On the surface, the soundscapes of Banoffee’s latest record ‘Tear Tracks’ forms a thrilling and glitchy ballad album. However, taking a deeper dive into the world of ‘Tear Tracks’ reveals the true nature of the record, an emotive and deeply personal perspective revealing the messy aftermath of a relationship crumbling to an end.
"I’ve had a couple of albums in my life where I’ve been like... Thank you! Don’t try to cheer me up, just be here with me in the sadness. I hope this record does that for people.”
The way Banoffee explains it, it is in no way a remedy for a broken heart, it is there as a companion. “I just want people to cry to it!” she says, laughing to me over our zoom call. “I want people to be really devo’ to it...” summing it up as the perfect album to provide the soundtrack to lonely nights, long sad baths or those night time drives where all you can think is “fuck the world”.
‘Tear Tracks’ was written during the last days of her time in LA, right before the pandemic forced her back to home in Melbourne. Banoffee grew up on the inner north side of Melbourne, and spent most of her life there before moving to LA in her twenties - “I've been a Melbourne girl most of my life" she smiles. Starting out, she was more focused on making music for herself and saw it as a way to implement something into her every day routine. “It was very therapeutic”, she admits to me, remembering how it all started just to keep her happy. She soon found the dots connecting, and found that the music she uploaded to Soundcloud was actually doing quite well, people all over the world had their ears tuned in. “I realised maybe I could do this?” she tells me, reminiscing on the moment it all clicked.
Those moments haven't stopped though, there have been a few moments that Banoffee has been ready to turn it all in, only to rediscover new approaches to her musicality. It took her a while to view her music in this way, and admits she often has that realisation over and over again because it is very easy to slip into the mentality of if she’s not winning the game, then the game has been lost. “You can just sort of rely on the niche audience that you have and start to really carve out a place for yourself in quite a diverse and broad industry.” She grins, excited by the idea that with constant rediscoveries and realisations, she might just be able to do this forever.
Do you remember the moment you wanted to pursue music as a career?
I think just before I moved to LA. I would have just released my EP ‘Do I Make You Nervous?’. I never really thought that people would want to listen to my music. I was more making it for myself, it was very therapeutic for me. I did it as a way to remain happy and something to have in my every day as a routine for myself. At the time SoundCloud was a thing, and my music started doing well on SoundCloud. People all over the world were listening to it, I realised maybe I could do this? I think you have those realisations again and again; I doesn’t just happen once you know? I think so many times over the last couple of years I've been ready to throw in the towel and then rediscovered I could do things in a different way, and I could do them forever. I think you start out thinking you need to be really famous or to give up because they're the two options... but being a musician isn’t like being an athlete, you don’t have to be in the best team or go to the Olympics in order to make a living, you can just sort of rely on the niche audience that you have and start to really carve out a place for yourself in quite a diverse and broad industry. For a while, I didn’t really see it that way... I often have that realisation again because it's very hard to slip into the mentality of if I'm not winning the game then I've lost it.
I feel like if you have a niche audience you can really connect with your fans.
I love that when I play shows, here in Australia or overseas, I often recognise my audience. There are people I remember because they came last time or they are always in the front. You start to form these relationships that are so specific to your work, but it’s so nice to have a community. That’s something I think you miss out on when you get big, that sort of becomes a blur. That’s what is so exciting about creating your own niche in the community.
Tell me about ‘Tear Tracks’!
Ahhh... ‘Tear Tracks’... the record I wrote when I was really depressed and now, I have to talk about it all the time! I wrote it at the end of 2020 and early 2021, so it’s really new. It’s the first time I’ve created a record and then put it out straight away. I went through so much during that time... I broke up with my partner, I lost a dear friend of mine, I went through a lot of difficult things at home, I didn’t want to listen to any redeeming music, that just seemed patronising to me. I just have to keep low for a long time to help me get though it... and so I wanted to write a record that was that for other people. ‘Tear Tracks’ is really sad-girl, there aren't any redeeming songs, it very much just tracks an emotional journey for me. More than anything when people ask if I planned on writing a breakup record, I did but also the only thing that made me feel better was music. All I had in me were these sad songs. I kept pulling out these sad songs, and then before I knew it, ‘Tear Tracks’ was finished.
"I’m doing this for me, and releasing it is part of that... I think releasing this is admitting all those things I went through.”
Which track is your favourite from the record?
