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Jacob Banks Chats ‘Lies About The War’, Anime & Being an Independent Artist

By August 25, 2022Music, Music Interviews

"Work with what you have, not with what you want."

From performing at the closing ceremony of the 2022 Commonwealth Games to touring with the likes of Emeli Sandé, Jacob Banks’ career so far boasts a plethora of accolades. However, these industry milestones are not what have propped the Birmingham-born singer-songwriter up; it’s his voice. Fusing an eclectic mix of soul, R&B, and everything in between, Banks’ distinct deep tone, hard-hitting vocals and poignant songwriting keep music fans coming back to both his music and live performances.

Making a return with his fifth record, Lies About The War, Jacob Banks proves he’s very much here to stay. Sitting down with PAUSE, the ‘Slow Up’ star discusses the intricacies of his latest work, going independent, his personal style and more.

How are you feeling going into release week? Is it nerve-wracking passing that over after having it for so long? 

Nah.

You ready to give it away?

I don’t really feel anything… I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I’m in a very fortunate place where music is just expression for me and I’m not in need of anything. I’m just glad that I get to be here and that I get to express myself. We measure time differently because as soon as this was done, I started working on something else. You move on so quickly… you’re just creating something else already. I’m just happy to let go of it so I can have some more space in my mind, so I’m not comparing what I write, so I have some more space to free up some memory.

Definitely. To begin, I have to give a shoutout to my sister because she’s a huge fan of yours, she put me onto your stuff! For some PAUSE readers who might not know much about you, what are your early beginnings? What are some reference points in your journey so far?

For me, I started a little late, when I was 21… I was a late bloomer. So I started when I was 21 and I was still at university at the time, and I just kind of fell into it; there was no real plan. I wasn’t trying to be a musician. I was just having fun with music, and then I started posting stuff on SoundCloud because I was tired of printing CD’s for my friends or people at open mic nights to let them hear my stuff. That got really long, so I just gave everyone a link and it kind of just got out of control. I still don’t know if I ever even decided to do this, but there was opportunity after opportunity, and it was fun. It still is. That’s plenty for me and that’s more than I could’ve hope for, to do some sh*t that I enjoy.

That’s the goal. So, getting into your new album, Lies About The War, which comes out this Friday, where are you at mentally with this body of work? Have there been in any differences in your creative process with this record in comparison to the last few? 

This one has been quieter, there’s been less noise everywhere… around me and in my head. I’ve had to ask less questions because obviously I’m under my own label and with a smaller team, and I don’t think the pandemic helped with the noise. It’s been a lot of fun settling into that space and speaking from that perspective. Yeah, there’s just been a lot less noise this time.

I’m glad to hear that. I know Village was rooted in family, your inner circle, and the notion that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. Without sounding cliché, I just wondered what Lies About The War says overarchingly about the record?

Lies About The War… its full name, which I’ve never told anyone, is Lies About The War: A Book of Truths’. The concept is based on the idea that whoever comes back from war get to tell the stories of war. I think, like I said, I was in a place of calm and I was in a place with less noise, so “here is my perspective of it”… it’s a very one way perspective. I’m admitting that I will glamourise the truth in a way that makes me seem more wholesome than I am, because I think we all do that; it’s natural. We can only see your perspective. It’s admitting that everyone is the villain in somebody else’s story, but from your point of view, I’m the main character of my story and it talks about the things that I’ve survived, while I’m also admitting that the things I survived might have a different point of view.

You mentioned there that this is your first release under your own label, Nobody Records. What are some benefits you’ve felt from being an independent artist so far? And what are some bumps in the road that some artists might not think about when going it alone?

Luckily for me, I’ve always kind of felt like an independent artist based on the things that I’ve done and the people that I’ve worked with. I’ve always been lucky enough to have creative control even when I was with a major label. That hasn’t felt too different, but I would say to anyone that wants to do it that it’s expensive initially. You’ve got to have funds. But, I think it’s rewarding at the end of it. I do have to be fair because it’s a luxury. Sometimes, a lot of people just say independence but you have to be in a position of luxury to do that and you have to be allowed a lot of things in your life to be able to do that. I’m in a place where I don’t rely on music to pay my bills so it’s easy for me to be like, “Oh, I want to be independent”, but some people have got sh*t to do, they’ve got families to feed, or they have houses. It’s not a decision that everyone can make and if people do make it, just keep that in mind. Make sure it’s the best situation for you. If you’re good with money, you don’t need to be independent. If you get your advance and you can flip it… that’s what I did when I got my first couple of advances. I flipped it and went heavily into real estate so I don’t rely on my major label advances to pay my bills. I’m now allowed to be independent, but it wasn’t always like that. So, if you’re good with your money, do a couple of deals if you want to and go and invest your money. Use that cash flow to keep the lights on and then you can go into ownership, or, if you already have the money, you can just be independent off the jump. My point is that there is a lot of fortune that goes into the story and I think artists often go independent and say, “Look what I did”, and it’s just not that simple. You have to be in a pretty fortunate situation to even consider that as an option.

