Interview: Alfred Banks

You can feel the passion and tenacity in the bones of New Orleans Rapper, Alfred Banks, every time that he steps onto the stage. Through years of immense dedication, Alfred has proven that success as an independent artist is indeed achievable if you do it with the bigger picture in mind at all times. I caught up with the man to discuss how his musicianship has affected his family life, his journey as an independent artist, remaining human with his growing fanbase and more.

One thing that I have recognized about you is that you are always grounded and human with your fans. You’re always creating time to interact in the comment section, etc. Tell us about the personal connections that you have made with your growing fan base over the years.

I am a very emotional person, you know? I am incredibly emotional. Throughout every single thing that I do, I always give it my all. Everything that I am exposed to means the world to me. I have always been an incredibly passionate person especially about music. So for me, even nine years into my career, the fact that somebody cares about my music still means the world to me. I don’t take any of that for granted.

The moment that things really started to shift for me was when I put out ‘The Beautiful’. That album changed a lot for me when it comes to how my fans began interacting with me as well as newcomers to my music. The way that people even speak to me changed after that release. I didn’t really understand how many people dealt with mental health concerns. I didn’t really understand how many people had family members and close loved ones who dealt with mental health concerns. People started to share their stories with me once I shared ‘The Beautiful’. Whether they had PTSD, schizophrenia, manic depression or if they were bi-polar or whatever their case may be, they were sharing that with me. One of the most important moments was when I did a show in my hometown, New Orleans. There was a lady who drove all the way from Chicago to come see my show; that’s a 14-hour drive. She mentioned to me that her son is in a mental asylum for schizophrenia and he loved ‘The Beautiful’. I have a project that came out before ‘The Beautiful’ called ‘The Beautiful Prelude’ and he even loved that release as well. He plays it a lot. Whenever this woman would go visit her son, he would always ask to play ‘The Beautiful’. She actually gave me a letter that her youngest son wrote to his older brother who was in the mental institution. The younger son was asking his older brother why he had to go and pleading about how much he missed him. She drove 14-hours to give me that letter. From that point on, it began to hit me.

That hits the soul. That is so meaningful. For an individual to even think to do that let alone take action, how powerful. Alfred, what you personally processed through creating ‘The Beautiful’ is an emotive tale in itself, yet for you to be able to selfless and listen to others as you were going through your own season of darkness; that’s real. Your fans are healing their own wounds, personal tragedies and life experiences through your work as you are doing so yourself.

Exactly. I really felt honored that somebody thought that highly of me. The woman that drove to New Orleans for the show lives in Chicago. I always put her on the list when I play a show in Chicago, yet she always insists on paying to get in and she always brings a bunch of people with her. She understands that any single person in the house matters. She is one of those people who truly cares about my music. That is what really sparked my interest to start talking to every single person that interacts with me. Anybody can hit me up and if it is humanly possible, you’ll get a DM or something. I don’t do the copy and paste shit. I talk to every single person in specific to the conversation. I appreciate people enough to not do the robot shit. I talk to everybody as much I can about whatever it is that they want to talk about if they show any interest in my music. Even if they don’t listen to my music because I do have a lot of followers that just follow me without having ever heard a song.

It’s bigger than the music with you. I think it really is a movement toward the betterment of the human being’s health with you. Ever since I started riding along on your journey, I have found intrigue through the fact that you always maintain level ground. I recall about a month or so back that you straight up came forward and said that you needed a break. You chose to take some time for yourself. That is so important and empowering for fellow artists and human beings to see. You are just like the rest of us, you need some space too. You need to process what you have experienced to keep moving forward in a positive, forward-thinking manner.

You hit the nail on the head. As I was recording ‘The Beautiful’, I realized in hindsight that yes, I was recording it for my brother and his experience with mental health issues, but subconsciously I was doing it for myself. I am manic bipolar and I suffer from depression as well. This past year proved that more than ever. This has been one of the most stressful years of my life outside of music. I knew that I needed to take a break. The problem was that I was beginning to publicly go through what I was going through. It was seeping through my social media. As open and honest as I am with everybody, I do want to keep a level of privacy. I don’t want to be a fucking huge name in which everything that I do is something that is put on blast and accessible to everyone. I had to take a break for myself.

Good for you. You switched it up for your latest music video drop, “This Is True”. What inspired you to take a risk creatively and utilize digital art as means of expression?

One of my guys, MegaRan, who I have toured with a bit introduced me to this dude, Pete Adler, and I just thought that his work was hot. I really liked what he was doing. Right when I saw it, I asked him to do something for me and it turned out really dope. I saw Pete’s style and he brought my words and style to life. It is the most comments that I have ever gotten on a video. People have been just showing love for the video even though it is one of my least viewed videos so far. Every time that somebody has chosen to share the video, it may get 10 more views and as a new artist, that adds up.

You’d be surprised. One single extra person knowing about your music can equate to 5 more views here, 5 more views there. It’s all about word of mouth; every single view and share matters. It all adds up.

