A true musical chameleon, the EP showcases Banks’ diversity as both a songwriter and performer – there’s the garage euphoria of ‘Let U Leave’ and the rap-influenced empowerment anthem ‘Snip Snip,’ both produced by long-time collaborator Swick, the pitch-shifted vocals of dance track ‘Never Sleep’ produced by ChunkyLuv and the romantic pop of the Xavier Dunn – produced latest single ‘Yes’.
The EP’s diversity is partly the result of Banks having more time during isolation to write and play around with styles. As the title suggests, SWEET & THE SPICE offers different moods and genres for any palette and is the next evolution for an unstoppable artist.
“I’m so excited about this EP,” Banks says. “The main theme is creativity and chaos. This year has been so unpredictable… I got to stay home and write so much more than anticipated, so it felt important to react to the times and release more spontaneously.
“It‘s meant to be a body of work that represents the créme de la créme of pop songs across genres, that defies the general rule that an artist has to be cohesive. The title SWEET & THE SPICE represents the many contrasting flavours in the music. I’m a different person every day. I’m quite unpredictable, erratic and ever-evolving, so I guess this translates to how I create… one day I want to write a garage song; the next a dance song; sometimes ballads; sometimes rap songs. They all feel just as authentic to me.
“I want it to be more common for bodies of work to appear disjointed. It can risk polarising the listener, but it embraces richer expression; re-prioritises art over commerce; and reflects the multifaceted nature of people and life.”
Around the Sound hooked up a chat between rising local Perth Pop/ R&B/ Hip Hop artist Young Dapper and Sydney Pop Star Kota Banks to revel in the diversity on her new EP; ‘Sweet & The Spice.’
Young Dapper: Hey Kota Banks, How are you?
Kota: Hi YD, How’s it going?
YD: I’m going great, after the release of “Sweet & The Spice” how are you finding it all?
Kota: It’s been great, I’ve just been kind of saying to everyone, that Friday was a really overwhelming day because, you know, this body of work is what got me through lockdown and kept me happy and coping with everything and all the chaos going on around me, so releasing it was like relief and happiness but also sadness because I kind of like had to let go of all the songs, but yeah I’m feeling pretty good and it’s just nice to see the response. I was a bit nervous considering all the songs were super different and it was really an eclectic mix of music so I was really interested to see the response, it’s been lovely, so I’m very happy!
YD: That’s so awesome, it’s so good because it’s a body of work that kind of shows a whole range of different kinds of styles. I love “Snip, Snip” you can tell straight up that there’s a lot of spice behind that, what’s the inspiration?
Kota: Thank you, I’m glad that you like that one because it was the first one that I put out so people tend to forget about it sometimes but it’s one of my favorite’s too. So the inspiration behind “Snip, Snip” was, I was actually feeling really aggressive that day and I’d been letting the same person just mess with my head for longer than I should have, which I tend to do sometimes especially when I’m romantically interested in someone (laughs), I have a tendency to just overlook all the red flags and so “Snip, Snip” was just me on a particular day, deciding that enough was enough and channelling all of the frustration. Pretty much all of the aggression was directed at myself because it’s one of those “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me” situations and yeah it was just me channelling all of my rage into music which is the most healthy way to channel rage arguably (laughs).
YD: The way you speak, you have a very, very kind soul, I can tell that. It’s very easy to put out a song and be aggressive towards people, but sometimes when you turn it on yourself, you open up to allow other people to be inspired and overcome what they’re going through so that’s amazing.
Kota: Thankyou, Thankyou so much. Yeah, I try not to. Cos’ obviously a lot of my songs are like, not aggressive but they’re quite sassy and I always want to make sure that it’s coming from a place of just inspiring confidence, but I don’t want to put any hate out in the world or anything. I want to inspire confidence and self love, I guess…
YD: And I guess that’s why the EP is called “Spice” & not “Sour”
Kota: Yeah Exactly! I love that, that’s amazing!
YD: In your song “Let U Leave“, that song for me, I’ve got a connection to that song, like throughout my life, a lot of different experiences that have happened to me. I’ve listened to it for the last 3 days on repeat and I absolutely love it. I just wanna know what was your inspiration for the track?
Kota: So, with “Let U Leave“, I love that one too, Thankyou, It’s so nice that you had it on repeat! “Let U Leave” was about another tendency of mine, I wrote about a lot of my tendencies on this EP (laughs) but you know, I’m not very good at talking about my feelings sometimes and I find it difficult to establish, really in the moment, be forthright with my emotions and it’s much easier for me to understand what I’m feeling in hindsight and actually put that into music where it’s not as confrontational. So interestingly, I can be quite confrontational in business but in my personal life I’m much more, umm, I avoid it a little bit more. So “Let U Leave” was just about me, almost regretting not being straightforward about how I felt about someone and just kind of letting it slip through my fingers because I didn’t have the courage in that moment and then just feeling heartbroken afterwards and just living with that regret. So it’s kind of a little bit sadder, it sounds quite dreamy and pretty but it’s actually a little bit of a sad one.
YD: That’s a beautiful thing because that’s the way music plays, you can have a sad song and still have a very good energy about it too, you know?
Kota: Yeah, that’s what I like to do, especially in songs like “Child” and songs earlier on in my catalogue, I love to make something that you can dance to that can have a really serious, sad, meaning behind them and the drum pattern just disguises the heartbreak. That’s kind of what makes the song interesting and a little bit more weighted.