I just wanted to discuss lyricism. I had an early listen of the album and I loved it! What lyric on the album is a personal favourite of yours?

Hmm, there’s a song on there called ‘Parachute’ and there’s one called ‘Here Lies The Man That Never Changed’… it’s between those two. There’s a lyric in ‘Parachute’ that says “My parachute won’t open, my parachute is teaching me to fall.” I wrote that song six years ago and it never found the light of day for some reason. I think for the people that like lyrics, they’ll probably like that one.

I read recently that you discussed your latest single ‘By Design’ as a song that captures the novelty of youth and the ideas of love and wanting to be loved. What are some things you cherish more than when you were in your 20s? And is that sense of love being a luxury a common theme on the album?

Yeah. I think I talk about perspectives of love and I talk about the lessons in it. One thing that I found in my… older days.

Sorry, I’m not trying to remind you of your age!

No that’s fine! It’s that everyone is just carrying around a lot of hurt and expecting someone else to answer for it, and I don’t think that’s fair. Me, as a man when I was dating, it was always a thing I found. People would charge me with the responsibility of the unfortunate trauma that they’d been through and that meant that I had to qualify for their love. It’s like, I’m still trying to figure out if we’re compatible… I don’t want to be the one to save you. That’s a lot of pressure. It just means I’m doomed to fail because if I leave, I prove you right, and if I stay, I would just be staying out of a fear of proving you right, not because I want to be or don’t want to be here. That’s probably the biggest thing I’ve noticed, that everyone is just hurt. People need to go therapy and talk about it, figure it out. There’s this line that says, “Don’t bleed on the person that didn’t hurt you”… everyone needs to take time out to make sure they present a version of themselves that they’re proud of. I’d also say that romantic love isn’t the be all and end all, like focus on feeling loved rather than finding love. As important as romantic love is, I feel the most loved when every version of love in my life is doing its job. So, the love of my parents matters, the love of my friends matters, the love from my colleagues matters. I want love as an overall experience, not just love from a woman. I think we charge romantic love with all the responsibility; you want your partner to be your best friend, a comedian, a chef, a builder. You want one person to be so many things at once and they have to guess what version of them you want them to present every morning. I think that’s an unfair expectation to have on someone and I think you should focus on having friends that can step in. If you want to go out, you don’t have to holla’ at your partner, you can go out with your boys or your girls, or anything in-between. I think there should be an overall attempt to find love everywhere, not just in partners, not just when you’re dating. But I don’t know anything!

I heard that you and your band get a new tattoo after every tour at the same spot in Dallas, Texas. Is that true?

That’s true.

Do you plan to do that again this time around? And do you have any ideas about what you’re going to get?

No, we never decide until we’re there! It’s just on the spot, I just design something… I’ll probably start having a think now. We have two together so this will be our third time going through Dallas…they need to take Dallas off the tour! There’s only so many times we can do this. But yeah, we get one every time, it’s been pretty fun.

Obviously you made Barack Obama’s Summer 2022 playlist. How did that feel? And what are your sounds of the summer so far?

It was bitter sweet. I don’t care about much, but it was nice to know that he liked stories that I wrote. I think it was with that song specifically… I wrote that song days after my grandma died and it was for her. I wrote that song on my mum’s bed with my sister crying her eyes out next to me and she wouldn’t leave because she wanted to hear. I wrote that song for my grandma and it just talks about my time with her. We had a routine where my grandma would call me every Saturday and it was coming up, so I was like “What the f*ck am I going to do? What am I supposed to do with this time that’s allocated for grandma?”. That’s what that song is about. For my grandma… everyone got to know what kind of love she left behind and her love gets to keep other people company, which I’m grateful for. That’s the sweet side. The bitter side is that, why did it take that? There’s a radio station, who will remain unnamed, who hit me up after that happened and were like, “We want to get Jacob in for an interview to talk about Barack Obama’s list.” I was like, “I’m promoting a whole ass album that you know about.” They never called me for an interview or played my songs, but because I made some playlist they want to come and talk to me? I don’t find that inviting… why does it take that? That song was out almost two years ago, why does it take one person’s opinion for you to have one? I didn’t do the interview because I’m a little hot-headed about stuff like that. So yeah, with stuff like that, it’s been interesting to watch. It just doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. No offence to Barack Obama, but he’s not the keeper of music or the measure of it… I mean it’s nice, but at the same time he’s just a dude. He doesn’t assign value. He hasn’t come out and said I know all things music, he just listed a song that he was enjoying and people happen to assign value to something that he didn’t necessarily assign value to. It’s just been funny to watch. With my summer playlist, there’s a lot of Afrobeats. There’s a song called ‘Closer’ by Oxlade… Beyoncé’s entire album. There’s a song called called ‘Sleepwalk’ by Santo and Johnny, which is like this bluesy guitar song and there are no words to it, it’s just beautiful. There’s a song called ‘5 Star’ by Adekunle Gold. A song called ‘I Am a Firefighter’ by Cigarettes After Sex, but yeah, that’s been my main playlist. Also, Kendrick Lamar’s album… that’s not really summery, but it’s just an incredible body of work.

