Kota Banks has released a live acoustic recording of her new song ‘Yes’, which NME Australia is exclusively premiering today (August 6).
‘Yes’ was produced by Xavier Dunn (who’s previously worked with Jack River, Graace), and appears on Banks’ recently released EP ‘Sweet & The Spice’. The four-track project, which was mostly made in isolation, was released last Friday and includes the songs ‘Snip Snip’, ‘Never Sleep’ and ‘Let U Leave’.
In conjunction with the premiere, NME Australia caught up with Kota Banks to talk about her new ‘Sweet & The Spice’ EP, working with Xavier Dunn and what she’s working on next.
You wrote most of the EP in isolation. How did creativity come about for you during lockdown?
Creativity becomes way more intense for me when I give it space and attention. Because all my shows and travel plans had been cancelled, I had so much time on my hands, and being at home was a quiet free space that encouraged expression!
I was really upset and anxious at the beginning of lockdown, and experimenting with sound and lyrics is how I coped. It was honestly like eating every day – I had to make music. Over time it helped me to mellow and relax among the chaos, you can probably hear that transition sonically over the course of the EP.
You experimented with various genres over four songs on ‘Sweet & The Spice’, from rap to garage to dance. Did any particular artists or albums inspire the stylistic variation?
The garage song ‘Let U Leave’ was heavily influenced by the early 2000s garage scene bubbling in London. Artists and producers like Craig David, Oxide & Neutrino, The Artful Dodger and Misteeq really made me feel at home enough in that world of music that I was brave enough to try something like it myself.
The other genres, while some of them are different for me to write in, I’d kind of been listening to for years. ‘Snip Snip’ was inspired a little bit by grime for me beat-wise, and I love Eminem, so especially when you hear the really outlandish second verse lyrics you might be able to draw a parallel there.
Tell us more about ‘Yes’. It was apparently written two years ago, why only release it now?
This song went through so many phases! Two years ago my music was really experimental, and I felt like I had a “brand” or “style” that I really wanted to stay true to, and to me ‘Yes’ didn’t really fit in to that. So it was pitched, and almost picked up by a huge artist, but I always adored the song and it really stood the test of time.
The fact that two years later it still made me emotional, and I was writing a whole bunch of diverse music, meant that I could justify putting out. Nowadays I care much less about a “sound” or cohesion, my listeners are multifaceted and I also just want to keep things interesting for myself.
What was it like working with Xavier Dunn on the song? How did the collaboration come about?
It’s amazing, he’s honestly one of my favourite people to work with. His whole being just exudes creativity so ideas seem to flow so freely when I’m in his presence. The collaboration just came about from being really good friends. One day we just linked to write at his home studio, and this song came out really fluidly. Lyrically, it was inspired by a poem I’d written a few days prior. I started singing the chorus first, then heard the verse, and then Xav had that cool “yoo hoo” melody idea for the pre, etc.
This live version of ‘Yes’ is stripped down and dreamier. Why did you decide to release a laid-back rendition of the song?
To be honest, I didn’t feel or see anything for a visual for the original song, but I could picture clear as day this acoustic version with wildflowers strewn everywhere and bedsheets as a backdrop: something intimate and in purple. I also felt like there needed to be a version with my un-effected voice on it. I use a lot of Auto-Tune on my voice and that’s a stylistic choice, but I think it’s cool to remind people I can sing without it too!
We hear there’s a bigger project in the pipeline. Can you tell us more about what we can expect?
Yes! I honestly couldn’t be more excited. It’s with a collaborator that I adore, and it’s very experimental but likeable and probably the body of work I’m proudest of. The visuals are insane too. Coming so soon. That’s all I can say still… stay tuned!