ARTIST NAME: The Banquets
SONG TITLE: Black Mirrors
RELEASE DATE: 7th of May, 2021
GENRE: Soul Rock
Melody: Gem: Quite often, I’ll hear Leon playing something new and a melody will just come to me. I usually have to quickly run and get my phone to record it, as we both have very poor memories. I’ll often play around with melodies when I’m on my own and then try them out with Leon; or, Leon will have already have thought of something, so then we’ll both work together to perfect it. I love coming up with the melodies. Once I’ve figured out the melody, the lyrics just seem to come.
Inspiration: Gem: We’re very much inspired by the music we’ve been listening to. For instance, perhaps a lyric that really touches Leon, or for me, I like to take inspiration from different sounds and blend them together to perhaps come up with something bluesy with a twist of country, or something both happy and sad. Lately, our songs have been very much inspired by our moods and things going on around us – which is probably why the songs we’ve been currently working on are pretty dark. Let’s hope things get brighter so we can start producing some more light-hearted material!
Experience: Gem: I think as a band we’d probably have to say our first couple of gigs. We’d only performed at little open mic nights and then we’re very lucky to be asked to support The South on one of their UK tours. So, our very first gig was in front of a crowd of around 400. We were very much thrown in at the deep end, and the feeling was electric for all of us. The South stood up and applauded us backstage when we got back to the dressing room. We felt really proud. Our last gig before the lockdown was pretty memorable too. It was in Stockton, and we had so much fun with the crowd. I think that’s our favorite part of being in a band – when the crowd are completely with us and give us loads of energy. It’s an amazing feeling!
Song Creation: Gem: Probably not in the most orthodox way as I don’t play an instrument… I rely on Leon to come up with something quite raw on the guitar and then I usually lay the melody and lyrics over that. Though sometimes, Leon has created the whole song, so I just let him take the reins with it. Sometimes, I’ll have some lyrics pre-written which I’ll put to a song and come up with the melody organically. Other times, I’ll have a whole song idea in my head and I’ll try to translate that to Leon without knowing any of the chords. A bit difficult, but it seems to work for us, and Leon always puts his own spin on it.
Impact: Gem: Perhaps by imitating what inspires us. For me, it’s music that really uplifts the spirits, or music that gives you that visceral feeling where you can’t help but tap your foot. Lyrically, no weepy love songs – we try to keep it varied so anyone and everyone can be inspired by it.
Leon: The main thing is to make sure that it inspires us. If we don’t feel an electric feeling or don’t feel excited by it, we don’t engage with it. But whether what inspires us inspires other people too, that’s their judgment.
Promotion: Gem: In such a competitive industry and digital age, promotion is more important than ever. However, it’s my least favorite part of the entire process. I wish we could just write music, play music, perform music, and record music…. whilst making fun little music videos on the side. But unfortunately, the reality is a lot more involved. Whether it’s a new single, an album, or a gig, there are so many stages of promotion. Without the promotion though, it’s very hard to get your music out there. Particularly in this new age of lockdown, I don’t know what we’d have done without it really.
Activities: Gem: Aside from music, I’m a bit of a nerdy bookworm. Currently in the long process of writing a book – a historical fiction set in 17th century London – which takes up a lot of my free time. English Literature is pretty much my life outside of music/the band. But it always finds its way into our songs…. hence where ‘Mr. Rochester’ was born.
As a band, we’d all love to be musicians full-time, but realistically, that’s just not possible… at least not right now anyway. So apart from music, our day jobs take up a lot of our time. We won’t give up the dream though!
Leon: Guitar, a little piano.
Fran: Drums/percussion, guitar, piano (badly), Spoons
Tom: I can play any instrument (better or worse), except vocals. Love to make noises, especially using my four-string bass.
Gem: My voice! Oh, and the tambourine of course.
Music Background: Gem: I don’t have any formal education in music; I didn’t even take it at GCSE. But music has always been such an important part of my life. I hate doing anything without music. A room just feels empty without it. My mom’s side of the family are all very musical: a lot of them can play instruments, sing, have been in bands (or still are). But, my main influence is my dad (who sadly isn’t here with us anymore). Dad lived and breathed music. His CD collection was insane! So when it comes to the question of who has inspired a lot of our songs, I’m going to say my dad too, as he’s developed my taste in music and helped me to understand good music.
Leon: I’ve always been interested in playing an instrument as far as memory goes back. It started with piano lessons and then I moved on to the guitar. I always wanted to play an instrument and always wanted to write songs as well.
