Interview: No Standby for Banshee

Early in January, Scottish band Banshee released their first new music in almost a year.

We featured the brilliant video for ‘Starts With One’ last month, and wanted to sit down with the band to get to know them just a little bit better. We met with Erin (vocals) and Gianluca (drums).

Musicscramble: Who are you and where are you from?

Erin: We are Banshee, we’ve been Banshee for almost a year now and are from Greenock, just outside Glasgow. We have been a band for about 5 years but we changed the name to Banshee in March last year.

Musicscramble: You were known as Life on Standby before? It was Life on Standby who played Download Festival wasn’t it?

Erin: We changed the name because of Download to be honest. In 2014 we did the whole Red Bull Live at Download thing and it went down well. And there was a massive buzz. We were working with Red Bull and they constantly promoted you for a couple of months. Just constantly promoted through the internet, through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube. We also went down there (to London) and recorded.

Gianluca: They made you feel great basically.

Erin: But then afterwards that’s it. There’s no ties with Red Bull any more and we didn’t really know what to do with this buzz that we had about us. We didn’t know how to push it, which was unfortunate as there was so much going on. Unfortunately we were just inexperienced and didn’t know how to take it forward and keep that buzz going and run with it.

So afterward we felt like momentum died and we had been working on ‘Say My Name’ – the song we brought out last year and the title of our EP – for some time and we wanted it to hit. We wanted it to land. But we thought instead of bringing it out at Life on Standby we’ve not really done anything in a while, we want to make something of this song because we think it’s amazing. We thought why not completely rebrand, change the name, bring out this song? It went down really well.

We thought the only way it’s going to work is if we come out with something completely fresh. Essentially start again. The song isn’t a million miles away from the Life on Standby sound at all. It was very similar, but we knew it was better.

At the time, obviously changing the name was a bit, “Is this the right thing to do?” We worried are we going to just fall off completely here?

: Yeah it was a slight progression. We cleaned it up a bit, polished the sound, worked with somebody different. Which was the best idea. We were working with Bruce (Rintoul, Producer). He was just great being in the studio with him. He has some great ideas.

At the time, obviously changing the name was a bit, “Is this the right thing to do?” We worried are we going to just fall off completely here? Are we going to change the name and is it going to be good? And I think now it was definitely the right decision. Because we really really thought about what we wanted which was something we needed to do. The momentum from Download really died away and we really needed to rethink things.

Musicscramble: If you had the momentum and you played down south as well as at Download itself, Was there people who had seen Life On Standby and had liked you and suddenly you’ve changed the name and all the connections are gone, leaving them wondering, “where did they go?”

E: To be honest, we just changed the name on the Facebook page. So all the people who still liked the page were now liking Banshee, “So that’s fine!” **laughs**

We didn’t want to totally be all done, Life on Standby was amazing and we done amazing things. We released two EPs, we did Download, a few tours and met lots of amazing people so we thought, “Just change the name on the page”.

We were not wanting to delete everything that happened. It got us where we are now and we just bring out the new song . We got amazing artwork done by Daniel Holub and we saw all the page hits go up and people were commenting they loved the name change. That it was really cool.

We wanted something a bit snappier. Something shorter.

M: How did you come up with it?

E: I came up with it **laughs**

G: Don’t get us wrong. This was a good month of wracking our brains. It was really hard.

E: It was hard, yeah. We knew we wanted one word. We’d seen a band called Hype Theory who were similar to us with a female singer and they changed their name to Tigress and we loved that; that’s pretty cool!

G: It’s sharp. Easy to remember.

E: I sat for ages, the band – the boys – weren’t so sold on the name change, but I really wanted to do it. I pushed for it so much and they were like, “I don’t know Erin, everyone knows us as this.” So in that respect they were very much like, “Well you find something then!” **laughs**

G; Yeah. You find something, if we like it we’ll go with it!

E: It’s the same band. No people changes. I sat in work a lot with lots of different words and putting them through a Thesaurus. I don’t remember, but somehow I came up with Banshee. But it was in a list of a few things I had.

