Banfi make sweeping, euphoric pop and glistening harmonies, shaded with a bittersweet melancholy.
Their second EP ‘Marlow’ was released via Communion Records earlier this month - followed by a show at London’s Moth Club - featuring tracks inspired by literary greats like Jane Austen and Scott Fitzgerald, and films like Taxi Driver.
The new EP is varied in its musical influences too, with the band citing inspiration from music by everyone from Tom Waits, Nine Inch Nails and Michael Jackson to War On Drugs and Kanye West.
Literary fiction might play a big role in Banfi’s creative process, but they don’t shy away from real-world, contemporary issues like austerity and the Bedroom Tax, or even deeply personal ones like death and mourning.
It’s not surprising then, that their cultural obsessions are fascinatingly wide-ranging. We sat down with the band to find out more…
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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
I’ve always loved Michel Gaundrys films. He works with sadness, loneliness and joy in such a unique way.
The characters are always so intriguing and the stories always seem to demand so much of them - it’s as though Gondry weaves a web and plonks his characters in the middle of it and says ‘get out of that one!’.
All the characters in the relatively small cast each have their very own story that you can sympathise and emphasise with because it feels like they’re all so deeply caught in this web that you root for them to find their way out!
Visually I think eternal sunshine is an absolute masterpiece. He doesn’t use any (or very very minimal) digital effects in his films, they’re all physical effects. The scene where Jim Carey is hiding under the kitchen table as a child is an example of this - they just built a huge “perspective table” so Carey would appear tiny and child like - incredible.
I feel like these physical effects give the film such a realness and they really help connect you to the story and feel for the characters and their predicaments.
Even without any of the above I think if it was just the story written down on its own it would be beautiful and heartbreaking and funny and enlightening all by itself. And I guess that’s the crux of it - if the story can stand up on its own, great and then when you add all of these incredible directorial and visual techniques and great actors to the mix you get an outstanding film/piece of art! (Aaron)
Seinfeld is the best TV show of all time.
It sets the bench mark for all TV shows since and it also sent TV shows into the future when it was first aired.
They tackled political and social issues like no other show was able to before and like no other show has been able to do since.
The cast is so unbelievably perfect you believe entirely that these actors are these characters!
It doesn’t have any fakeness or pull any punches. It points the finger at an issue or a social situation and just lets you sit in it until it resolves of its own volition.
Stop watching whatever else it is you’re watching and WATCH SEINFELD. (Aaron)
I know this sounds ridiculous but at the same time as loving smart phones I genuinely despise them too...
However, without my smartphone I wouldn’t have access to almost every piece of music ever recorded whilst sitting in a lonely bus stop at 2 in the morning, I wouldn’t be able to watch every game of football happening anywhere, any time whilst sitting in the back of a transit van traveling to Berlin, I wouldn’t be able to stay in touch with my family and loved ones so easily whilst being away from them, I wouldn’t be able to watch my favourite film or TV show whilst sitting in a tent waiting for the rain to stop flooding in...
Basically what I’m saying is that you have access to everything you think you might ever need right there in your hand, but at the same time - do we need all of those things? Or would we be experiencing the world and it’s inhabitants more fully with them? Would we be less obsessed with the material culture that is so heavily promoted through social media and the internet? Probably. (Joe)
Howard’s End by E.M. Forster.
This story deals head on with the question of what’s more important, either looking out at the public world of practicality and all the exciting dramas and trying to make things right out there, or looking inside yourself, into the private, into the ordinary personal life.
Forster says: “But in public, who shall express the unseen adequately? It is private life that holds out the mirror to infinity. Personal intercourse and that alone, that ever hints at a personality beyond our daily vision.”
For me, the thing beyond our daily vision he’s talking about are those little moments you get in ordinary personal life that are truly special and full of depth. He calls this stuff ‘the unseen’, and there’s other writers I love who deal with this stuff brilliantly, like Virginia Woolf in To The Lighthouse, John Steinbeck in Winter of Our Discontent, Jane Austen in Mansfield Park and Charles Dickens in David Copperfield (who calls it "the romantic side of familiar things").
In Howard’s End you’ve got characters like the Wilcox family who “avoided the personal note in life. It did not seem to them of supreme importance. Or it may be that they realised its importance, but were afraid of it. Panic and emptiness could one glance behind. But they were not careless, and they left the breakfast table with aching hearts.”
This stuff is important especially now - all the drama in the news about Trump and everything is so big and interesting and it makes it so easy to distract yourself from yourself and your ordinary life - so many UK bands are writing these global outward-looking lyrics about Trump and immigration and all these headline-news topics and I’m not sure it’s the job of songwriters to be doing that - It’s this obsession with ‘bigness’ - I can’t remember the Terry Pratchett book (Maybe Guards Guards?) where he’s talking about the giant turtle that the world rests on, and he makes fun of humans for thinking that anything is amazing as long as its really big.
So I’ll keep reading stories that emphasise the importance of ordinary private life, and that’s what we’re trying to write songs about now. We’ve got a song called 'Fabulous' and it started out as talking too much directly about the Tory government’s austerity and the bedroom tax and all that stuff, and then the song only started to work after reading Forster and deciding to focus on private life, intimacy, and ordinary love. (Joe)
It’s obviously pretty difficult to say what my all time favourite album is, there’s so many that have inspired and motivated me musically. I have a lot of favourite songwriters but in my opinion Billy Joel is one of the all time greats. ‘The Stranger’ is one of those albums where every song is amazing.
The whole album really showcases the diversity in his songwriting and is probably the turning point in his career where he really finds his feet. Its an album for me that I will never get tired of, I regularly listen to the album from start to finish when I’m sitting in the back of the tour van on long drives, staring out of the window and keep noticing new things in the songs with every listen.
I used to play saxophone in high school and ‘Just the way you are’ was one of the songs that got me into it. The whole of the album has some incredible sax playing but that was the song that stuck out for me. I guess I’ve always been a ballad man at heart (even as a very uncool 12-year-old) and I’d say that song and ‘Always A Woman’ are two of the best. Everyone has heard ‘Piano Man’ (which is also a great album) but if you haven’t listened to ‘The Stranger’ do it now. (Chris)
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