‘Pretty much the only thing you’ll ever hear me say on stage is ‘find the thing that you love and do the fuck out of it’ and that’s what we want to say to people’ Joshua O’Donnell, vocalist and songwriter for New Zealand’s Banks Arcade tell me.
‘If you can have that goal, dream and work towards it, there’s gonna be all these high and lows , relationships lost and times when you feel shit about it but if you can be dedicated to it in that way , it will give you a true sense of purpose in life. A lot of these songs speak to that and our experience on this journey.’
O’Donnells’ band have just played the hallowed Download Festival in England, about to embark on four months of mammoth touring both here and the bands homeland and let’s not forget a full length debut album Future Lovers will drop at the end of July. ‘Do the fuck out of it’ indeed.
‘We had the album and we thought ‘let’s actually do this, let’s put all our money into it, let’s do everything we can to record this at the best level possible.’
We all had to get to Auckland but the thing was NZ was locking down every other week, so we were in a period where ‘we have to get to Auckland now!’
We booked out the studio we were going to record in, drove up there and basically recorded the whole thing in 8 days! We shot the music videos over the next two days, so pretty much all the content for this album finished within a 10 day period, in terms of it actually being put down! It was definitely a flow state that we were in while it was being done and something we all really enjoyed and look back on fondly I’d say.’
Performing and delivering thirteen songs plus a couple of music videos in ten days is an extreme and intense pressure cooker to be creative but it’s under pressure diamond are formed.
‘Creatively at that point we went in with the songs pretty much where we wanted them in terms of demos, and at that point it’s a matter of capturing a certain kind of energy. I am somebody that thrives under pressure, I think all of the guys do, and once that pressure is put on it kinda helps to create a little bit of chaos, a little bit of danger.
Say we’ve got six weeks to do this then it doesn’t matter if you mess up a take or half arsed on something because you can just get it the next day. But when you have to get it, it creates this urgency and the feeling you get in a boxing match or when trying to land a trick on a skateboard. Where the stakes are high and we’ve really gotta capture this. That’s what happened in there and I think it’s come through on the record in a good way.’
Lyrically this album goes deep emotionally and mentally adding a voice to the soundscape of the music. To create that feeling O’Donnell stepped outside his own comfort zone and wrote how he felt.
‘This album was initially being crafted as a concept album and throughout the process of writing I came to the realisation that a lot of this stuff was actually quite personal. While I was using this concept album and character as a vessel to express myself through, I decided in a way to really present it to the world, I’d really wear my heart on my sleeve and show the personal nature of these songs.
I think of songs like ‘Be Someone’ and ‘Wine’, they were some of the first times I was able to authentically capture those moments and feelings and express them. I think that the songs, and album as a whole, really capture the journey of somebody who is chasing and striving after something that is really difficult. As a band that is something we really champion.’
‘The lyrics weren’t written to be poems where they stand alone and they are so strong that I’ve come up with a witty way to manipulate the English language to show how crafty I can be with words. Really it was me trying to capture an emotion and feeling, how I’m saying something.
In the song ‘Wine’, I’m talking about a specific night where I felt in a specific way and I’m literally just saying how it is and I think there’s something human in that. Then when you add the musical element and express a feeling, it’s a way to connect to people and express that human side that isn’t over complicated or verbose but still gets the point across.’
While the lyrics are personal journeys of moments in time, the music is an eclectic array of styles that at first you would think don’t work yet they somehow do.
‘’Fake Your Death’ was another pivotal moment in a different way. That and ‘Be Someone’ are probably songs that have really changed the band and myself personally as a writer. ‘Fake Your Death’ was the song that made me realise we had an album and the song that pretty much gave me the license to do whatever the fuck I wanted because everybody liked it!
I was in sitting my room writing that song and a lot of times when I’m writing music it’s very chaotic and trying to get it down before I lose it. So I’m coming up with riffs, I’m coming with sounds, I’m coming up with lyrics sitting there like ‘I don’t want to lose this!’ That’s very much how ‘Fake Your Death’ got to this point where I thought I could switch this up and do a SAINt JHN hip hop beat with no care or concern for the fact that there is no reason that it should be here. If everybody likes it then I’m onto something here. If everybody hates then I’ve had a few too many Negroni’s and go to bed.
Everyone liked it in the band so that really started opening the floodgates to start doing that with everything.’
‘In the process of ‘Future Lovers’, we were really just finding this blueprint, now that we’ve recorded our next project we were able to go into it with some really clear intentions. Here is this through line with our sound, now we gonna craft this and express this, have attention on this.
An Australian tour supporting Thornhill is up next before a headline stint back in New Zealand before a another jaunt around Australia with In Heart’s Wake. The band’s focus on the live show has the same mantra as their recording. ‘Do the fuck out of it.’
‘We always have a massive effort in our live show. These songs are written to be played live. When we are writing even though you go through the process to listen at home and it sounds good on your headphones that’s never the intention, that’s never what is in my mind when I write a song.
I think Jason Meadows (guitarist), who is the guy in our band who handles the technical side of things, he’s put so much work into making sure we can accurately have our sound come across live and he does a really good job of that.
We’ve got Harlan Allen-Jones and you will never know what that guy is gonna do. When we were at Download, the biggest shows of our lives, he climbed up a PA speaker with his bass and did a backflip off it before our last song in front of a whole crowd, leaving us all with racing hearts!
For these next shows we’ve got chaotic bangers that will be back to back for the whole sets and I think it will be pretty special to connect with new fans in Australia.’
Banks Arcade will be in a town near you and whether you’re already a fan or a soon to be Future Lover, do yourself a solid and check them out. Maybe even buy a t-shirt. After all, they are doing what we all love.
Interview By Iain McCallum
On tour with Thornhill and Gravemind
On tour with In Hearts Wake, Redhook and Pridelands