BANKS Gets Wise on Her Upcoming Album ‘III’
Jillian Banks, a.k.a. BANKS, has trouble articulating why and how she writes the songs she writes. As such, the 30-year-old pop singer had no preconceived plan when she was working on her upcoming third album, III — except that it would be about growth.
“[It’s] about going from being a romantic who’s a bit naive and hopeful to being a wise woman,” she tells TIDAL. “But in between you go through pain and you learn people can lie and you learn those hard lessons that are quite painful.”
For her, the way that material flows out is purely intuitive.
“I always want to push my songwriting forward. But I think that [it’s] the death of creativity when you say that you want to do a certain thing; it feels like you’re already limiting yourself when you want to have a certain goal in mind with something. Whereas if you just allow yourself to create and see what happens, it just goes where it needs to go.”
And as BANKS felt herself maturing as both a woman and an artist, she translated that self-assuredness into her most confident and musically impressive songwriting yet.
The Orange County-born musician first came to prominence through a duo of EPs she released back in 2013, which caught the ear of both Zane Lowe and The Weeknd. That same year she opened for The Weeknd during his fall tour, and, in 2014, she released her well-received debut full-length Goddess. She followed that with 2016’s The Altar, a record that expanded on her sleek and moody meld of contemporary pop and R&B.
After a hefty world tour in 2017 and a couple of more one-off singles, “Crowded Places” and “Underdog,” BANKS kept quiet until late last month when she dropped the first single from III, “Gimme.”
“It feels kind of like a slap in the face,” she says of the song, explaining that it’s “about having no shame in who you are and being proud of your own desires.”
BANKS’ music has always been bold, shadowy and self-empowering (one of The Altar’s standouts was called “Fuck with Myself”). But “Gimme” is a decidedly more aggressive beast than any of her previous songs, from its wobbling bass bombs to its unapologetically direct lyrics. “Gimme, gimme, what I want/what I deserve,” goes its hook.
“I wrote it about romantic desires,” she says. “But in general, it’s really about any desire and just getting it, getting what you deserve. Saying it out loud.”
It was through that gut instinct writing style that BANKS was able to capture a range of different characters on this album, each a different version of herself but all connected to her own experiences. That embrace of life’s nuance is reflected in the style of the songs themselves, which jump from intense experimental tracks, to straightforward ballads, to throbbing club numbers like “Gimme.”
TIDAL talked to BANKS about writing an album that documents her personal growth and creativity — and about some of the ways she evolved her sound on album number three.
How do these songs, lyrically or otherwise, feel different compared to your last albums?
All my music is just really a mirror of what I’m going through, and, of course, I’m going through different things than I was when I wrote my last two albums. I think there’s a bit of playfulness on this album that I haven’t experimented with before and I felt really free and really inspired in general.
I was going through a major growth spurt, just as a woman emotionally, over the last few years. You know, really diving deep to confront certain things. New songs, new subject matter, new everything. But same human.
How did you feel yourself growing?
I think in general some of the themes on this album are about learning to let go, learning that life isn’t black and white and that it can be really messy. Letting go of this tight grip on trying to control things and perfectionism. I am a major perfectionist, and it can be painful to be that way.
What was your musical vision while writing this record? Like, was there a specific way you wanted the songs to sound or be presented?
When I make music, I don’t have this vision board of how I want things to turn out. Because then it feels like you’re putting it in a box. It’s a really fluid process and I just make it.
I’ll go in the studio and I won’t know what I’m going to make that day. I’ll think that I’m going to make some sort of ballad, but then I end up making a song like ‘Gimme.’ Or I think that I’m going to make a song like ‘Gimme’ and I end up writing about something that happened during a breakup three years ago that I still needed to process.
You also put your voice through vocal manipulators on this album. What made you want to mess with your voice so much on these songs?
I think it’s funny because my voice is actually quite unfiltered and more on top of the instrumentals on this album. But I think that there are certain songs where I just wanted to have some grit and distortion on them. Because it just felt like it needed it in that certain song.
What was fun about this album is that I felt like I tapped into a few different characters with my voice that I’ve always had. But I really let myself play around with that.
There’s a different part of my throat that I sing from in some of these songs that it almost sounds like I’m using an effect on my voice, but I’m not.
Was there a certain way you wanted the production to sound on this one?
It’s not like a thought-out thing; it all happens in the room. My niece, Georgia, says ‘I love you’ — she’s four — on one of the songs. And there’s another song that has some other voices from little kids.
I’ve never done that before, but I really wanted this hopeful, naive romanticism to be on. Because I feel like this album is about going from being a romantic who’s a bit naive and hopeful to being a wise woman. But in between you go through pain and you learn people can lie and you learn those hard lessons that are quite painful.
TIDAL is proud to announce the world's first music service with High Fidelity sound quality, High Definition music videos and expertly curated Editorial.