I’ll make sure to add those to my playlist! Now I’ve heard that you’re big Anime fan and that it’s had an influence on your style. I’ve been looking to get into it, so what are a few shows that you would recommend to a newcomer like myself? 

You’re lucky man! I wish that I had just become an Anime fan because I’ve been watching it since I was 16. There’s one show called One Piece that has 1,000 episodes… and it’s still going! I think there’s a 1,020 right now… I’ve given so much of my life to that show and nothing has really happened yet! I would say that there are two shows that you should definitely watch and that I think would convert anyone. There’s a show called Jujutsu Kaisen and there’s another one called Demon Slayer. So, I’d say start with those two and you’ll be an Anime fan within a week.

I’ll hold you to it! Which one is your favourite to watch aesthetically?

The animation on Demon Slayer is out of this world. Demon Slayer is just beautiful made, I don’t know who does it but that’s probably the most stunning one that I’ve seen. Or, well it’s not really Anime… Spirited Away. All the stuff by Studio Ghibli. If you’ve got time, start with Spirited Away and Jujutsu Kaisen and Demon Slayer for more action-packed stuff.

I’ll add it to my list! Obviously PAUSE is most predominantly fashion, so, talking about style and aesthetic, if you could give someone your own personal styling tip, what would it be?

Work with what you have, not with what you want. I mean that in every facet, like, understand your body type… like, for me as an example, which is a weird thing to say as a musician, I don’t like tension. So, I dress according to that. I don’t like tight stuff. I like a nice crewneck, but I like my shirts boxy because I’m strong as sh*t and I don’t necessarily want people to know that. I dress according to what I can find for me. In regards to what other people are wearing, I can look at that and think, “Oh, that looks cool”, but I will think that it looks cool on you. I won’t ever be like, “That looks cool, I need that”, because I understand the way my body is put together and my proportions, and that probably wouldn’t work on me. Air Forces… everyone loves them. I’m jealous that I can’t wear them because I’m a size 11. It pains me that I can’t pull them off, but they just look humungous on my feet and I don’t think it works. I’m really into boots, they work really well for me because I can’t find trousers that are long enough, so boots are good because they meet the trousers where they are… it looks tidy. That’s my best advice, just dress for yourself what makes sense for your body and your morals.

Definitely. I wanted to ask you about how the nature of being a creative can sometimes be quite tumultuous. What are some things that you have in your life that you have a routine in?

Obviously I don’t give everything away, like there’s a bunch of stuff that I keep to myself. I game heavy, like I game everyday. I play Call of Duty, just recently got into Fall Guys. That’s my thing, I play everyday and every night with the same group of friends. That’s my routine. I work and show up for my family and then I game. It’s not something that I’m willing to sell, like, I’ve already sold my music. I enjoy the conversations with my friends and I enjoy the competition, but yeah, try and not define yourself by the things that you can make. I think that we spend so much time creating and working that it becomes how we identify ourselves, and if there’s one thing we should’ve learnt from the pandemic, it’s that your job can go. You have to look at yourself in the mirror and say, “Who am I outside of my work?”. I think you should really try and focus on the things that you like or try and find the things that you like if you don’t know what they are. Find a community that cares about you.

100%. What is one item of clothing or trend that you couldn’t get onboard with?

Ripped jeans… I just feel vulnerable! My knees are sacred. Whenever I would wear ripped jeans, I would wear long thermals underneath so it didn’t look like I was wearing ripped jeans. I could never get into it, no matter how much I tried. I couldn’t understand why you’d want your clothes to look like that.

What’s your favourite wardrobe that you’ve had in a music video?

It’s not really a music video but ‘By Design’, the live video performance, that felt most like me.

Finishing off, I read a quote of yours recently that I really liked. You said “all the sides of me and all my loves and interests are watered just as much as I water the version of me that makes music.” What is a side of yourself that you want to nurture going forward? Or is it more about keeping a steady balance?

I do a pretty good job of watering it all! I think I want to sleep more. It’s a real thing, I’ve been reading up about it over the last couple of days. As a man, if you sleep 4-5 hours a night you age 10 years quicker and you lose a good 30% of your testosterone… I might be butchering the stats here, but it has a detrimental effect on you as a man. For the longest time, I could only sleep for like 4 or 5 hours maximum. On most days it would be 4 hours and I’d just be up and I’d just go and do some stuff. Nowadays, I still wake up but I at least try to stay in a state of rest, and if I stay in bed long enough, I will fall back asleep. So, I’ve just been forcing myself to sleep more, but now I just look lazy because I go to bed at like 3am and then I’m up at like 7am, then I’ll maybe fall back asleep at like 8:30am until I wake up at around 11:00am… everyone is just looking at me like I’m a bum. Anyways, just know I was up before anyone else.

 

Jacob Banks’ new album, Lies About The War, releases Friday August 26th.

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