Paramore put it best in their 2009 masterstroke ‘Careful’. To paraphrase, there reaches a point in all creative journeys where what you want won’t come any closer, and you need to take the leap to close the gap.
It’s a motivating motion, but for Melbourne-via-New Zealand ballers Banks Arcade, it’s much more than that. It’s the fuel that drives them – their raison d’être. As such, this is a band that should be labeled ‘threatening’ to all those who consider themselves peers.
Right before our eyes, the band is rapidly accelerating their pace to the calibre of ‘unstoppable force’ – one that obliterates anything in their way without the sense to move. With an arsenal that now includes the earth-shaking single ‘Don’t Start’, and the backing of heavy music career-makers UNFD, the Banks Arcade ride has become one in which limbs must be kept inside the carriage at all times.
Following the bands recent signing to UNFD, and their impending involvedment as part of the forthcoming Unify Gathering 2022, We spoke with vocalist / visionary Joshua O’Donnell for the inside scoop.
On the label side of things, there’s rarely a story there – it’s just some contract that gets signed, then you have to fall in line with the bureaucracy of it all. But we know that UNFD isn’t like that. What’s it been like having that injection of attention, energy and support into the project? How has that changed things?
Well, I guess I’ll start by saying I don’t think it’s really changed anything – which is what’s cool about it. I think that once you start expanding the team, in any creative endeavour, that’s when things can start to go wrong. Because the initial vision that’s there, all of these voices and all of these people that have opinions about it, they really start to mold it. But the guys at UNFD are all so awesome and supportive of everything that we want to do. Basically, they’re just opening doors. Everybody’s super easy to talk to, and everybody’s super keen on our vision. It’s crazy, because I grew up listening to bands on UNFD. I was obsessed with Northlane when I was a teenager. These were the people that we thought hung the fucking moon.
I’m quite excited to talk to you about that big vision. Is that something that you can quantify into words at this point?
[Laughs] the big vision… I can say that I’ve definitely not wondered what it was that I wanted to do with all of this. I’ve been pretty sure right from the very beginning. We’ve had lineup changes, we’ve had all these different things that have happened, but at the start, there was a mission to say, “We don’t just want to be some little band. We want to go out and make history.” The first song that we wrote, ‘Ambition’, the main line in that song was: “I always wanted to make history.” And I broke that down in my classic style of taking everything too far and going over the top. One of the things I said to the guys was that I want to play Wembley one day.
I said that every decision that we make over the next five years – whether that’s waking up and choosing to play video games or choosing to practice, or choosing to go out on the weekend or choosing to work on what we’re doing – every time, that decision isn’t between practice and this thing, it’s between Wembley. Because it’s all of these little decisions that will get us to where we want to go. So for me, I’ve always had a drive to do this shit, and to do it huge. It gets me going. It flows over into our songs, because a lot of the songs that we’ve written at the moment, they carry that same sentiment. It’s like, “Well, if we’re going to do something, we’re going to throw everything at it.”
“I see music as a language, and language is an expression of the experience that we have as conscious beings.“
It really does sound like an all-encompassing drive to chase your dreams, no matter the cost…
Some guys in the band would not really want it to be that way, but yeah, we’ve always had this thing of pushing the boundary to the next place. And no matter where we get to, we just want to double down and make it bigger.
Speaking of doubling down and going bigger: ‘Don’t Start’. That thing hammers you. It’s chest-tightening. It’s bone-shaking. Where’s it coming from?
I don’t want it to come off as being negative, because I don’t want to put out negative vibes. But definitely when the song was written, it came from a specific feeling of there just being this animosity within the music scene – and not even just in music, just things in general – of people who are quite small, and as a result of their stature, they decide that they want to try and bring other people down to their level.
I just got so pissed off by this specific thing that happened. It’s kind of petty, at the end of the day. It was just somebody just saying stupid shit. But this person always says stupid shit, and I just got really mad this one day. I was sitting there with James, and I literally opened up my computer in a rage. I was just like, “Fuck these people. Fuck this shit.” I just started writing angrily. I was just pissed off.
Anger for the sake of anger?
I’ll say it’s frustration. It’s not angry. I see music as a language, and language is an expression of the experience that we have as conscious beings. That experience is quite isolated a lot of the time, because we’re in our own heads. We use conduits like music to help us connect with one another, because I can write a song and then somebody else can hear it and be like, “Oh, yeah, I’ve felt that same thing before.” Any time I write a song, I always feel good about the fact that that came out.
That song did that very well, because it’s kind of like a mix of emotions, right? When people say silly shit on the internet, it’s not just one thing. You’re not just like, “Oh, I’m angry at this person.” You might be like, “Fuck this guy,” but then you also might be like, “No, we’re doing cool shit. This is awesome.” Then you’re like, “I’m the man…” But then you might feel kind of bad about yourself. Like, “Maybe he’s right.” There’s all these different feelings, and I feel like that manifests itself in the chaos of the song – it jumps between this kind of emotion and that kind of emotion, rather than just being angry, like, “Fuck you, guy.” Y’know?
Unify Gathering 2022
Tickets available Thursday, 19th August from 12:00pm AEST
Thursday 20 January – Sunday 23 January
Tarwin Lower, South Gippsland
Unify Gathering 2022 line-up
The Amity Affliction
Dream On Dreamer
The Last Martyr
Teen Jesus & The Jean Teasers
+ More to be announced