year. So, there's a reason her ascent is simply otherworldly.
Goddess is out now.
The last time we spoke you had a lot new of things coming out. Now that you have some time from all the festivals, can you sum up your summer?
"It was absolutely incredible. I've learned so much about myself and about so many people and went to all these new places. Honestly, it was such a blur because I was in so many places. It didn't feel like just a few months."
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That's so exciting. Speaking of new things: Was this past Fashion Week your first?
"Yeah, it was. I had only been to one fashion show before; the Chanel show in Paris. It was incredible.""
What is your definition of "goddess"?
"Somebody who is 100 percent and embraces every feeling they have, whether it's dark or whether they feel fragile or strong. It's someone who just thinks for herself."
There's something so — I don't want to say "feminine" — about your music. There's something so female-empowering about your music...
"Why don't you want to say feminine? It's such great word!"
...Fair enough! I didn't want to identify it as one side of a binary because it's obviously more complex than that.There is something really sensual and evocative about your music. Do you feel like women can be empowered through sensuality or sexuality?
"When I write music I don't think about anything but what I'm writing about and what I need to express, but I think that being a woman is the sexiest and most beautiful thing, and sensuality is one of the most special things that somebody can have. I definitely think that womanhood has its own power."
banks_embed2Photo: Harvest Records.
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Do you think it's important that an artist creates a barrier of mystery between who they are as an artist and who they are personally?
"No, I think you should just be you and there's no difference between me as an artist and me personally. My songs are the purist form of me that you can get. I don't really think there's any sort of barrier between the person I am singing these songs and the person I am who's walking down the street."
That's a very honest answer. What would be "selling out" for you?
"Doing things that don't feel like me for some sort of silly, silly, impure reason."
We talk a lot about fandom, could you give your fandom a name?
"[Laughs] No! I mean, if they name themselves, that's awesome. Perhaps something will come through on social media."
What's your favorite social media platform?
"I don't know yet. I just started getting into social media, really. I wasn't even on any sites before my music started coming out. I totally let my manager handle everything in the beginning because it didn't feel genuine to me and really foreign. I got Instagram and I really enjoy that. Occasionally, I'll tweet something something super, super flavorful. But, I don't know my favorite one. I guess right now I'm the most involved in Instagram, so I'll say that."
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As people have been listening to your music and you're been performing and reaching an audience and your album is about to drop, is there anything you find yourself surprisingly afraid of? Is there anything you fear or do you have a surprising anxiety you didn't have before?
"I mean everything. My whole life surprises me right now. Meeting people surprises me. Sometimes, I see a crowd — like when I played in Poland, the crowd was so big. I just went to Indonesia and the crowd knew all my words and they were singing all my words. It was the most incredible thing!"
That just sounds so inspirational.
"Yeah it was. It filled my whole body up."
Especially in a place as different from our daily experience as Indonesia.
"Yeah, I was like 'who knows me in Indonesia? Who knows me in Jakarta? Kuala Lumpur?' There were just the most incredible people there. One girl in front was crying. It was just incredible, I couldn't believe it!"
Your music obviously speaks volumes, but you also have a very specific image and a wonderful sense of fashion. What are some of the things that you just can't be without when you're going on stage?
"It's funny because I go through stages of what I need to have. I went through a stage with this ring I call the 'goddess' ring. I just had to have it and it had to be facing outward every time I went on stage. I've been wearing capes. I love blazers, too. I love how strong and sexy a blazer is without showing anything; it's just the shape of it. It's feminine in this strong, sexy way. I wanted to wear something like a blazer but I wanted to be able to be able to move my arms, so we made my own version of a cape. I'm just addicted to it. We have all these different versions of the cape, now. I have a long version, and on Jimmy Kimmel, my first TV performance, we made one a little longer than the ones I've been wearing and it had a BANKS symbol on the back made of beads."
You had that custom-made?
"Yeah. It's cool because it has so much structure in the shoulders. I do a lot of movement with my hands and I like to feel the beat of the music through these meditative movements I do with them. These little cape creatures we created let me do just that. It's so fall!
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It only feels appropriate that Goddess came out during the fall.
"I know! My music feels cold, like you need either a trench coat or a sweater sometimes when listening to it. It was originally supposed to come out during the summer, but I didn't want it to. People said the summer was the best time, but I wanted the cold. And, now it is!"
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