G: Banshee works. There’s something about it when Erin said it, I thought “That’s cool”. The first thing we did was go on Facebook and typed in Banshee to see if anyone else had it. And there’s an American band who has it. They’re an older classic rock band who’s been around for a long while. They’re over the over side of the world they’re completely different from us, a different genre, a different age group and we thought, “Let’s just go for it”. I’m glad we did.

M: So are you going to have a Banshee song called ‘Life on Standby’ just to confuse the shit out of everyone?

G: That’s a good idea! We could write it about Download! Ha! **laughs**

E: Yeah, about how steaming we were!

G: I can’t believe I’m playing the biggest gig of my life today and I’m drunk!!

E: We were on at one in the afternoon and were worried that no one was going to come. It’s Sunday, it’s really early, no one is going to know us. So we actually printed off flyers and handed them out all weekend. And we have people today who still follow the Facebook page and still message us, who have the flyers and they saw us from Download.

We did a tour the following year and in Edinburgh and these girls were there who saw us at Download which really made my day. It goes to prove that it does work.

The tent at the festival was really busy. Surprisingly busy.

G: As I walked on stage I was like “Oh Shit! Sober up, switch your head on now!” It was unreal. It was some day.

E: It was amazing, but before it I was a wreck. I’ve never been this nervous in my life. “I’m going to be sick, I’ll be back in a minute!…” A culmination of nerves and being wildly hungover. Then I run on stage, and Liam turns round and smacks me with his bass! I was thinking, “Don’t let this bother you, just go! Go like everything’s fine, no one noticed.”

Afterward I’d a big bruise on my arm but honestly it was the best gig. It was incredible. It was busy and it got busier.

G: The cool thing was as we were going through the Red Bull heats we were supporting the Marmozets in Glasgow and Rebecca said to us not to worry. If we get through people will come, people will be there and the tent will be full even if you think nobody knows you. (She said), “We’ve been through all that.”, and that had been sticking in my head. Here’s a band with experience so I was hopeful, but it was way more people than I expected.

It would be great to get back to Download as Banshee and get back, not through Red Bull or similar, but to get back because of what we’ve done and our music. I think that would be a massive achievement for us. It might be a while away, but we’re not going to stop; we want to do everything.

M: You mentioned earlier when you became Banshee the first song you released you’d changed the sound. Tell us more about that.

E: Well yeah. We weren’t going from an Alternative Rock band to a Pop band or anything. We were staying in the same genre. We just worked a bit harder at it. With ‘Say My Name’ we’d actually started working on it before we played Download. I loved the song and the boys hated it. I was so like “You’re not listening, this is amazing!”

G: We were so, “it’s not going anywhere. This is rubbish!”

E: We worked on it and just couldn’t finish it. And left it. Then one night we finished it in half an hour and I couldn’t believe we’d be working on it for six months before. Then when we went to the studio with Bruce it just all came together.

…even my wee brother who likes….much more of the indie scene admitted to our Dad that, “Erin’s new song is really good!”

M: I can hear progression with ‘Say Your Name’ compared to some of the older Life On Standby songs, like ‘Green Eyes’. But the new single, ‘Starts With One’ you can hear further progression again.

E: Yeah. I said that the other day. As we released the video for it recently I watched it and then ‘Say My Name’ and I just felt it didn’t sound as good anymore!!

G: But that’s good it’s a band growing.

E: I still love ‘Say My Name’, but even my wee brother who likes The Courteeners, and Catfish (and the Bottlemen) and much more of the indie scene admitted to our Dad that, “Erin’s new song is really good!” **laughs** So that must be something!

It was Bruce again, but we wrote it differently. About a year ago we took a week off work and went and just wrote for a week solid. We wrote as much as we can; we did five songs and demoed them down in Greenock. When we went in with Bruce we were thinking of two songs – of which ‘Starts with One’ was one of them – and Bruce had been thinking that song was the one he wanted to work on.

