Jul 31, 2014 3:49PM
Interview: Banoffee On The Album That Changed Her Life
Banoffee is Martha Brown — a Melbourne artist with a love to both vintage synths and R&B. Having just released a video for her rad new track 'Got It', she's just got back from Splendour in the Grass. While she was there, we visited her at the epic Red Bull House, where she was staying. We also saw her performance on the Red Bull Music Academy stage, which she shared with acts like Nicolas Jaar, Nguzunguzu, Peanut Butter Wolf and more over the course of the weekend. As you can see from the below photos, it was epic. Read our interview with Martha below, in which we talk about the album that changed her life — Lauryn Hill's record The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
Jerico Mandybur: What's the album that changed your life?
Banoffee: There's so many albums, I think it would probably be The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
How old were you when that came out?
I know I started listening to it very early on because one of my sister's is five years older than me and she was listening to it when she was a teenager. I got really into it.
Kids are so observant when it comes to older sibling's music taste, hey?
Definitely. I listened to a lot of TLC, Beastie Boys, Snoop Dogg and Lauryn Hill when I was really young. It came out in 1998, so I would've been nine years old and I listened to that album pretty much on repeat growing up. Especially in my early teens. I got back into it when I was listening to Erykah Badu and India Arie and lots of female hip hop artists, I guess. And The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was a big album for me because it was the first time I'd heard a female rapping. I really loved that and being a teenager, having all those heartbroken songs on there — it was a bit of a tool for me growing up.
Yeah and a lot of it relates to adolescence and life lessons, doesn't it?
Yeah, little lines like "forgive them father because they know not that they do." It's a line you can take with you for a lifetime, and especially like in this day and age, it can apply to a lot. Heaps of it is religious and I’m not religious, but I think I listen to a lot of what people say from different religions and sort of mesh them together into my own little belief system. There's a lot in that album that rings true, in terms of morals and how to treat people, or how to demand to be treated.
And was important to you as a girl in particular?
She's a really powerful woman and she worked amongst so many men in the industry at that age. I mean it wouldn't be as impressive now — to like, be an independent woman, because we have that privilege already. But back in her day in the hip hop world, there weren't many females doing it and she really stood up on her own. Especially in The Fugees and stuff beforehand as well. I think she did a really great job. She's not exploiting herself at all but just like, being judged on her craft and on her message.
Especially back then, when we came from the era of Run DMC and everything was so macho, in a way.
Exactly. Yeah and I think for me, listening to that album — and I still listen to it a lot — she uses her voice as an instrument, which a lot of people don't these days. All of the vocal lines sound like beautifully articulated guitar lines. They're really stunning and they really stand out as an instrument and not just an add-on to an instrument. I think that's so cool.
I wonder what the recording process is like and whether it's all planned.
Or does she improvise on the spot? It's hard to tell. Her next album was Unplugged and that was all live and her vocals are insane on that. Maybe once you do a certain amount of training or you have that type of natural talent growing up, you can just pull those sort of lines out. But yeah, those little vocal runs that she does sound like she's just shredding. Which is fantastic. I wasn't someone who was born with like a natural singing ability really. I guess for me, it's more about a song writing process than about showing off my skills in any certain instrument, but I really admire that about her and it made me feel tough as a kid. I think it's a good thing for a young girl to be listening to, if they're going to be listening to pop music.
Definitely. I borrowed it from my friend in year seven, and would strut down the street feeling tough with my discman.
Discman! [laughs] You can listen to the album the whole way through and each song is so strong on its own, with its message. I was just thinking back to that 'Tell Him I Love Him' song — the lyrics work so well with the drums and so well with the beat and the feel, but they're also there because they're a story from start to finish. Whereas you can listen to some love songs and they'd be perfect lyrically but they won't hit you anywhere else. But this song you can listen to it as an instrumental and you can listen to it as a poem and in both ways it could hit home.
Do you remember where you were when you first heard it?
I don't remember the first time I heard it. But I do have memories of listening to it in my sitting room with my sister and when I first got my own CD player. It was one of those like bubbly ones. Like, they looked like bubbles!
Yeah with the radio, CD and tape compartment.
Yeah, and I was a real Spice Girls fan so I had like Spice Girls stickers all over it. I remember sitting in my room and listening to the album the full way through. I didn’t know I wanted to be a musician when I was a kid, like, I was so embarrassed to sing in front of anyone but I remember singing along to it and trying to practice her lines and thinking, "If I could sing along to one of her songs the whole way through then maybe I could try and be a singer," and that was really fun. Just a little secret I had as a child.
That's so sweet!
I was a weird kid. You know what else I used to do? I used to sing in my bedroom to that song, um, you know the Mariah Carey and Boys II Men duet?
[both sing] "And I know you're shinin' down on me from heaven."
[laughs] I used to practice that in my room with a hairbrush and I used to sob as if something really bad had happened or I was singing it to someone. But I was singing it to no one and I used to get so into the part that I would cry.
Yeah, I used to imagine that someone I knew had died and I was singing it at their funeral.
Yeah! Because you do that as a kid! You romanticise death and you glamourise it and think about it so much.
This interview's become morbid really fast.
Talkin' about funerals and crying in our rooms as kids…being secretly weird children. I was an awkward little child. I seemed really boisterous because I had so many extra curricular activities, but I was actually just like this shy little nerd.
Have you seen the YouTube of Lauryn Hill singing in a talent competition when she was 13? It was a regular event at the Apollo Theatre and people would just 'boo' you if you sucked.
She did 'Who's Loving You' by the Jackson Five. She starts a little bit shakey but then she really gets it and everyone's like, "Yaaayyy!"
Oh my god I'm going to have YouTube that, I haven't seen it.
It reminds me of that 'Oh Happy Day' scene in Sister Act II.
I've got that on my computer! Great movie.