On paper, Banfi shouldn’t work. Can you put a folk singer, a pop and R’n’B drummer and a country bassist together and come out with something dreamily affecting? On paper, no.
Former solo artist Joe Banfi, leads the north London three-piece; which he formed after shedding a successful solo career as an acoustic folk singer. In need of change, he sought out bandmates who would help him to create something more energetic. He wanted something rhythmic and guitar driven with a powerful live show. It felt like his last chance to really achieve what he needed to sing about: a feeling that infected the songs he was working on.
“I can hear time ticking off every moment”, he said because the songs he writes are often about being caught in a losing battle against time. Asking around with this brief in mind, he met drummer Aaron Graham through a mutual musical friend. The two bonded via the great British tradition of talking about music and getting righteously smashed. They knew they were onto something good when they started writing together. To round out the sound, they called in country-loving bassist Chris McCuaig. Their mutual interest in keeping songs ‘weird’ helped hone the band’s direction. “At first I was writing completely different stuff from my solo songs, to kind of refresh myself”, Joe explained. He deliberately took himself out of his comfort zone and began looking to more obscure European sounds; including a foray into the wilds of Norwegian black metal.
The band’s disparate and eclectic tastes are channelled into every song they write. As Joe puts it, “When we write these songs, we give it literally everything that’s in us, everything we’ve ever listened to. We just want to make really good pop songs that have that kind of weirdness”.
Joe Banfi’s interest in philosophy and pop culture has had a profound influence on the band’s debut album. His degree in philosophy became an inevitable part of his songwriting, having had the themes of time and the ‘better self’ in mind for the album since day one; “The album is about fate. It’s about the idea that there is a best version of you that you are capable of, but if you’re not careful with your time you’ll never grasp it”
The chemistry between the band members is infectious and undeniable. From brotherly tussles to a fast and comfortable friendship, Banfi’s dynamic translates into electrifying live shows. “It takes a certain size audience to create the energy that these lyrics and these songs are capable of”, Joe said. “We don’t want shows where people sit quietly, we want shows where people are fucking screaming and free. I want it to be like loneliness medicine”.
Slowing down the tempo, but still retaining their venue filler sound, new track ‘Caroline’ which is out today, sees Banfi in a pensive yet undeniably epic mood. Recorded in London 5 weeks ago, it tells the tale of a heartbreaking loss at Christmas. Building on Joe Banfi’s growing reputation for powerful and personal storytelling.
Speaking about the track he said, “The demo of the song only started to make sense and come together when I realised I was writing the lyrics for my parents and their loss. It’s also for other people out there who lose their parents at such a crucial age, like my friend who lost her mum recently”.
Banfi may know that the clock is ticking, but, in a way, time has been on their side. The band can only exist because of what came before it. And they’re making the most of every moment.