“I think this is mad because I just wrote this to impress somebody and now I get to play it to all these people. It’s a real totem of following your dreams and getting somewhere with it.” – BANNERS
English singer/songwriter BANNERS is on tour promoting his EP of the same name. He put on a riveting show at Osheaga in Montreal this year and agreed to an interview where we discovered that he was the sweetest guy ever. Find out more about what inspired his songs, his future plans, and his look on life.
Confront: What do you think of Osheaga so far?
BANNERS: It’s the greatest thing that I’ve ever seen in the world. I really love Montreal. I’ve only been here once before, and it was in the winter, so it was great but you can’t walk around too much ‘cause it’s so cold. The crowd that I just played to was so lovely, but I knew it was going to be great. I’ve always wanted to play here so it’s a real treat to do it.
Confront: What’s the story behind the stage name BANNERS?
BANNERS: I liked the idea of it being a one word thing as opposed to it being my name. I like that mystery of is it a band or is it a dude? My parents did a great job naming me but Mike Nelson is just a little bit boring I think. It’s not a criticism, but I just like the slight mystery of it. And I like the idea that it’s a blank canvas, you can make it whatever you want as long as it doesn’t have any negative connotations.
Confront: What was the main source of inspiration for your EP?
BANNERS: It sounds like a bit of a cliché but I think the main thing is to feel whatever it is you’re writing about genuinely. If you want other people to be emotionally involved in it, you have to be emotionally involved first. Otherwise it’s just going to be some nonsense.
BANNERS: It’s always one of positivity. And that’s why music festivals are great. You get to go up on stage and in a world that’s going a bit mad you get this total positive experience and you get to be part of that. And they’re all, you know, about relationships and people you care about and saying you care about them.
Confront: How would you say touring in North America compares to touring in the UK or Europe?
BANNERS: I have no idea. Until about a month ago, I never played in England. I have done all over Canada. It’s really weird especially since I come from Liverpool and it’s a super music-y city. I used to work in a recording studio in Liverpool quite a lot and I went to work in Canada once, met some musicians and I kept in touch, played them some music and one thing led to another, and record labels got involved. I live in Toronto.
So I don’t know what it’s like in England. I’m kind of worried, ‘cause people seem to quite like my accent in North America, so it’s quite easy to be a bit charming on stage, and I worry that I’m gonna to go on stage in England and say things and expect people to be charmed. And they’re gonna be like… no [Laughs].
But I can’t imagine it’s better than playing to crowds in Canada. And I did a tour of the US as well and it was brilliant. Such beautiful people.
Confront: Which of your songs is the most meaningful to you right now?
BANNERS: I have a song called “Ghosts.” Most of my songs I wrote with my producer in Toronto, and “Ghosts” is a really old one that I wrote in the middle of the night on my dad’s piano eight years ago to impress a girl once. And it means a lot because I’ve been with it the longest, and when I get to play it in front of all those people, I think this is mad because I just wrote this to impress somebody and now I get to play it to all these people. It’s a real totem of following your dreams and getting somewhere with it.
Confront: Do you have plans for a full-length album?
BANNERS: Yeah. There are some things that I know how to do quite well, like wear stupid pants and sing really high notes, but some things I just don’t know how to do well. So I’ve got enough people that do seem to know what they’re doing around me, like my managers are great, my booking agents are great, my record label’s great. So I’m just gonna let everybody decide and I will do whatever they tell me to do and do it to the best of my ability. We’ll see, hopefully something in the fall.
Confront: What would you say is your motto these days?
BANNERS: It’s funny actually, I really really love a writer called Philip Pullman who’s an English guy, and I was listening to an interview with him the other day and he was talking about how you have to live your life so that when you die, whatever heaven is or whatever heaven you believe in, you have stories to tell. And that’s the most important thing. So that’s how I feel about it. Whatever happens with all of this music stuff, what matters is that I can tell people I played on that stage in Osheaga in front of all those brilliant people in Montreal. I’m not gonna stress too much about being successful, I’m just going to try my best and live my life with stories to tell.