We’re tipping Liana Bank$ for superstardom – get to know her here first!
What were you doing when you were eight years old? Falling off your bike? Rugby tackling your brother? Being gently removed from a cinema screening of The Fellowship of the Ring because you simply weren’t prepared for the stupefying horror of the Orcs (ahem)? New York singer/songwriter Liana Bank$ was writing a song a day, scribbling her soul into stacks notebooks. And that is why she’s one of the most creative R&B talents currently destined for stardom, whilst you had to discreetly dab away a little tear of terror during the last Hobbit movie.
25-year-old Bank$ grew up immersed in music, in the midst of a family who performed on Broadway and sang jazz and gospel. Whilst barely out of high school, she wrote in the studio with illustrious producers like Scott Storch, Jerry Wonda and JR Rotem, submitting songs for artists including Nicki Minaj, Justine Skye and RiRi. Whilst we’d be very much on board with one of those collaborations, we can’t say we’re unhappy with Bank$ taking centre stage herself.
In the Wonderland office, Bank$’ back catalogue is on heavy rotation. ‘LVLUP’ blends a laidback, woozy sensibility with defiance: “they told us to turn our swag down, down, down/so we made it even more loud, loud, loud”, the green-haired singer asserts. ‘M.O.N.’ is a joyous breakup anthem for the ambitious and independent, whilst forthcoming release ‘Leave Me Alone’ reworks a Mura Musa instrumental to dynamic effect. The track addresses a toxic relationship; “It’s such a strange place to be in, when the person you consider your ‘medicine’ is also your poison,” comments Bank$.
‘Leave Me Alone’ will be followed by upcoming debut EP ‘Insubordinate’; before then, get familiar with Liana Bank$ – and boast, when she’s inevitably all over the charts, that you heard her first – in our interview below.
You had a particularly formative experience when seeing Chris Brown perform in high school – what happened?
It was an awesome experience! I was 15 and auditioned to dance with Chris at his 18th birthday party which aired on MTV’s show My Super Sweet 16. We had to learn the choreography to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” lol, it was amazing. I made the cut, then we went into rigorous rehearsals. We didn’t dance to a track; instead, we danced alongside a drum band. It was a military inspired routine and my first time dancing to drums. I loved it!
And then you started doing studio sessions thanks to your songwriting: tell us more.
Yeah! I started to really hone in on my songwriting after that. I had been writing a song a day since I was 8 years old and had a stash of marble notebooks full of songs…but I wasn’t doing anything with them. They were kinda just living there. As a shy kid, I was so afraid to share them, being that they were so personal. After multiple suggestions to bring them to light, I finally complied and as a result began getting requested to go into the studio and create for other artists.
Who are some of the artists who influence you most?
I’m a HUGE James Brown Fan. I’m also heavily influenced by Sade, Lauryn Hill, Nina Simone and Grace Jones. I try to capture a bit of each of them in my artistry. James’ soul and high energy, Sade’s mellowness and sensuality, Lauryn’s effortless ability to switch up flows at any given moment, Nina Simone’s honesty and raw grit, and Grace’s confidence. They all have really unique tones that made me appreciate them. Growing up I always had a smokier/ raspier voice than the other girls and actually didn’t like my voice at all. I always wondered why I had to sound so “different”. If I sung in a small group my voice would always stand out – I hated it! It wasn’t until I started discovering other artists with unique tones that I began to LOVE my voice in all of its distinctiveness.
What outside of music inspires you and why?
•Food – I love cooking, it’s such a creative process for me.
•Art – I’ll see a piece of artwork & it’ll trigger so many ideas, I’ll start writing a novel.
• Fashion! I’ll see a garment and it will remind me of a feeling or moment or situation. I love that I can be in a shitty mood, throw on a fabulous outfit and feel brand new!
What makes you want to create music?
Well, it started as a diary really, a way for me to express my suppressed feelings without coming off the wrong way. I was so passionate as a kid but kept everything to myself. The art of songwriting was my release, my personal therapist, minus the large bill. So I’d say LIFE! My life is my inspiration; I write honest stories . Most are my own, some of are the stories people close to me.
what do you want to say and make people feel with your work?
I want people to feel TRUTH! I want them to know that there is nothing wrong with being completely honest. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable and speaking your truths is probably one of the most healing processes one can ever involve themselves in.
How would you describe your sound? “LVLUP” and “Leave Me Alone” are quite different songs. Could you talk us through them both a bit?
Yes! They’re two very different songs! I think the thing with me is that I don’t like to stay confined to one particular type of music. I like to let my rhythmic approach, flow and character tie everything together. It allows me to explore my versatility without losing my audience.
The video for “LVLUP” looks like it was a lot of fun to make: how involved are you in the video making process?
It was ! I’m super involved in the video making process. I usually make video treatments after I write a song and send them to my team so they can get a glimpse into my visual thought process. I shot the party scene at my crib with my close friends. Wore clothes straight from my closet and even did my own hair and makeup for two of the four scenes. I wanted it to be personal and authentic. I love how it came out! I think we nailed it!
What can we expect next from you? An EP or an album perhaps?
I think I’ll start with an EP.
I have a huge song catalog that I can’t wait to share with everyone. But for now – as an introduction – I want to keep it very focused and fluid.
How did you end up working with Mura Masa/ using the track on “Leave Me Alone”?
There’s this sick YouTube page called “Majestic Casual” that I fell in love with a couple of years ago. They played a lot of Masa’s material. I was like, “Holy sht! Who is this person and why am I just discovering him?” I’ve been a huge fan since. He released an album called “Soundtrack To A Death”. My manager played it for me in the studio one night and was like, “Yo, you should sing over one of these tracks, I think it could be something special”. So I listened through the album and there was this one track called “Miss You” that stood out to me. It literally was the musical illustration of my life at that moment. I listened a few times, then started writing everything I felt. I didn’t think anyone would like it! I didn’t write it with a formula in mind; I kinda just wrote the first thing that came to me and kept it going from there. When it was done I didn’t love it, probably because it was super raw and I felt exposed. I definitely didn’t plan on releasing it. It was more of a mental release for me, almost like therapy. But my manager was like, “Li, this sht is dope!” So we released it!
Where do you dream of being in five years?
Outside of musical success, I’d like to be a successful businesswoman in all aspects. I want to get involved in things that people wouldn’t expect me to be a part of. I love being able to prove people wrong; I’m competitive in that way.
Words: Emily Dixon