banks - the real life goddess with the voice of an angel
To begin talking about a female artist by mentioning her looks always feels lazy. But it’s hard to introduce Jillian Banks without mentioning it. Sitting opposite her is like sharing a table with Bambi in a leather jacket. Although to be fair her...
Still from 'Drowning'
Hoards of fans, all off the back of just two EPs, have lauded her for her sensitivity and emotional eloquence. It's obvious there is more to her than a few hundred thousand YouTube views.
Since her phenomenal rise through SoundCloud she's been adamant in doing things her own way, from publishing her phone number on Facebook to distancing herself from social media. She's a smart woman who reads Greek mythology and isn't afraid of her feelings. No wonder we can't get enough.
How many hotel rooms do you think you've stayed in over the past year?
Oh man, a lot. I'm finding I really like hotel rooms that have their own kitchens because it makes you feel a little bit more at home.
The sheen of hotels probably fades?
Yeah, it can feel very soulless just going from one room to another; you have to find ways to feel at home.
Your first album is out soon, but you've had a huge amount of attention off the back of your EPs. Is it intimidating to have so many eyes on you before even having an album out?
It's definitely a huge change because I kept my music so private for so long, it's a huge shift to suddenly be in the public eye. I was shielding my music because it felt too personal, it's scary to release things that are so close to you. Now they're out I feel like so many people are embracing it and connecting with it, it's encouraging and flattering.
Did having all that love from the beginning mean you have a more positive relationship with being onstage?
I don't know. I think everyone is different, but I felt very ready. I feel really lucky that I hadn't done anything in terms of performing because it gave me time to really hone into who I was.
Leading up to this album were you still actively writing or was it more a process of editing ten years of work?
I will never run out of material, that's for sure. The problem with this album, being my first, was my whole life up until now needed to be in it somehow. The problem was cutting down the tracks in the end because we just had so many. My heart still hurts a bit for a few of them that we had to leave off.
You started writing when your parents were divorcing, and your songs hold that emotional, sombre fingerprint. Do you need to be in that headspace to write?
I don't think I have just sombre music, especially on this album I have some spicy tracks, and some fluorescent-bright tracks that don't feel dark blue. But I always have to be in some sort of emotional headspace - there's a scale, we don't have one way of feeling and I don't write when I have just one emotion, but I definitely have to be feeling emotional.
People always ask why you put your phone number on Facebook, so I won't. But I was wondering, are people still calling you?
Yeah they are, it's been really amazing. People always ask me what's the weirdest call you've got, or do you get creepy messages? It's funny because most of the messages are just sending love and saying how much they connect with my music. They're not nasty or dirty, they're human.
Your phone must drive people crazy in the movies.
Yeah totally (laughs). When I started I wanted to answer everybody, that's not really possible, but I answer the ones that I can. I'm just trying to navigate my own path and find ways that feel comfortable to me in a world that feels very foreign sometimes.
Is that something that's important to you, not buying into the prescribed way of going about things once you become successful?
Yeah, because what are we, robots? People are all so different how can there be one way to do this? It's weird to me because as musicians we are our own unique souls, we write music and express ourselves for a living - so why would every artist have one way of doing something? It's very important for me to do it my own way and feel comfortable.
Even before London, for some reason I just always assumed you were British...
Everybody thinks I'm British, it's funny, after I meet people and they hear me speak they still think I'm British. I guess my music kind of started there, and I feel very at home in the UK. That's where I had this major artistic breakthrough that allowed me to open up.
You grew up in LA right?
Yeah, it was great, and it was hard, just like every place. It was good though, I love it. It's home to me.
You've attracted attention for your style - do you work with stylists?
I dress myself but I have a girl caller Maya Krispin for all my videos and she's amazing. She just knows me really well and is awesome. I wear pretty much all black and I love feeling sexy but feeling strong.
So you go home then your tour starts. Do you get homesick?
I don't know, I think I get people sick. Homesickness is a weird idea for me because I feel that people make a home and if I were to go home and all my friends were out of town I'd still feel homesick.
Do you take or do anything on tour to comfort you when you miss people?
Not really, I should. I go through stages when I love reading, that's something I do, then I don't read for a while because I feel like you need to have a peaceful mind to sit down with a book.
What are you reading?
I don't even know who it's by, I love it, it sounds embarrassing but it's on all the Greek myths. It's amazing.
Have you always been interested in mythology?
Yeah they're just the most amazing stories. It's crazy all the gods seem so human, unstable, and vain. They're so jealous and spiteful and immature.
They're always trying to get revenge, or prove someone's cheating on them.
Yeah! They all cheat! It's crazy!
Do you have a favourite god or goddess?
I love all of them, Athena probably, she's the goddess of wisdom.
I can see the parallels there.
Well my album is called Goddess.
Because of this interest?
No, it's my own idea of the word. I got into writing when I was in such a dark place and I felt almost shameful of having dark feelings. Writing made me see that everyone is human and has those feelings. They make you more beautiful because you're not a robot. I think it's important to embrace that. I named my album Goddess because I loon out in my album, but I'm still a goddess. Everyone loons out, and they're still goddesses.
Is part of your message that it's okay to feel these things?
My message is one of strength: I want women to feel like goddesses, I want them to feel sexy, I want them to feel beautiful, I want them to feel empowered, I want them to feel strong, I want them to feel that it's okay to feel angry or insecure or fearful - but you shouldn't always feel like that, because you are a goddess. You feel those things, but you aren't those things.
Text Wendy Syfret
Watch the new Banks video produced by i-D