It’s a busy Friday at work and I’m freaking out knowing that Martha Brown, aka bAnoffee, will be calling at any moment for our interview. I’m not ready. I’ve had clients calling non-stop and I’m wondering how I’m going to find 15 minutes to sneak away from my desk and have a chat about her new EP. On top of that, I’ve never had to record a call that I wasn’t making before and I wasn’t exactly sure it would work so the stress is getting to me as the clock ticks towards our scheduled slot.

At 2:15 PM I get an email. “Hey Wes sorry Martha just let me know she is running 15 mins late. She will call you at 2.35. Hope thats ok?” It’s probably the best email I’ve ever received in the history of emails, 15 extra minutes is a godsend. I respond “Perfect! Me too!” and try to relax a bit before the phone rings just after 2:30, when I answer and explain quickly that I need to hit record on the app. I put Martha on hold and throw caution to the wind…

I have absolutely no idea if this is working or not but we’ll find out I guess…

You sound different, if that helps!

Well that’s a good sign, I hope. So you’re having a busy day then?

Yeah, well I actually screwed up because I thought people were calling me so I was just sitting here ’til like 2:15 waiting for my phone and then my manager called me and was like “Uh, are you going to call anyone?” and I was like “Oh shit! Yeah sure!” So I’m running a bit behind.

Well it is usually the other way around, I’m usually the one instigating the calls…

Yeah, that’s how it normally works for me. It’s fine, I just screwed it up.

Oh well, it could be worse. So firstly, in doing my research I have discovered that your name, Banoffee, is a pie…

… it IS a pie…

…where did the idea to use that name come from?

Well, I first started bAnoffee as something that was purely for me and I wasn’t sure if I was going to release it or whether it would just be something to satisfy my musical needs. I was leaving a band and also just wanted to start playing around with some different instruments and, I think, I chose the name bAnoffee because – I don’t know if you’ve ever eaten banoffee pie but it is the most indulgent thing ever and this project is very indulgent for me. I never want to base my songwriting decisions on pleasing listeners or audiences, I want it to be for me and what really satisfies me so I think I made the decision to go with that because it communicated what I was doing musically. And it was a little bit of a joke *laughs* and then I went and released stuff and it became my name!

I really like that idea, it doesn’t sound indulgent to most people but when you put it like that it makes perfect sense!

Yeah!

So you’re part of the Two Bright Lakes family.

Yeah, I am and I feel really lucky to be part of that record label.

And Oscar Key Sung, who you’ve worked with before, produced the EP. Was it good to work with him again?

It was great, we had so much fun. We’ve worked together a bunch of times throughout the years, both having been with Two Bright Lakes for a long time, and because we’d known each other for so long there was just no awkwardness going into it, we just came in really open minded and I could tell him the ideas I had without feeling embarrassed, which is pretty hard for me. I often feel pretty timid about my musical ideas with other producers and writers, but I just went in and went all out, showed him what I had and he was the same. We worked really well together. And also, neither of us have much money so we ended up just doing it in his bedroom and we just spent a lot of time hanging about the house which was cool. It was a really fun experience.

I guess that’s one of the benefits of being very electronic is that there’s not a lot of necessity to get into a studio to get ‘that’ sound because you’re shaping it all yourself in the gear.

Exactly! Me and Oscar both sort of have fetishes for old, crappy toy keyboards and between the two of us we just had so much gear to use that we really didn’t have to leave my bedroom or his. We had a lot of the same gear as well so if I was practicing at my house and needed to go record it I could be like “Oh have you still got a [Casio] SK-1 over there?” and he’d be like “Oh yeah, that’s somewhere.” and I’d just drive over and he’d just pull out whatever gear he had and most of the time it was the same as what I had at my house so it worked out very easily.

That’s very convenient! With the toy keyboards and stuff, did you ever get into circuit bending?

I haven’t personally, Oscar used to do a bunch of that stuff when he was doing sound art but, I only really got into synthesizers quite recently compared to how long I’ve been playing music and I have been so, sort of, swept up in working my analog gear as it is that I haven’t gone as far as circuit bending and doing things any more manual than just working an analog synth or whatever I’ve got here. I think if I started doing that I would just end up totally burning out a bunch of my gear and wrecking things. I’m not the handiest of musicians, I’m not great at things like that. *laughs*

With all your old analog stuff, you’ve got a really interesting rig that you play live. How much of your sound is generated on the fly?

If I’m in Melbourne, I normally play with my Prophet 5 which is a big old 70s analog synthesizer and I play with that live, so I control all the parameters and everything. I might have an idea of what I’m doing but it will always sound different depending on the show. Because there’s only one of me, all my backing vocals are recorded into a backing track as well as the beats. Well, except for the last two or three months where I’ve started to use a machine live on stage so making some beats live as well. Vocally, I do loops and I use a pedal and then I control my parameters live through my analog synthesizer but I do have a backing track and backing vocals pre-recorded into Ableton as well.

You’ve come from a traditional band background so is it hard to keep up with technology when you’re working with those tools?

I haven’t done any sound courses and I’m not a ‘computer wiz’ and so, for me, it started off with hours of YouTube tutorials. I swear I have wasted, well not wasted it’s been very useful, but I’ve spent a lot of my time watching YouTube tutorials trying to learn how to use the programs that I use. So because I started playing guitar and viola and then keyboards, in the last couple of years it has sort of been about trying to keep up and trying to catch myself up with that tech-savvy world that I haven’t been a part of for very long.

I would be the worst at YouTube tutorials, I’m so easily distracted I’d end up just binge watching CinemaSins or something.

