Kota Banks

 Photo: Tiff Williams

Photo: Tiff Williams

Simply on face value Sydney’s Kota Banks appears to be the stereotypical pop princess, but with her latest release, Prize, that facade was shockingly shattered into a million pieces. In the modern social media age of pop music this ability to shock audiences and break genre boundaries has become ever more important.

When J.A.M recently spoke with Banks she told us of her simultaneous desire to inject her music with a surprise factor but also the fear this creates.

“Shock value is such a significant part of being an artist in today’s zeitgeist,” said Banks. “I’ve called myself a pop artist for a long time, so it was very risky to put something so avant-garde out.”

The decision to move in a much more experimental direction with this release was driven both by Banks’ youthfulness and also a desire to stand out from the crowd.

“A lot of it was the fact I was 22-23 and when you’re in your early 20s you want to experiment,” Banks explained, “I’ve grown up listening to pop my whole life, and love pop music, but I was hearing so much of the same stuff that I wanted to do something that no-one else was doing.”

With this goal firmly entrenched within her mind Banks set off to Melbourne to work with her producer and the mixtape quickly fleshed itself out.

"Even though it was so experimental it happened in a really short amount of time. A majority of the songs were conceived in one weekend but the entire process took roughly nine months, so I always call it my music baby.”

Banks was also buoyed by the decision to label this release a ‘mixtape’ rather than an ‘album’ because it allowed more freedom in the creative process, “because it is a mixtape it’s allowed to be a bit more raw than an album.”

Even with the flexibility and rawness that the ‘mixtape’ label permitted Banks always looked to her label boss and mentor Nina Las Vegas for advice.

“Nina is such a great sounding board because she’s been in the business for such a long time,” said Banks. “[Nina] is such a strategic thinker as well, which is something I lack, so she’s been absolutely essential in pointing me in the right direction with my music and its development.”

In terms of Bank’s upcoming live performance she wants to continue to surprise and shock audiences, this time with her vocal range and prior influences.

“I try to incorporate a lot of vocal runs into my show, even though it’s club music, because I want to bring a bit of my R&B influence into the live show,” Banks explained, “You don’t really get a chance to hear my voice like that because of the auto-tune on some of the songs but I love Mariah [Carey] and Christina [Aguilera] so it will be fun to do that in the live show.”

Sep 15. Oxford Art Gallery, 38-46 Oxford St, Darlinghurst. $13.65+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.oxfordartfactory.com

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