Illustration by Fiona Kuzmack

Pio Grooves: McLane Harrington (’15) and Banks

A Column Tapping into the Vein of LC Music

By Iris Shanks /// Staff Writer

If you hadn’t heard of Banks yet, it was bound to happen soon. Exploding in popularity last year, her music has gone from SoundCloud to a U.S. and UK tour with The Weeknd in 2013, followed by Victoria’s Secret holiday commercials and a spot as a Featured Artist at Coachella this year.
McLane Harrington (’15), an International Affairs and music double major from Washington, started listening to Banks as the soundtrack of a summer road trip.
“My friend put it on. I didn’t like it at first but it got stuck in my head and now I’m really into it.” Harrington is not alone in this; Banks has definitely been making her way around Lewis & Clark, and it’s no surprise why, given the versatility of her music. The 26-year-old artist combines singer-songwriter structures with R&B elements, creating a sound that is Top-40’s Material while still being emotionally compelling. “I listen to it when I’m cooking, when I’m relaxing and sometimes even when I’m doing homework. It’s very soothing – Good to listen to with good sound-cancelling headphones.”
Jillian Banks, her day-to-day persona, started playing music when she was 15. She was going through what she describes as a “tough time” and was given a toy keyboard, which she began to use as a vehicle for emotional expression. To this day Banks doesn’t care much for formal chords or the technicalities of music theory; she translates her lack of training into a lack of barriers and seems to turn her focus to writing tender lyrics and catchy melodies.
At the very least, her music is satisfying. Take “Begging for Thread,” from her 2014 album “Goddess.” The song starts off slowly with an immediately entrancing bass line. From there, the layers are added: the vocal line, some synthy beat and then manipulated auxiliary vocal tracks slowly build more and more before dropping down to the bare bones of the first minute of the track before the bridge and final climax of the song. It’s a bit repetitive, a bit predictable, but at the same time there’s something unique in the sound.
Here’s a fun fact for you: Banks gained celebrity only recently because she waited to release music until she graduated from university with a degree in Psychology. Perhaps her studies are what led to her startling self-awareness and willingness to express her emotions so openly. In her 2013 single, “Warm Water,” Banks set a standard for vulnerability with lyrics like, “I got this thing for you/if you come closer I can whisper in your ear/and if you wanna walk away/I’ll tell you all the things I know you wanna hear.” Contrary to what this vulnerability might suggest, her songs are all infused with intense power and an enchanting darkness that makes it hard to stop listening.
Well, okay, not always that hard. Sometimes the intensity is a bit much — I’ll be honest, while writing this I had to pause my Banks playlist for a couple of folksy interludes. Overall, I’d say that while Banks is definitely one of the most exciting new artists I’ve looked into recently, her music doesn’t work for me in every setting. That’s just me though, maybe you’ll find it easier than I did to listen to it ceaselessly. So plug in, give Banks a listen, and keep groovin’, Pios.

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