Fran: I’ve been in bands since I was fourteen years old, ranging from rock/funk/pop. I come from a long line of musical lineage.
Tom: It’s my older brothers who showed me what good music and rock n roll is. I began music education in classical guitar then started playing in my first metal band when I was fourteen. I stopped this quickly in the second year when I was forced into a choir class – a voice mutation excuse for another year in a row was not enough. I then continued a rock n roll journey with different genres on my own.
Melody and Rhythm: Leon: Both of them are just a construct of your emotion in art. It’s the chaos ordered. I think that’s what draws people to them. There’s a spectrum: from the timid to the hardcore, and I like the center of the spectrum way more than I do the periphery.
Goals: Gem: To have a fan base that enjoys coming to see us, and that trusts us to be a good band that they enjoy coming to see. It’s been really hard over the past couple of years with so many gig cancellations/ postponements. We were doing so well. But luckily, the fans that we have made have really stuck by us over these difficult times. A UK tour would be nice and an album.
Recording Experience: Gem: We recorded our very first EP pretty roughly – in the attic room of our previous bassist. We stood a bed up vertically to create the right acoustics and tried to drown out the sound of rain on the windows as best we could. Fran and Felipe produced the entire EP, and to be fair, it’s pretty good. But then we wanted something cleaner, more professional that we could properly promote. So we just jumped straight in with our debut Red Sky Morning, creating an ambitious music video to go with it. As a band, we all played a much bigger role in the entire process. Since then, we have spent a lot of time in the recording studio. To be honest, I kind of leave the boys to the recording process. They like to play around with instruments and different sounds. We had Fran playing the harmonium in Red Sky and the bongos in What Ya Sayin’? I always know when something doesn’t sound right or when I’m not happy with something, but I don’t necessarily know how to fix it… that’s the boy’s domain. But I do like experimenting with my vocals on each track.
Recording: Gem: Trying to achieve the sound that we can achieve live. It doesn’t always translate to a studio-recorded song; it can often lose its passion and energy. Also, it can become quite a tedious process. The more elements we add, the more complicated and difficult it gets. But we never seem to learn our lesson. I swear that for each song we keep adding more elements. I can’t wait until we do a completely stripped-back song.
Mistake: Gem: I don’t think we’ve been going long enough to answer this. But perhaps a mistake I could foresee would be not trusting in your own judgment or not having the confidence to speak out about your vision for a song. It’s easy to take advice/listen to the opinions of others and think that they’re right/ you’re wrong. But we should all listen to ourselves a bit more.
Composition: Gem: It starts where Leon comes up with the basic hook, and from that, a song will be constructed…. of which we may need a middle eight or something to complete it. I often encourage Leon to try different things. Some songs come in a reverse way where I’ll have lyrics and a melody, and Leon tries to construct something as close as he can to it. Fran is all about the structure of the song and getting that… he always adds the finer details to make it sound polished.
Relevance: Leon: Music is the greatest art form of all the arts. It moves people in a way that no other art form does. There’s not one culture in the world that doesn’t create music. Lots of cultures have creative pictorial art, but all cultures have music and dance at their heart. It can be high culture; it can be low culture. In every stratosphere of western culture, each part of society has a form of music to represent it. Whether that’s gangster drill music in London or the Royal Philharmonic orchestra. Music is everything.
Gem: There’s a lyric in one of our songs: “Like a beautiful canvas transforming an empty room.” To me, that’s exactly what music does. I cannot bear a room without music – it’s like a room with whitewashed walls and no pictures. Music is the color of life, and without it, the world would be grey.
Song: Gem: To appreciate ‘Black Mirrors’, you really need to know what a black mirror is. Coined by Charlie Brooker, a black mirror is a reflection you see on your device when you turn it off. We are all constantly staring at our screens these days; there seems to be no escape from them. However, during a power cut one night, we got a taste of life without them – and this is where the song stems from. ‘Black Mirrors’ aims to make us really think about what our devices are taking away from us.
Artist’s name: Gem: The band name was born out of my nerdy love of English Renaissance Literature. The Literature of the Renaissance was often centered on the kings and queens of the time, and their feasting, banqueting, festivity, and pageantry. I see us as the court jesters performing at a royal banquet – so The Banquets seemed quite fitting. And it somehow suits us. It didn’t fill the boys with enthusiasm at first, but I’m pretty sure they like it now.