Well, I just can’t read manuals. They drive me mental. Manuals are my worst nightmare. I would much rather someone teach it to me, actually come over and help me or, if I can’t get that, I’ll YouTube it. It’s all about self teaching. I’ve learnt through error a lot of times too. It’s really funny, some people come and talk to me about the gear that I’ve got like “How great is this function?” and I’m like “Oh, it can do that? Great!” *laughs* So I’m constantly learning.

You could always just say “Yeah, I love that function…” but secretly be like “Yeah, new ideas for the next song!”

Exactly.

‘Ninja’ was the first single off the EP, and it came out quite a while ago. How long has this EP been in the works?

Quite a while. I actually wrote ‘Ninja’ a couple of years ago now but I’ve made quite a few versions of it along the way. This EP has taken a long while to make because I’ve hand-picked a lot because I wanted the EP to sit together as a nice little package that someone can take home and listen to from start to finish. I didn’t want to rush anything, especially because bAnoffee, like I was saying, is so ‘for me.’ I really started it as something to help me get by, so I’ve never felt rushed. I’ve never felt like I had a label who is setting deadlines for me, or like my music is going to ‘lose trend’ or something because it’s not about that for me, it’s about the process and the satisfaction of making a song that helps me feel something or makes me feel something. Ninja was written about 3 years ago and I’ve slowly been adding songs to the list that I would like to be on there. I think the album will come along a bit quicker because I’ve got quite a long list of stuff now that I’ve been working through but this EP, it’s really special to me so I wanted to do it properly.

I guess in this market, I don’t really want to say market because that makes me sound like one of ‘them’, but in this climate for music you can get a lot off just one EP.

Yeah, I think it’s different these days! It’s all about singles… I feel like when I was a kid albums would be released and that would be a huge deal and you’d slowly work your way through the album and a year or two later they’d release another whereas now you can release a single and a clip and that can last on its own for quite a while, or I certainly hope so because that’s what I’ve done *laughs*. But I really do think it’s more about the singles and about milking each piece for everything that it is worth instead of just moving on really fast to the next thing that’s exciting. I’ve tried to do that with my songs, like working with Alice Glenn and putting visuals to the singles I have released and I’m hoping to do that with the other tracks as well. It feels like an album to me even though it’s not. It feels as big to me, and as important to me as an album would be.

So is there any one artist that’s had a major impact on you musically?

I don’t think there’s one, I grew up with a real array of music that has helped me form the taste and style that I have. My parents are very much into country music so I grew up listening to a lot of James Taylor and Gillian Welch and even locals like The Waifs. Then as I grew older I got really into R’n’B and Hip-Hop so I was listening to a lot of TLC, Arthur Russell, Janet Jackson – it changed a lot. One person who really helped me growing up was Nick Huggins who started Two Bright Lakes with my sister. He had a fantastic way of meshing together electronic music with more organic instruments and more organic sounds and styles that he listened to. I think that’s when I started to realise that I could do both and I wouldn’t be, sort of, betraying either side if I tried to make music with both organic instruments and computers, synthesizers and sequencers. He sort of really encouraged me in that way, so he’s been a big figure in my life musically and helped me a lot.

That was a really long winded and whiny answer wasn’t it, I was like “No there isn’t one person, actually yes there is!”

It’s fine. I have this habit of asking people really, really difficult questions. We have a regular section on our website called the Five by Five which is just a five question Q&A and the first question on there apart from “Who are you?” is “Who is your favourite Melbourne artist right now?” and everyone just goes “What? You can’t answer that! That’s ridiculous!” so I made myself do the Five By Five for our birthday and I was like “I wrote this question and I can’t even answer it!”

Yeah, that’s so hard! And in my defense, that was a really hard question too. I think I got through it OK.

Yeah sorry, I have a habit of doing that. I think you did OK though. I hope this one is easier: are there any artists that inspire you that might surprise people?

I think the people who inspire me used to surprise people but I’ve talked about them a lot, let’s think about someone else. I listen to a lot of Arvo Pärt, who I love, who is a classical composer, and he really inspires me because of how minimal his songs can be and how you can wait 5 minutes for a certain violin part to come in that just makes everything worth it and makes you appreciate music in a whole new way. I think that he, in the past couple of years, has inspired me a lot in terms of appreciating space in music and reminding myself to keep space in the songs that I make.

Awesome! So kind of taking the ‘less is more’ approach.

Exactly.

And, finally, you’re heading up to BIGSOUND!

I am! I’m excited! I’m going with Good Manners, my management company, and we’re actually all playing so we’re getting a big house together and staying up there for a week. I’ve never played BIGSOUND, I’ve been to CMJ in New York and I’m told it’s quite similar. So I’m really excited to get out there and hear some of the other bands that are playing, and go to the seminars and really get involved, I think it’s going to be heaps of fun. And it’s also the start of my EP tour so, it’s a big deal for me!

Well we’ll be there so maybe we’ll catch up! Who are you most looking forward to seeing up there?

I’m actually really looking forward to seeing LUCIANBLOMKAMP who’s another artist with Good Manners. I’ve been listening to him a lot and I’m really excited for that. He’s awesome.

Well hopefully he’s looking forward to seeing bAnoffee…

He’s probably like “Oh no, I have to listen to that girl probably. Cos we’re staying in the same house, such a nuisance, that stupid ’Ninja’ song…”

As we say our goodbyes, I thank Martha for her time and she casually says, “Yeah, I hope the recording worked!”

Fortunately, it did.

Wes Fahey

bAnoffee’s Self-titled EP is out now via Two Bright Lakes / Remote Control

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