Hot off an expansive USA & UK tour with The Weeknd, and anticipating the release of her debut album Goddess this September, LA Alt-R&B songwriter BANKS stopped by Underground Arts this past Saturday. BANKS first hit my radar last October, when she stopped in Philly with The Weeknd and Anna Lunoe at the Susquehanna Bank Center. I bought her London EP, and marveled at the instrumentation, songwriting, and sheer expansiveness of her sound, despite the fact that she hadn’t even put out a full-length album. I have admired BANKS from that point forward, and her music has stayed on my rotation since.
When I discovered I was able to cover her Underground Arts show, I was under the impression that I would receive the same BANKS that I had been listening to for the past nine months: unique, intricate R&B songwriting and excellent Erykah Badu-esque vocals. While I certainly got both of these things this past Saturday, what I received in addendum was an incredible display of stage presence, especially from an R&B singer, powerhouse vocals during every chorus, and a two-piece backing band doing the job of at least 4 band members. Highlights from the evening included the chorus of “Brain,” in which BANKS belted her heart out to the crowd and the crowd belted right back, her refreshing cover of Aaliyah’s 1998 hit “Are You That Somebody?,” and her amped up version of “Drowning,” a a track off her upcoming September debut.
At the end of the night, I left Underground Arts certainly impressed, but also hopeful for BANKS’ future; if she continues on the trajectory she’s currently on, she is extremely well-poised to take her place among the ranks of songwriters such as Lana Del Rey, Sky Ferreira, and Lorde, and potentially surpass them, both in songwriting and vocal talent. Having been nominated both for BBC’s Sound of 2014 and for MTV’s Brand New award prior to dropping a full-length album, I certainly think we’ll be seeing a good deal more of BANKS in the future.
Joining BANKS was seapunk producer/curator Jerome LOL, who treated early birds to an ethereal set of indie electronica laced with equal parts deep house, syncopated 808 percussion, and expansive vocoder synthesizer.