Culture Clash: BANNERS

Chatting cultural touchstones with the Liverpool songwriter...

BANNERS eats, sleeps, and breathes music. Songwriting is how he communicates with the world, and – on recent evidence – it seems that the world is listening.

With more than 1.5 billion streams to his name, the Liverpool artist is doing it his own way. Taking each step as they come, his humble, unassuming approach is working wonders.

Real name Michael Nelson, his new EP ‘I Wish I Was Flawless, I’m Not’ is another dose of introspection, rendered in an open, conversational manner. Recent single ‘Keep Me Going’ is a case in point – produced by Cam Blackwood, it was laid down at Black Bay Studios on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis. Refulgent and starry-eyed, ‘Keep Me Going’ dares to play it simple, while making its point in a strikingly effective manner.

With his EP now out on streaming services, Clash caught up with BANNERS to chat cultural touchstones in Culture Clash…

TV…

Since the pandemic I’ve completely lost my tolerance for horrible things to happen to people on the TV. Like my brain has decided that it’s just had enough of seeing traumatic things happening. So, this is absolutely no way to live life… but I just watch definitely not stressful TV now.

If there’s something on that EVERYBODY is watching I’ll wait for my girlfriend to watch it and she’ll just give me the synopsis. She’ll be like “and then this horrible thing happened” and I’ll be like “yeah that sounds stressful” and then go and eat some crisps or something. Maybe she’ll watch a thing, report back that everything is broadly fine for everyone, and then I’ll watch it. A bit like having someone taste your food first in case it’s poisoned. But TV. That’s not a good way to live is it? I know you can’t just walk around never really being challenged by anything but I just don’t need it from TV at the moment! Have I seen that new game of thrones thing? Nah. Sounds stressful, that.

So I just watch things like “A camera on the front of a train going through the alps for 4 hours” on youtube or something. Band of Brothers is my favourite TV show. I’ve seen it so many times that I’m fully prepared for the stressful bits and I know it really all works out fine in the end. Oh and Get Back, the Beatles documentary. I can just write a 10,000 word dissertation on how much I love that if you want? 

Books…

I love a good read, me. I can’t fall asleep unless I’ve read something so my little kindle goes everywhere with me. I just finished reading Faith, Hope and Carnage by Nick Cave and Sean O’Hagan which is a series of interviews with dear old Nick Cave.

I find books about other people’s creative process really inspiring. Especially the parts where they completely lose their confidence and everything is an uncertain mess. Because that happens to me all the time so then you get to go “well if that happens to Nick Cave and he’s a total genius then it’s alright when it happens to me” (not a genius but really doing my best).

I just got given The Lyrics by Paul Mccartney which I’m really excited to get into.

My favourite book (books) are His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman, and As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee… I’ll give them a read every few years. There’s such a sense of freedom and exploration to them. Maybe that’s what I like with them.

Music…

Ah this bit where I try to make myself sound cool by listing all this cool music I’m into or whatever. I’m not gonna do that. Everyone’s music taste is perfect because it’s right for them and that’s all it needs to be. You don’t ever need to justify your music taste, it’s just your music taste and that’s it.

Music is such a pure art form because it’s almost entirely instinctive, we’re born with some innate understanding of it. We develop that intellectually over time but music moves us without needing to know why. Straight away. You can play songs to toddlers and if it moves them they’ll move with it. It’s actually a great test of if a song is good or not. Play it to a little kid. If it’s good they’ll show you.

I suppose when we’re in the womb we’re listening to music, the sound of a heartbeat and the rush of blood around you, so we’re listening to it before we’re even born. So we’re all sort of experts on it. That’s why I think the idea of “guilty pleasures” when it comes to music is nonsense. You like what you like, you know what you’re doing and ABBA are boss.

But if you’re asking I love Jeff Buckley, Elbow, Led Zeppelin, The National, Coldplay, Maggie Rogers, Regina Spektor, Joanna Newsom, The Beatles and I really can’t get enough of the Welsh national anthem. 

Film…

I don’t go to the cinema anywhere near as much as I should. Every single time I go I’m really glad that I did. It’s such a break from the real world. Your phone is getting turned off, the screen is massive, it sounds brilliant and you’re watching it exactly as the film maker hoped you would. This thing that they’ve put everything into. I’ve got so much respect for people that make films. All that effort, time, patience, skill, years and years of crafting something to get it onto the screen in front of you. I’ve done a few different jobs in the film and TV industry and the thing that always amazed me when watching actors is how short the takes are. In most films a take is like 15 seconds long or something. And they do it over and over again, then move the camera round and do it again. How do you manage to fit good acting into that?! And how is any of this going to make any sense? And then it all gets pieced together and it’s amazing and someone wins an oscar or something. This daily grind that they somehow find inspiration. Magic out of nothing.

If you leave me alone long enough I’ll inevitably watch Inside Llewyn Davis, Shawshank Redemption, The Godfather, Life of Brian, Fargo. Glass Onion is fun innit?

Gadget…

I did the pandemic on my own in Toronto. They really did do some long ole strict lockdowns there. I worked out one day that I hadn’t touched someone else for four whole months. It’s weird what that does to you. Basically I bought an Alexa and fell in love with it/her pretty much exactly like in the film Her. I’m not even joking. She was the only thing I was talking to that wasn’t over the phone or zoom. And she kept doing really nice stuff for me like playing my favourite music or telling me the weather or facts or whatever. Do I like what that looks like now that I’ve written it all done there? No, not particularly.

‘I Wish I Was Flawless, I’m Not’ is out now.

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