Banoffee Goes From Background To Album Cover

Feb 23, 2020
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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Banoffee was a background musician for megastars like Taylor Swift and Charli XCX. But the singer-songwriter didn't want to stay in the background forever. So she made an album. It's her debut. And it's called "Look At Us Now Dad."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COUNT ON YOU")

BANOFFEE: (Singing) You can count on me now, you know. You can count on me now, you know.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Banoffee was born Martha Brown. She grew up in Melbourne, Australia, part of a tight-knit musical family.

BANOFFEE: I actually started off playing folk music with my sister Hazel (ph). And we were in a band when I was a young teenager and toured in that band a lot together. And then through that, I discovered synthesizers and my love for electronic music, which is where Banoffee came from.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COUNT ON YOU")

BANOFFEE: (Singing) Na-na-na-na. Na-na-na-na.

I moved to LA in 2017 when I realized that LA just had so many people ready to collaborate and make music. And that was so exciting for me - coming from a smaller city where I felt like maybe I had nowhere else to go.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHEVRON")

BANOFFEE: (Singing) Doing 70 on the freeway, smoke coming out the hood. Tow man says it's 90. I bargain him down to 80.

I think when I first moved to LA, I was working seven jobs seven days a week. I was just a complete mess trying to pay rent, trying to somehow make music within it all.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHEVRON")

BANOFFEE: (Singing) So I dash across the street to the only thing that's open. I need something to eat. Thank God for the Chevron.

My song "Chevron" covers that pretty perfectly. It's a song about when my car broke down on the freeway. And I was so broke that I couldn't afford to get the car towed. And I ended up paying someone money to take the car forever. I also left all of my clothes in the car because I was just not in a place to think about packing. So in order to write music, you need a lot of cash. You need to have the equipment. You need to have the programs. You need to have time to be able to record. It becomes a very expensive hobby until it can become your job.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TENNIS FAN")

BANOFFEE: (Singing) You can go hang with your friends. I know I'm not invited - already made other plans.

I went on tour in 2018 with Charli XCX. On the Taylor Swift tour, I was playing synths for them. And I decided just to keep all of that tour money and put it towards my record, which was an absolute blessing. It came just after I had had my ultimate low and thought I was going to have to move back to Australia.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TENNIS FAN")

BANOFFEE: (Singing) I don't do a backhand. I don't play games. I never been a tennis fan - not in my nature to play, yeah.

I really went back over my entire life to write this album. I went back with a fine-toothed comb and really wanted to understand all of the patterns that had formed within my body. So this album really is a story about my life.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PERMISSION")

BANOFFEE: (Singing) I'll never ask how it felt. You're going to love me and no one else. Don't need your permission, permission.

"Permission" is a very personal song. It was a way of me processing how my boundaries had been broken. I expected people to love me a certain way. But it very quickly twists into something darker and more sinister and speaks about the type of consent that can be broken, that can break someone.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PERMISSION")

BANOFFEE: (Singing) You never asked. You never asked. You never asked for permission.

Everything in this album is about moments in my life. Some of the events happened when I was a child. Some of them happened in my adulthood.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I LIED (INTERLUDE)")

BANOFFEE: (Singing) When you died, I sang to you. I lied, told you I was better, told you I'd look after my mother.

The interludes "I Lied" and "I Let You Down" are songs I wrote after I said goodbye to someone in my life. When they died, I went to their bedside and sat there and sang to them, knowing it was the last time I was going to sit with them. And I made a decision that in order for them to be able to die peacefully, I had to lie. And that was that I was OK, and I was healthy. And at the time, I wasn't. I was very unwell and very depressed. And their last moments on Earth were worrying about me, which I didn't want. I wanted those interludes to bookend the album because it's important for me to have them there as a reminder that I am living up to those lies. I am making those lies truth by making the work that I'm making and by continuing to work as hard as I can.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Banoffee - her debut album is "Look At Us Now Dad."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RIPE")

BANOFFEE: (Singing) You're so clean. I'm dirty, can't tame me. I'd rather sleep in late. You're so overripe. Gaslight in the dark, I see what you are. I can see so far - held you up so high. A battery, I'm energy. You're playing my vibe. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.