An Interview with Joe Banfi
Hi Joe – congratulations on the EP and signing to Communion Records! You suddenly seem to be popping up everywhere! How does it feel? Does it feel like you’ve “made it” in the world of music?
Thanks very much. It feels strange – I’m so used to good things happening to artists other than myself in music! I feel extremely grateful to be working with Communion because I’ve been a fan of what they do for a long time and I never thought I’d get to be part of their family. I don’t feel like I’ve “made it” though – we need to see how the tour goes next month!
In the national press, you’re being categorised as a “new artist”. Are you really that new? How long have you been doing music? How did your journey begin?
I think I am quite new, at least as an artist in my own right, but I’ve been playing music for a long time. I started writing songs seriously when I was about thirteen, and it started to improve when I joined bands. But I was always a guitarist who did backing vocals in these bands, and I only started playing and singing my own stuff in my second year of university, which was about two years ago. Not long after that I got invited to play at a Communion night in London and it went from there.
You’ve been recording and performing with some fantastic acts over the past year (or less?). Which shows or sessions have been your favourite so far?
Yeah, it’s been about a year now. The best show was when I supported Lucy Rose at Blacks in Soho this August just gone – it was in this strange little lounge to an audience of about 30 people: there was an awkward intimacy between me and the audience that fuelled my performance and I felt like they all really got what I was trying to do. The best sessions are any time I’m in the studio and Ian Grimble’s at the desk – he knows my sound better than I do.
I’ve read that your influences are very much in the rock spectrum. What important lessons do you think that kind of music has brought to your own sound?
There’s a lot of heavy music I don’t like – loads of bands just relentlessly smack you in the face with loud noise throughout an album and I don’t really get that. But there’s a few bands like Deftones and Tool that provide extreme differences in dynamics and tone in a way that feels very natural to listen to. Something about that really appeals to me and I often experiment with just how loud and aggressive or fragile and quiet I can make a particular song.
Loads of musicians have other creative talents – Joni Mitchell was a painter as well as a musician, and Johnny Flynn moonlights as an actor. Do you have any juicy hidden (or not so hidden) talents to tell us about?
I try to be creative in other ways but I’m not sure it’s good enough to be called talent! Filmmaking has always fascinated me and I put together a couple of low/no budget shorts in my free time while I was studying in Sheffield. One was this no-budget documentary I made about a wonderful old man called Ralph Settle in Cornwall who lives like he’s still twenty-three.
We’re a new music blog, so we always love to hear what people are listening to. Which artists and/or albums are on your playlist at the moment? Anyone we should watch out for?
You guys probably already know Kurt Vile? I can’t stop listening to his album “Smoke Ring For My Halo”. Deftones have a new album coming this winter that I’m very excited about. Richard Shindell has a great album out now called “Thirteen Songs You May Or May Not Have Heard Before”, and I never put down Dick Gaughan’s “Hand Full Of Earth”. “10,000 Days” by Tool is another one of those, but you have to promise you’ll never use the ‘shuffle’ function on it. For brand new music, you should check out the up-and-coming Sheffield duo Jim Ghedi and Neal Heppleston; their debut EP ‘Archipelago’ was released a couple of months ago and it’s wonderful.
Finally, what’s next for you? What are your plans for beyond this EP and upcoming tour?
I’ve no idea, everyone keeps it a secret from me! No I’m joking – there’s nothing set in stone for the moment beyond the tour. Communion have provided me with a great platform and we all just want to make sure that my music gets to the right listeners. I’d much rather have 10 people listen to the whole EP and get really into it than have 500 people check out one or two songs and then move on. I think the only way to build the kind of strong relationship I want with new fans is to do things carefully and gradually, so I think we’re waiting until after this first tour before we plan the next move. There’s lots of new songs itching to get out to people besides the ones on the EP, and I’ll be playing some of those on this tour so come down to a show if you can!
Joe Banfi heads out on a UK tour this November in support of his debut EP ‘Iron’ released through Communion Records on September 24th.
Check out the haunting video for single ‘Guts and Bones’ below, taken from the forthcoming EP.