We did pre-production with him where you go in and play through the song and tear it apart for a couple of hours so that when you’re in the studio you’re getting the benefit of the studio. So when we went in we had the basic structure and still had to put the synth parts in and Bruce helped with that. It sounded very Bring Me The Horizon and I liked that, it was cool!

G: We recorded it and he sent us a mix back and we didn’t really know what to expect. He said he’d messed about with some synths and when I played it I remember being in my kitchen and texting him saying, “Bruce this is fucking amazing mate!” **laughs** It brought the whole song out, and he’s so down to earth saying, “No, you guys brought the song, that’s why it’s good!” I’m thinking “Aye! Thanks Bruce!”, but he’s a good guy. Great to work with. His ideas are great, and you can always rely on them.

E: We met Bruce at a gig the other night and he was asking when we were coming back.

G: Me and Gav and Liam about a couple of months ago started messing about with something fresh. We are actually in the studio next week or so. We’ll maybe get it demoed and send it over and see what he thinks.

M: So the other demoes from last year are being binned?

E: No they’re still there, I’m kind of in the mood to try and write something to be honest. It feels like ages since we wrote something. ‘Starts With One’ sounds good, and it’d be great to get something that’s better. The song went down so well, so if we can just keep on writing.

M: How many video hits have you got now for ‘Starts With One’ (it had been out less than a week when we met up)?

E: Ten. Ten and a half maybe. (10,000 that is!)

M: So the video is fantastic. That was an Andy (Mills Media) video, yeah?

E: Of course. He’s sooo good! Before we did ‘Say My Name’ we were looking at other videos we liked to see who had done them, and we were watching Vukovi and it was Andy. Then we watched the other stuff he done and we loved them. So we got in touch and he did ‘Say My Name’ for us.

We were thinking let’s do a performance video, we like the song, we are not too bothered about having too much going on in it. But when it was done it was amazing. We bashed it out in a couple of hours, so when we wanted to do the new video we messaged him and we said we didn’t want to do strictly performance, but something different.

We didn’t really know what we wanted to do, but have individual band members and lets go in and see what happens.

G: We just brought props. A baseball bat! Throwing petals around, and (Erin shouts, “PARTY POPPERS!!!!”) a mask. The great thing about Andy is he’s good at thinking on his feet. We only had four hours that day, so we had to nail it.

E: We got the performance done really quickly then it was just playing with the props, asking who wanted to use what.

G: I wasn’t sure at first. When I saw the first edit I felt there wasn’t enough going on here. But then Andy pulled out the kaleidoscope effect and the mirror images. Suddenly I was like, “Right OK this makes a lot of sense now.” It started to really come together.

E: The kaleidoscope effect was Andy, just running it through software. It was so cool. Starting to build it all up for us.

G: Andy takes everybody’s ideas on board – like Gav wanting to kick in at the chorus – and gets the job done.

E: I wanted something bright, and fun, and the video is that. With ‘Say My Name’ we were in black and the room was dark and there was red. So this was different, something that wasn’t really us. It’s worked. The views are piling up on it and a lot of people I know who haven’t heard the band before have come up to me in work and said, “I saw your video, it’s really great!”

Andy is so professional, and he does an amazing job which is why we use him. He’s so good. He’d done our pictures as well.

M: So we’ve talked about Bruce, and about Andy. They’re people who are supportive of the band and helping you. Talk to me about Emma (the band’s Manager). A lot of young bands we speak to don’t have managers….

G: I asked Emma to be our manager. When we were starting out. We played G2 (venue in Glasgow) and we met Emma doing a few gig through the company she was working for.

E: She worked with Jay (Altered Sky’s Manager) and she always put our gigs on and it seemed she liked us, so we asked her. We knew she’d a background in the music business and we knew it would benefit us having someone doing all that side. We all work or were studying so didn’t have time to drive the band forward in that way. We definitely get real benefit from having a manager. It’s handy. I don’t know who to contact about gigs, and we might be able to do it, but having someone who is organised, who works in that business who has the contacts to deal with all our stuff (is great).

G: She just does everything for us, like messages on the Facebook page and stuff. It’s great having her about. Actually we should probably tell her that one day!

