In the Deep End with Banff

Benjamin Forbes, aka Banff, is rushing to a sound check for a sold out show supporting Japanese Wallpaper when I call him for a chat. “I just have to get in my car and you’re going to be connected to blue tooth,” he tells me, “I’ve got to be at sound check in half an hour… I’m running a little bit late.” Despite the tight schedule, I notice that he doesn’t sound at all flustered. He has the air of someone who takes everything in his stride, and approaches life similarly to how he delivers his music: with a casual and wistful disposition. When I ask him if he has any tips for combatting the pre-show nerves he laughs it off with a quiet confidence.

“Not taking things too seriously,” he says, “There’s no doubt it will be a pretty great show… there is a little bit of nerves, but for me it’s just about focusing on playing a good show and just enjoying that for myself and hopefully that feeling rubs off on everyone else.”

With the Future Self EP out for a couple of weeks now and a sea of positive hype, it is easy to forget that Banff is still a fledgling in his career. I was surprised to find out that he still manages to fit in a day job around pioneering his own infectious indie sound, and ask how he manages. The answer comes with a verbal shrug; like it’s just how it has always been, and there is no expectation that it should be any different. “I’ve never really thought about it to be honest,” he says, “I really set aside a lot of time to write music in my own time. I kinda just do what I can.”

And what he can do is pretty incredible. Future Self is the kind of EP that stops you in your tracks. It is so easy to get lost in all those hypnotising layers that all of a sudden you’re on your third listen and still completely enthralled. The dreamy indie sojourn is as lovely as a lazy Sunday afternoon in the sun. From the slow building hook of opener Stand In Line to the jangly guitars of The Great Unknown, there is an infectious sensibility that oozes out of the four-track release. There are elements of indie greats like Mac DeMarco, Real Estate and Beach House, but a strong and original vocal melody glides over the top with a dexterity that pulls back and let’s loose at all the right moments.

“The sensibilities of a traditional pop hook is something that I love and I am really attracted to that writing a song,” Ben tells me, “The way that I wanted to treat Future Self as a whole unit of songs is to harness the pop sensibilities in more of a lo-fi way.” On the response to the release he says, “I’ve been so chuffed with how everyone has received all the songs. It’s probably been particularly overwhelming because the whole essence of the project was about getting back to basics and focusing on what music really meant to me, which is all about the writing process and to release music that really captivated that essence of the project and have people really seem to like it and speak really positively about it is really nice.”

Forbes previously played in Brisbane band Little Casino but moved away from the group in mid 2014 to focus on writing in a solo capacity. “There was sort of a point where I wanted to explore that writing territory myself and that’s how the project came about… It was just going out into new ground and throwing myself into the deep end a bit more…”

The deep end took the form of Mixed Business studios in Melbourne, with Tom Iansek of Big Scary and #1 Dads at the producing helm. “Working with Tom was probably the best opportunity I could have hoped for,” Ben says, “I learnt so much from our time writing and recording together, and since have had such a different perspective on how I approach my writing.” When I ask him what has changed he tells me “I guess a lot of it has to do with the structure. You know, sitting down and thinking about an end-to-end song in one session… I guess it was kind of the appreciation for every little detail that goes into the whole journey across the song rather than just getting hung up in little sections.”

All Again stands out on the EP with its introspective and restrained mood and I am surprised when Ben says, “We didn’t actually plan to record that song at all.” I confess that I have probably listened to it about 20 times in the last few days and ask about the whispered vocal track that lingers hauntingly in the background. “It was at a point in the studio where I had a bit of a writers block and I was feeling like I wasn’t in the best creative state,” he says, “It was a real, sort of, frustrated period… Tom came into the studio and I was just jamming All Again on guitar and singing along and he started playing it on piano and that instantly surfaced a whole bunch of new ideas for me and put a total new perspective on the song for me. At that point I wrote the lyrics in about five minutes, which are basically just talking about that frustration and feeling of inadequacy in the writing stage.”

Despite preferring to work as a solo artist, collaboration is still important to help get the creative juices flowing. While Forbes doesn’t have any immediate plans in the works, he tells me about his side projects with artists from the Brisbane scene.

“In my band when I perform live I have Adrian Moro who plays in the project Machine Age. Him and I are always jamming out new ideas and working on songs together. O’ Little Sister with Lucinda Johnson… Her and I have a few writing sessions every now and then. A lot of the time we are working on her music, which is just amazing. So no official collaborations in the pipeline but it is definitely something that I am open to and that I really get excited about.”

And it is an exciting time to be talking to Banff, with the future wide open and all the possibilities of a career at it’s beginnings stretching out ahead. After tonight’s show he will start preparing for his own national headlining tour, as well as continuing to promote the EP. “I’ll be heading back into a proper writing phase after the tour,” he tells me, “then looking forward to recording another single in 2016. I get really inspired by the response to the EP and also by what I have learnt out of the solo project in these early stages.”

As we say goodbye I have the sense that he is on the cusp of something very special and look forward to watching as the journey unfolds.

You can get the EP here and be sure to get tickets to the shows here.

ADELAIDE SA – Sat 11th July at The Jive, w/ Boo Seeka & Lanks.
MELBOURNE VIC – Fri 7th August at at The Grace Darling.
SYDNEY NSW – Fri 14th August at the Oxford Art Factory – Gallery Bar.
BRISBANE QLD – Fri 21st August at Black Bear Lodge.

You can also check out our photo diary of Banff’s time in the studio last year here.