'The True Story of Bananagun': The genre-blending Bananagun make a solid debut with Fela Kuti-inspired record
With elements from '60s and '70s psychedelia and Afrobeat as well as contemporary indie pop/rock, Bananagun is ready to introduce the world to their unique sound
Hailing from Melbourne with a sound stretching all the way back to '60s and '70s Afrobeat and exotica, Bananagun is all set to make their debut with their album 'The True Story of Bananagun', out on June 26.
If one has to categorize Bananagun, they'd probably put them under something along the lines of "tropical psychedelia". The band's sound is heavily influenced by the work of Afrobeat artistes like Fela Kuti, so that label is hardly surprising. But in addition, Bananagun's sound which is reminiscent of something you'd find in a dusty record crate of hidden gems is a vibrant, colorful and almost eclectic reflection of a variety of musical styles blending together in perfect harmony.
'The True Story of Bananagun' marks the group’s first full foray into writing and recording as a complete five-piece band, having originally germinated in the bedroom ideas and demos of guitarist, vocalist and flautist Nick van Bakel. The multi-instrumentalist grew up on skate videos, absorbing the hip-hop beats that soundtracked them, taking on touchstones like Self Core label founder Mr. Dibbs and other early 90’s turntablists.
He was soon joined by cousin Jimi Gregg on drums and the pair's shared love of the Jungle Book made their collaboration a natural fit. More friends joined the lineup, including Jack Crook (guitar/vocals), Charlotte Tobin (djembe/percussion) and Josh Dans (bass), rounding out the band and evolving their sound from something vaguely alt-indie into something entirely fresh via spontaneous late-night practice jams. Eventually, they recognized their own propensity for being spontaneous and having their experience as musicians be rooted in simply having fun together, and out popped their name: Bananagun. "It’s like non-violent combat!" states the group. "Or the guy who does a stickup, but it’s just a banana, not a gun, and he tells the authorities not to take themselves too seriously."
'The True Story of Bananagun' opens with 'Bang Go The Bongos', and right from the first beat, you're transported into the tropical genre-and-culture-blending sound that defines Bananagun's sound. It perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the album.
The album's lead single, 'People Talk Too Much', is a Kuti-inspired tropical dream that showcases the band's groovy sound, as well as their commitment to creating something different from what is often heard. van Bakel stated, "We wanted it to be vibrant, colorful, and have depth like the jungle. Like an ode to nature." Their latest release, 'The Master', is equally fun and stunningly groovy, but don't let its upbeat sound fool you: this track touches on an all-too-relatable experience of "working your arse into the ground for someone else," as van Bakel defines it.
It's the group's take on the experience of working to the point of exhaustion to bring someone else's dream to life, leaving no room for your own growth or journey. 'Out of Reach' is one of the album's standouts, blending '60s psychedelia with some contemporary indie pop/rock, while other tracks like 'Perfect Stranger' are more reminiscent of sounds you'd hear coming out of an old school jazz club.
Overall, this is a solid debut release from Bananagun that beautifully blends nostalgic musical sounds with modern styles and thematic elements. Bananagun doesn't see itself as revivalists, and this album proves they're not trying to simply bring '60s rock back into mainstream popularity. On the contrary, they're building an entirely new sound.