E: Yeah. You should, because you’re always rude!! **laughs*

M: I’ll include it in the interview for her to read…

G: Yeah. Print it, I’ll sign and write, “Thanks very much Emma!” and send it to her.” **more laughs**

M: So what’s the next live show?

Harris’s gigs always sell out. He puts on bands that suit supporting the other bands on the bill. So it’ll be great.

: Empire gig in March. Which is a Harris (Douglas, Promoter) one. It’s going to be nuts!

G: Harris pulls in some great bands. And puts on really decent shows. We’d been offered a few gigs recently…

E: …but the answer was no. They didn’t work for us. We couldn’t see why we were being put on the bill as the music didn’t fit.

G: Then Harris got in touch, so that’s going to be the first gig of the year for us. I’ve seen Empire before (supporting Arcane Roots in (King) Tut’s) and the guy has got some range (vocals)! So I was definitely like, “Yes, go for it!”

E: Harris’s gigs are always good. He pulls in bands that people around here want to see. And he puts them in the right venue that suits them. A smallish touring band in a massive venue where everyone has to pull it out the bag is wrong. He does the right thing. Sleazy’s (Nice N’ Sleazy, the venue of the upcoming show) is going to be amazing. The night will be wild. You put a decent number of people in there and it looks rammed and makes for a great night.

Harris’s gigs always sell out. He puts on bands that suit supporting the other bands on the bill. So it’ll be great.

People who go to Harris gigs really like music. They go because they are into seeing good live music. They’re not going because it’s their mate’s band. Everyone there goes because they really want to see the bands and want a mental night.

G: We supported Press to Meco in here (The Old Hairdresser’s, where we are chatting) on a Harris gig and it sold out. It was great. Harris is another of these types of people who you want to work with.

E: Yeah. We’ve got a great team of people. We work with Bruce, we’ve got Andy and Callum (live photographer of the band), we’ve got Emma, and Harris for gigs. We are always on the lookout for a Harris gig. It’s always a great show. Bands want to work with these people, and people like Andy and Callum are there taking pictures of these gigs so it’s a perfect mix.

M: So the Glasgow music scene is very alive at the moment then?

E: It definitely is! There’s lots of great bands, and they’re all band’s bands. Everyone seems to really appreciate each other.

M: Are Banshee one of those band’s bands?

E: I hope so!!

G: I think so. Hopefully we are seen like that. I hope there’s a slot for us there.

E: There are a lot of bands around here that I like that I’d want to have play with us, or play for them. Like Divides, and a band called Brothers. I really like Brothers, they’re great.

G: And Donnie Willow and Toy Mountains. So many great bands about.

E: I’d love to play gigs with them live. I really like Start Static and Get Out Strong too.

We played with Divides in October and I loved that gig. It was such as strong night. Everyone was brilliant and so nice. We had Get Out Strong and Daydream Frenzy, and us and Start Static and Divides as well. It had a buzz, it was sold out. It was such a good night, we were really looking forward to it and then after just wanted to go back on. It was so much fun.

G: More gigs like that please!!

E: That’s the kind of gigs you want in Glasgow. There’s lots of good bands the same genre as us, and we are happy with how it’s going so far.

The conversation then (as it had done throughout our time with Banshee) spiralled onto a mix of other topics including Gian’s early love of Iron Maiden and how surprised they were at Twin Atlantic’s latest album GLA. A great conversation but the interview had very much ended.

Meeting Banshee and talking with them it’s great to see a band who have made sacrifices and are willing to take difficult decisions like choosing to rebrand even with successes of playing major festivals behind them.

It’s also clear that the Glasgow music scene has a phenomenally active and talented group of bands, and individuals in promoters, managers and artistic geniuses who help propel the local scene out into the stratosphere.

We are heading along to the Empire show to check them out, but mainly to see Banshee live once more. Let’s hope it’s as “mental” as Erin promises it will be. Want to see for yourself? Tickets for the show on the 16th of March in Glasgow can be bought here.

Photos: Andy Mills at Andy Mills Media and Banshee

Gareth Fraser
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