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Banks: Catching A Shadow

By Jessica Jardine; Photos by Piper Ferguson on June 24, 2014

 

Banks: Catching A Shadow

 

Even in this time of access and oversharing, it’s not often you can grab the phone and dial up your favorite new musician for a quick chat. But that’s exactly what fans of BANKS have been able to do since the 25-year-old singer/songwriter posted her own phone number to her Facebook page last year. “I like making connections outside of a computer screen,” she wrote. “Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have never really been my thing. If you ever want to talk, call me.”

 

 

Sure enough, BANKS—real name Jillian Banks—actually answers those calls and texts, all while juggling a burgeoning music career that’s garnering all kinds of heat. She’s just wrapped a tour opening for The Weeknd and is preparing to head out on her very own headlining tour. With two EPs under her belt in 2013, she’ll wrangle all that momentum and release her first full-length, Goddess, in the late summer of this year. Silky smooth, R & B-tinged singles had already pegged BANKS as one to watch, but when her ultra-sexy tune “Waiting Game” was featured in an eye-popping Victoria’s Secret commercial last year, the curious outreach from strangers started to pour in.

 

“I get all kinds!” she says. “There are really emotional texts and calls, and then I always get those ‘I-don’t-believe-this-is-you’ type of things—where they’re like, ‘You’re actually psychotic for doing this,’” she laughs. “Sometimes it’s funny because when I answer those, they’re like, ‘Wait, what?’ But I did that because it felt uncomfortable for me to tweet and all that other stuff. I did my own thing that felt more genuine. I still wanted to communicate to people who connect to my music. ”

 

That overwhelming sincerity is par for the course with BANKS and has directly shaped her thoughtful entry into the music industry. When she first released music via Soundcloud last year, she points out that there was almost no information available about her online: no Facebook, no Instagram, no photos of her ’60s movie-star good looks. And none of that, she says, was accidental. “I’m just trying to navigate everything with my gut. Everything that feels like me and like it comes from a genuine place, that’s what I want to do. I’m patient with everything just like I was patient with my music before I wanted people to hear it. It’s important to really nurture everything that you care about.”

 

 

Sure enough, it took the LA-native an entire decade to get the guts to start releasing her music to the public. “For me, it’s always been this secretive thing where I can unleash everything in the dark and be unseen,” she says. “It was just something that I had no inhibitions about and was the safest thing in my life. I kept it really close and really tight. My closest friends knew about it, but not too many other people.” But meeting her management team opened the gates and allowed her to finally get into the studio to make Goddess. “I feel like this album started when I was born,” she laughs. “I had so much built up that I needed to get out and get on the record.”

 

Though she’s only recently taken the plunge to pursue a career as a singersongwriter, BANKS is clear about one fact: making music has always been a necessity for her. The self-taught musician began playing with a toy piano found laying around her house and, soon, it was on to the business of crafting songs. The intensity of the experience bowled her over. “Once I discovered how much I needed music and how powerful it was in my life, I knew that it was going to be the biggest love of my life and the biggest part of my heart. It’s just the most personal thing to me. I had to get the courage up to let it out and let people hear the most intimate things.”

 

 

Ten years later, she’s winning hearts and minds with her sparse, synth-infused arrangements and personal lyrics, letting her buttery voice sing about heartache and self-doubt. “I mean, this album has songs that I couldn’t even listen to after I wrote them because they’re so hard for me,” she says. “They’re real. They’re my real life. It was hard taking that step to do it and to let everybody hear it.”

 

When asked what kind of musicians or artists she looks to as inspiration, she immediately—and unsurprisingly—cites Fiona Apple. “I love everything about her,” she says. “She’s a great example of somebody who is her own artist. She has her own heartbeat and her own soul in everything that she does. You can tell and that’s why people can feel her so much.”

 

 

Much like Apple, BANKS looks poised to balance booming talent with visceral fan connection but also is firm in carving out her own unique path as a musician. “I think every human is unique, obviously, but especially as an artist; what am I doing? I’m just being real,” she says. “I’m writing songs about me. Not everybody has the same way to go about this business. There shouldn’t be guidelines for how to run your own heart. This is my heart. Why not do everything that reflects who I am as a human?” F