With airy guitar licks and disco-tinged falsetto, Banfi is caught somewhere in between 1979 and 2017. The band is a collision of musical influences ranging from Bob Dylan to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. This year, they’ve released a steady stream of singles, and if you haven’t heard them yet, you’re missing out. From their newest work June and Caroline to their earlier releases, Banfi has been making waves with their pop-infused rock tracks. We sat down with Joe Banfi, the band’s namesake, to discuss their musical background, their upcoming work, and their not-podcast, High Banfidelity in this All Things Go extended interview.
How’d you get your start in music? Did you grow up playing it? How did you all meet?
I (Joe) loved music when I was little. Apparently, my first favorite song that I kept making my mum and dad play on tape in the car over and over and over again was “Achy Breaky Heart” by Billy Ray Cyrus. Luckily they swerved me towards better music, although no matter how many times my dad tried to play me Maggie’s Farm I wasn’t quite ready for Bob Dylan.
Then when I was about 10, my older brother gave me a cassette tape of Californication, and my cousin could play all of John Frusciante’s riffs on there. I started learning those and then got really obsessed with guitar, and started trying to write my own riffs. I wrote songs with my older brother in our first band, and when he left school I started another band with my best friends. We were all really competitive trying to write and play better than each other, which I think helped a lot, and then I started a solo project, and now I’m in.
Aaron and I met quite formally through a management company, but then that project we’d initially met for fizzled out and we started Banfi together, working on bedroom demos at first and then Aaron knew Chris through a friend and we started rehearsing for live shows.
Did you study music in school?
I had a good guitar teacher in school and I took music GSCE, but I learned mostly about songwriting with my friend Andy. We basically got good at stealing ideas and then disguising them enough to sound like our own songs, gradually finding our own sound. I think I’ve carried a lot of that ethos forward! Also, Andy’s dad was a very good guitar player and really supportive of our band. He taught us a lot about why guitars are so important and recorded our first demos for us.
Who did you like growing up?
At first, it was one-off songs like the one I mentioned above and “The River Boat Song” by Ocean Colour Scene, and “Thriller” by Michael Jackson. The first guitar band that blew me away was Coldplay when “Yellow” came out. The whole nu-metal thing happened when I was about 11 which was good at the time, and then a three-year obsession with a British band called Hundred Reasons. Then my parents got me into classics like Bob Dylan, The Police and Peter Gabriel.
Who are you into now?
Now I like Tom Waits, The 1975, Bill Frisell, The Smiths, Enya, Mike Oldfield, Kate Bush, Outkast, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, and Prince.
What’s June about in your mind?
For me, it’s about being too late for something, and hoping you’re never too late ever again, but it’s too late even for that! The things that are most important to people tend to revolve around other people, so I like to address someone else in songs when I can, but I don’t like saying ‘babe’ at the moment so I use names instead.
You’ve released a few singles but they’ve been pretty staggered. What’s the plan EP/Album wise?
We’ve got another new song on the way soon, to fit with the staggered release plan so far. An EP is coming early next year with an album to follow later in the year.
What is High Banfidelity? You’re talking about songs but is it a podcast? What do you envision it becoming?
I don’t know if it’s a podcast. We’ve just had quite a few people enjoy talking about music with us, so we thought we’d make that more widespread and give anyone who’s interested a chance to listen in. There’s no master plan with it, we might not even make another one unless we start having another good chat or argument about music. Then we’ll record it I suppose!