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Music Banoffee on isolation, identity, and activism in the music scene

Nov. 3, 2020
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Described as being one of pop music’s recent “greatest forward thinkers” by FACT, Australian-born, Los Angeles-based Banoffee is certainly one to watch. Two years ago, she played alongside electropop powerhouse Charli XCX on Taylor Swift’s Reputation tour, which allowed her to fund her 2020 debut album, Look At Us Now Dad.

Representative of the growing undeground queer pop scene, her dance-worthy club tunes emphasize authentic storytelling. She centers her work on “complex concepts of addiction, obsession, heartbreak, and resurrection,” with the goal of fostering resiliency and inspiring fans not to “dwell in sadness, but to join hands.” Adolescent had the opportunity to talk to Banoffee about identity and advocacy through the evolution of her music career.

Adolescent Content: What led you to music?

Banoffee: My family was always very musical. I’m one of three girls, and we were always being taken to folk festivals growing up as well as being encouraged to make our own music. So I just fell into it. 

Adolescent: You released your debut studio album, Look At Us Now Dad, back in February. Key messages include consent and intergenerational trauma. As someone who has suffered from abuse herself, I find your work extremely cathartic. I also imagine it took a lot of courage to share. What was the process of creating this album like?

Banoffee: Thank you. I think for me, although I made this album in a year or two, the process of it began many years prior. I’ve been working on my relationship to my gender, my body, and everything that has made me vulnerable in the world for a long time. Growing up as a cis woman, my body was always something on show and something that I believed was supposed to inform my identity. Making this album came after a lot of internal work, and it was really the last step in a long process of working out what abuse and power are all about to me. 

Adolescent: One thing that I adore about your music is that it brings, as you’ve said, “a sense of fun and sass that is unrestricted by gender and traditional values.” Tell me about how being part of the LGBT+ community has influenced you and your work.

Banoffee: The community around me has been a fundamental support framework for me to be able to make what I want to make. The acceptance and fluidity of the people around me is a huge reason why I’m able to speak with strength and without fear. When I’m asked this question I often feel uncomfortable about it. I date all genders, and I identify as queer and always will. But my body and identity are very digestible for conservatives. In this way, I feel like I’m not the artist to focus on in terms of queerness. I have the support and camaraderie of a community that does the hard work every day and here I am, easily slipping into any role people see fit. I’m proud to be queer, proud of the work I’ve done to overcome my struggles and see my worth. But I am no representation of the LGBT+ community and the incredible struggle they face every day.  

Adolescent: Do you have any advice for young adults who might be feeling lost in the world?

Banoffee: If you feel unseen where you are, GET OUT! I left my home and moved countries to create a fresh start for myself. When I arrived in America I knew absolutely no one, but it was that anonymity that led to me learning about what I wanted from my new world. There are people like you somewhere. You just have to look for them. Don’t settle. and don’t think you have a defect—you just haven’t found your place yet. Money and privilege play a part in being able to leave and restart. But there are always ways to press the refresh button. 

Adolescent: Music has been extremely influential in helping me form my identity. Are there any songs, artists, or albums that were particularly impactful in shaping yours?

Banoffee: For sure. Fiona Apple’s Tidal, When The Pawn Drops, and Extraordinary Machine were all big albums for me. Alanis Morissette, QT, Tirzah, Arthur Russell. I’m weirdly quite influenced by rap, even though you wouldn’t guess it from my music. Lauryn Hill was big for me growing up, The Beastie Boys, even the first couple of Drake and Weeknd albums. I also listen to a bunch of emo and trap like Lil Peep, Juice WRLD, Yung Lean, and Bladee. But really, I feel like all the artists I loved when I was young were the ones that shaped me the most and they were all women or queer artists, even though I didn’t notice at the time!

Adolescent: You recently released a single, “I Miss You,” with producer Perto, touching on supporting a friend through dark times. Tell me about the process behind that collaboration.

Banoffee: Perto and I really only had one session together. It was a very quick song to write as I was dealing with some big feelings that sort of just spewed messily into the studio. I think when songs work that well you know you have a special working relationship. “I Miss You” is exactly what you identified above—it’s a song about that annoying, enraging realiZation that you can’t really help anyone until they’re ready. 

Adolescent: 2020 has clearly not turned out how we all anticipated. How has this time of isolation and unrest impacted you and your work?

Banoffee: I’ve made a new record which will begin emerging soon(ish), but yeah, it was a hard one. I made most of this new record before the pandemic hit and during this time in isolation I’ve really just been lifting weights, boxing, and baking. I can’t say I’ve done much for my career at all, but I mean—I’m so focused on work that I think it's been good for me to just reconnect with people and places and not be so “go go go” all the time. 

Adolescent: You’ve been described as being one of pop’s “recent great forward thinkers.” Where do you see the direction of the music industry going?

Banoffee: That’s a hard one. I think the music industry appears to be shining light on more interesting sounds, but really, people forging the way are still largely unrecognized and unappreciated. I think that queer music is on the rise and that has nothing to do with tokenization—I strongly believe it’s because people who have lived through struggle generally make better art. But at the end of the day it's the rich white kids that are making money off their work. Literally any white boy from Australia who can afford Maschine and some software is doing better than our marginalized communities, and that sadly doesn’t look like it’s changing quick enough for my taste. 

Adolescent: Tell me about the overall impact you want to have on the world.

Banoffee: Woah. Um… Yikes, I should know this?!  I guess I want to encourage people to speak even when it gets them in trouble. I want people to be willing to change their mind and for that to be okay. I think humor, flexibility, and kindness go a long way. I want to make those things a bit part of my presence in the world.

Stream Banoffee’s music on Spotify, Apple Music, or YouTube, and follow her on Facebook and Instagram.