YD: I know from myself, when I write music, sometimes I’ve found I can’t express to the person how I feel so I have to write a song and put it out and that’s how they figure out how I feel (Kota laughs acknowledgingly), Is that something you do yourself?
Kota: Oh that’s so funny, totally, Yeah! I definitely do that and I kind of go through this stage when I’m really nervous for them to listen to the song because it’s very revealing often, like I’m sure you feel the same way when you write a song you really put every little micro emotion and thing that you’re thinking into that song and so it’s like very scary when it actually comes through and your releasing it and you know that they are gonna know it’s about them and they are gonna probably hear it.
YD: Yeah 100%
Kota: It feels good because it feels efficient too, like you don’t have to spend long lamenting the same thing or feeling the same emotion, you just kind of learn how to epitomise what you’re feeling in that 3 minutes of sound and then it’s quite efficient and you don’t have to be sad for as long I feel.
YD: Yeah, it’s a coping mechanism, it helps you cope with things and let go.
Kota: Exactly, Isn’t music great!?
YD: Music heals people…
Kota: (Long Pause) It does…I thought you said kills people for a second (laughs).
YD: (laughs) No, it definitely heals, you don’t want to kill people (laughs). With your writing, who is someone you draw inspiration from?
Kota: Honestly, because each song is so different there are so many people that I drew from but overall one of my favorite artists is Joni Mitchell. Just like from a lyrical standpoint and the way that she can so freely tell a story and just step into so many different people’s shoes. I think she is amazing. Maybe someone else that I would be inspired by would be Eminem interestingly.
YD: 100%, Snip Snip!
Kota: Snip, Snip Baby! That’s the one, like probably in the second verse, I don’t know if you can hear the lyrics but if you listen very intently to the lyrics in the second verse they are very influenced by early Slim Shady
YD: Yep, the way that you put that together, you’ve got a lot of people out there doing the whole Cardi B, you got a lot of people out there doing the different sorts of women that are rapping but you honestly bought a massive, different flavour and I really thought of John Bellion when I was listening to your whole EP. Like I just thought it was so dynamic.
Kota: Oh, he’s cool, I like him, thank you!
YD: What’s your favourite song from the EP?
Kota: Ooh you’re hitting me with the hard questions! Honestly it changes everyday, I think because they are all so different and they sit within their own lanes it’s really hard for me to pick a favourite. It’s not like they can really be compared. “Snip, Snip” is my favourite for when I wanna hype myself up, I think “Let U Leave” when I’m feeling nostalgic, “Never Sleep” when I feel like dancing, I dunno I actually can’t choose, I love them all. I genuinely mean this, I often say on my instagram, I’ll post a song and be like this one’s my favourite, but what I really mean is they’re all my favourite. It depends on my mood I think.
YD: That’s awesome, so where did you record the EP? You said you did it during lockdown so was there a studio at your house or who did you work with?
Kota: So, it was a whole bunch of different stuff. “Yes” was actually recorded 2 years ago, so not in lockdown. “Never Sleep” was right at the end of lockdown, I wrote “Never Sleep” maybe a month ago so restrictions had been lifted in Sydney and I was just at my producer’s studio which is quite local to my house. The other ones were a mixture of me recording on my mic. Pretty much every song started with me at home writing over the track and then we worked from there.
YD: With this EP and the current situation with Covid, where due you see yourself going next, what’s on the agenda, will you do shows to promote?
Kota: I would love too, I think, now is really tough for live music (with the restrictions) so pending what happens in the next month I would definitely love to play live shows. I know it’s kind of gonna manifest differently to usual so maybe even smaller, more intimate shows would be a vibe. I actually have a new project coming out in the next 2 months with this collaborator that I love, we have done a joint project which I can’t say the name yet cause we haven’t officially announced it but I am so excited for that, so that is the main thing on the horizon!
YD: That’s awesome, I’m excited for you and I’m sure everyone else is going to be excited because all your music is insanely good but with this EP your just levelling up and finding yourself more and more and the music that you are putting out is getting better and better
Kota: Thank you, that is making me so happy, thanks for saying that!
YD: Thank you so much for having the chat, you are a very down to earth sort of person. With that said, how are you finding adjusting to the attention? Obviously you are getting a lot of love and sometimes that goes to peoples head, but you are a calm, cool and collected person from what I can see…
Kota: Aww Thanks, Yeah, I mean I guess I don’t feel like its overwhelming, I just feel like it’s really important to me to engage with the people who understand me, especially given the way I make really different music, it’s kind of niche in a way and so the most important thing to me is just connecting with the people that really fuck with my music and listen to me and enjoy it. So I just try and focus on that and nothing else and like if I ever get haters or I get anything weird, the people who are actually listening to my music just make everything worthwhile, does that make sense? I don’t really pay much attention to anything else, so I think that probably helps.
YD: 100%, having that outlook on life and knowing where you stand in your own self is so important.
Kota: Exactly, you get it!
YD: Honestly, thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it.
Kota: I’ve loved this chat YD, thank you so much for listening so carefully to the songs, they were such great questions so I really appreciate your time.
YD: I appreciate the impact you’re having on this world, it’s bringing light and inspiration to people.
Kota: Oh, you’re a legend! You take care and I’m sure I’ll speak to you soon!