Mike Nelson, better known to the masses as BANNERS, is a singer-songwriter with a unique sound who is making his mark in the world of indie music. MusicDash caught up with BANNERS as he finished off his first Canadian tour to chat about music and his time in Canada.
MusicDash: What did it feel like when you got signed to Island Records?
BANNERS: It’s an absolute on and a privilege to be signed to Island. It’s funny with major labels. I think in signing to a record label you are always aware of it’s legacy, of the amazing artists and music that are or have been involved with that label. It becomes your responsibility to extend that legacy and that is what I try to always keep in mind.
I think there’s a generally perceived wisdom that the record industry is run by suits and businessmen who are interested exclusively in making money, and the greatest pleasure for me was discovering that that is simply not true, that, actually, these labels are full of people that are intensely passionate about music, and about creating it. It’s been amazing to be so supported and Im working hard to repay that faith.
MusicDash: What made you decide to contact Sephen Kozmeniuk to work on your sound?
BANNERS: Like so much in music, like in life, an opportunity arrises and you have to grasp that opportunity and see where it goes. I was in Canada to do some songwriting with a couple of writers and he was interested in meeting up. I liked him so we tried a couple of sessions and it went from there. There was the opportunity to work with a few other producers but I realised pretty quickly that he was my guy! We have so many similar musical influences and we both want to make music that means something to people!
MusicDash: What have been some of your favourite memories from your time living in Toronto? (It’s pretty far from Liverpool to say the least!)
BANNERS: I really like Toronto. I’ve met so many great people there. My band are all from Toronto too. Truthfully though my life in Toronto has revolved around music so it’s just a pleasure to be in a place where I can just immerse myself into that creative headspace. St Lawrence Market is amazing too.
MusicDash: What has been your favourite show from the Canadian tour?
BANNERS: It’d be unfair to pick one! They’ve all had their moments. Playing these songs live is such a new thing for me that every live experience, good or bad, is important because it gives you the opportunity to learn from your mistakes and figure out how to make the next show better.
MusicDash: “Shine a Light” has really taken the world by storm. Why do you think people like the song so much? How does it feel to have people respond to your sound?
BANNERS: I’ve always believed that if you want a song to mean something to people you have to make sure it means something to you first. And Shine a light means a lot to me, so maybe that’s what helps it resonate. It’s hard to say why people like it, but after spending so much time writing and recording it its amazing to hear that people do like it. That’s one of the pleasures of playing live really. Having the opportunity to meet people and let them tell you their experiences with the songs you’ve created. After the gig last night a guy told me it was the first song he sent to his new girlfriend on a mixtape so it means a lot to him. It’s things like that that make it worthwhile.
MusicDash: What was the recording and songwriting process like for your EP?
BANNERS: The stressful part is writing really, it’s ultimately very rewarding but there are certainly days where you worry you’re never going to be able to write ever again. In terms of the EP i already had “Ghosts” written from a long time ago, but all the other songs Stephen and I, along with a guy called Todd Clark, devoted a chunk of time to writing and the EP is the result. Once the songs were written we built the tracks up into a demo form so we could sit with them for a while. It’s important to give yourself time away from a song because it can be hard to analyze it properly otherwise. And then once we were happy with them we built the tracks up with session musicians.
MusicDash: As you’ve spent so much time in Canada this year, are you exited to step up to play large festival crowds like at WayHome and Osheaga?
BANNERS: I can’t wait. Both festivals sound brilliant and the line-ups are amazing. I love LCD Soundsystem, the Killers, Arcade Fire and Radiohead so I think it’s gonna be a pretty fun summer!
MusicDash: How did it feel to perform on Jimmy Kimmel?
BANNERS: It was great, obviously. Again, it was an absolute honour to be asked to play and from that point on I was just determined to give a good performance. Which is easy because they’re all so professional there that they give you the tools to do as well as you possibly can. I had great faith in myself and my band to do a good job so we all really enjoyed it!
MusicDash: Who are some of your favourite up and coming artists right now?
BANNERS: There’s a few bands back in Liverpool that I really love. Married to the Sea, Silent Sleep and a really cool band called Ex Easter Island head. I’m really proud of my home town and the music that comes out of there and I can’t wait to play there in may.
MusicDash: You recorded the song “Half Light” for the TV show The Royals. What made you decide to do that?
BANNERS: Well, The Royals had been really kind to me, they’d played two of my songs, “Start a Riot” and “Firefly”, on there already and needed some music for their end of season episode. They had a demo that Dan from Bastille has made and asked me to record. Which I was really happy to do because I think it’s a great song!
MusicDash: What are some fun facts about yourself?
BANNERS: When I’m not thinking about music I’m thinking about football, and specifically Liverpool Football Club. I was home for christmas when they played my song over the tannoy in the stadium which was probably my musical high point so far! I can’t imagine what would have to happen to top it!
MusicDash: What is your favourite part about performing?
BANNERS: Like I say these songs mean a lot to me, so to get to play them to people is just brilliant. The guys in my band are brilliant and are my best mates so to get to do that with your best friends is an indescribable feeling. As shine a light has been on the radio a lot seeing people sing it back to me is so much fun!
MusicDash: As you’re heading out on your first American tour at the end of the month, what can your fans expect from those shows?
BANNERS: Well I’ll be in America with all that American food so they can probably expect a slightly larger version of me as the tour goes on. But really they can expect an English boy with songs that mean loads to him playing with people that mean loads to him desperately trying to be anywhere near as cool as Jeff Buckley. The other bands I’m playing with “The Moth and the Flame” and “Pop Etc” are great so everyone should check them out!
Follow along with BANNERS at listentobanners.com!
His self-titled EP is available to download now.