I think my favourite is ‘Tears’, and I like it because I think for me that song was one of the last songs I wrote, I was coming to a place of peace with where I was at... it felt like such a relief to write and I feel a relief every time I listen to it. I also enjoy that I didn’t bother following any structure in this song, it goes all over the place. That’s kind of how I write, often I will write like that and then restructure them to sound like pop songs. With this one, I knew it wouldn’t be a single so I can do whatever I want with it. I wanted to make it long and say everything I needed to say in that song. I hope that comes through to other people. That is such a clear representation of my personality, I’m pretty all over the place... I go from one emotion to another really quickly, I’m a very messy emotional person and I think that song captures all of that about me.
How do you make sure each song has its own sound and feel to it?
I think for me that happens quite naturally because I listen to a lot of genres of music, I often find myself producing and writing in very different genres. I'll write a song on the guitar and it'll sound like a country song, then I'll write something over a trap beat and it’ll sound more in that realm. My challenge has been how can I connect these songs that are all so vastly different from each other! So, it’s kind of been the opposite for me... I find it really challenging to have a feel or a sound to a record, if I’m listening to folk music in the morning, I’ll make a folk track that day... but if I’m listening to hyper-pop, then I’ll make hyper-pop. Suddenly I have this musical vomit that I'm calling a record, which is just everything I’ve listened to for the past two weeks as well as all of my idols and a bit of me all mushed together into this weird musical fruit salad.
‘Tear Tracks’ is focused on one point in time rather than a span of months or years... was writing like that different?
Yeah, it was! It was different because I’ve never set myself goals for writing, in terms of like “this is the subject matter, don’t stray from it’. This album really functioned in two ways for me; it was me making this record of this experience, but it was also me acknowledging the different stages I was in, and essentially journaling and getting out those feelings for the day. I found that challenging because that’s not how you make a good record if I’m honest, my poor manager will tell me he loves a song I made a few months ago, and that song should make it on the album... but I tell him it's not on theme... sorry! Can’t be on there if it doesn’t make sense. This record was challenging because I had to stop thinking about it in the way of making a successful record... that’s not what this is for me, I want to make this record because it will help me grow, it is important to me so I don’t care about the streaming numbers. I’m doing this for me, and releasing it is part of that... I think releasing this is admitting all those things I went through. Admitting the completely bonkers phases you go through during heartbreak. It’s challenging, I’m so hardwired to think about what's going to make a great record, and how that is going to sell and who’s going to like it, who am I making it for... things like that. This was more like writing an essay. Mixing this record has been a nightmare because I have to listen to these songs over and over again, songs that make me so sad.
Is it weird writing about such personal subjects and then letting it out into the world?
Probably for my ex-boyfriend... it is really weird! At the moment because of Covid I'm living in Melbourne, and a lot of people here know about my personal life... It is really challenging being so honest knowing that the majority of my community and my fans are involved in my life in a way. They recognise descriptions in songs and DM me asking if it is about something specific... I’m just like... shit! It’s scary... I like doing things I’m scared of though.
I read in an interview that you said you aren't good at trusting your own instincts if you hear a million people tell you one thing, has that changed for this album?
It had to because no one thinks this record is a good idea! So, the whole record is going against the instructions I’ve been given for sure. No one in the industry advises you to release a ballad album, that’s just a nightmare for anyone. I still found it hard choosing singles because the songs meant something to me, but they weren't the most likable songs. It was a real learning experience to trust my own instincts on this, because not many people thought it was a good idea. I still really wanted to do it. Living as a musician is really hard, you're always wondering how long are you going to be able to do it for - so when people say they don’t think it is the best idea, you follow their advice.
What is one element you have carried through all of your projects?
Good question... I think storytelling. Growing up on folk and country music has really made me concentrate of very descriptive lyrics. And that’s never changed. My production has changed a lot, my vocal production has changed a lot, the way I perform, the instruments I play, everything changed so much but lyrically I can go back to my very first release and I can say that I still write like that. I want people to follow a narrative and be able to see pictures. I love the idea of telling stories like you're reading a book and seeing images in your head.
How are you hoping people receive the record?
I just want people to cry to it! I want people to be really devo’ to it... I want people to take sad long baths or night walks or drives where you’re just like “fuck the world, what should I put on?” I want you to put on ‘Tear Tracks’. I’ve had a couple of albums in my life where I’ve been like “thank you! Don’t try to cheer me up, just be here with me in the sadness. I hope this record does that for people.
Listen to Banoffee's latest album, 'Tear Tracks' on Spotify below:
Words by Oli Spencer
Photography by Oli Spencer, shot over FaceTime