For sure. Right when the video dropped and people started to share it, I noticed that new fans were being made through people seeing the video and inquiring about who I was and my music.

You bended the “rules” of what a Hip-Hop video could be and showcased a unique new creative way to go about things; that matters. You’re just getting off a tour and as you know, you were exposed to tons of stimulus. How has pursuing music as an independent artist affected your home life?

For me, going home is always the best part. I rap at a high intensity when I play a show. I am putting a lot of effort forward at every single show. I know that doing that night after night across the country can be a lot. Don’t get me wrong, being on the road is great. Some nights we are rapping in front of a bunch of people and some nights we aren’t rapping in front of anybody. It’s still a grind. It makes me appreciate this music thing more and more. One thing that I learned on this last run is that yes, you can get 300 likes on a pic but what if nobody comes to your show? You can get 30 likes on a pic and your show could be packed. It is really about the impact that you have on people. The interaction that you have with people online and in real life matters. It’s all about value. This tour taught me value. There are people that I know personally who don’t value my music. There are people that I don’t know who value my music. I am focused on talking to my folks that come to the shows, leave comments, interact, buy the merch, etc.

You know, in that limelight and just being an artist, you do come across a lot of wolves in sheeps clothing. They come out of the woodworks and it is undeniable from there. It leaves a stench in the room. And you gotta consciously distance yourself from those people and focus on being there for those who do ride for you. You gotta find new people. We live in a world in which we have instant access to a global fan base at our leisure and fingertips. You choose what you want to do with it and what you want to make of it. Someone else is going to take care of you and ride for your art, you gotta choose to drop the dead weight.

Of course. That’s what it’s all about. I am such an emotional person that I will say that this past year, it almost got to me. I was feeding into it. I took it personal that 30 people that I talked to personally didn’t come to one of my shows. I did a show here in New Orleans and I don’t really know anybody here yet that that show was packed. It just goes to show. It started to kick my ass though. I was asking myself if I was worthy, if I did something wrong. I was asking myself if people actually liked my shit. That is one of the reasons why I took a break. But back to your point, this tour was great for me. I was able to visit some of my favorite cities like Memphis, Columbus and Cincinnati. I got to open up for Tank and The Bangas in Kansas City which was great. It was a great run, but I love to come home and rest.

For sure. Any upcoming tour or new music plans that you can fill us in about?

I am doing a really big tour next year that I am looking forward to. I have a lot of album that I am sitting on right now and I just don’t know when I am going to put it out. I don’t really record a lot. I just create when the mode hits me. I have a lot to look forward to.

Last but certainly not least, any closing messages for your fans?

Shout-out to everyone who is rocking with what I do. Y’all keep me afloat. You keep my life fresh and happy. Shout-out to everyone for showing love.

Alfred Banks Social Links:



Interview: Puppy

London Rockers, Puppy, are swinging for the fences with infectious riffs that sink into the skin of their growing global fanbase. Having signed a worldwide deal with Spinefarm Records, Puppy is slated to make some noise throughout the world of Rock early on in the game in 2019. On the brink of what is to be an exciting year for the band, I caught up with Vocalist, Jock Morton,to discuss the upcoming release of ‘The Goat’, how the band is overflowing with cooking prowess, the bond between the three of them and more.

Congrats on the upcoming release of your debut album, ‘The Goat’. Tell us about the creative and recording process and what you learned along the way.

Thanks very much. It was a long process in particularly in terms of recording. We were lucky enough to work with two very different and talented producers in the form of Tom Dalgety and Neil Kennedy, both of whom we learnt a lot from in terms of what they brought to the table during the recording process. From a writing perspective I felt we’ve grown a lot since we recorded the ‘Vol II’ EP, and thinking about groove was a big element to a lot of my favourite songs on the record like “Black Hole” and “World Stands Still”. Another one of my favourites, “Bathe In Blood”, has a real washed out shoegaze feel to it too which is a side of our songwriting we hadn’t really had a chance to explore before.

Tell us about the bond between the three of you. How did Puppy come alive?  

Well our Drummer, Billy, and I have been playing together in various bands since we were about 12 or 13, so musically we have a really good chemistry. We were both really into rock and metal growing up, but as we got older we ended up playing in more indie leaning bands, so when we hooked up with our bass player Will, his background playing in Doom and Stoner bands really helped bring our love of bands like Black Sabbath and Metallica back to the fore. We were able to mix that with the Dinosaur Jr/ Teenage Fanclub elements of what we were doing before to help create the sound of Puppy, and knowing that the music really comes from the bond between the three of us is a pretty cool thing to share.

Your new music video for “World Stands Still” is hilarious and full of punk rock energy. Tell us about the concept and what you desired to express throughout the video.

Our Drummer, Billy, directed it, so it’s his baby really. We wanted to come up with something which really represented the band visually without having us in it too much, and the idea of this sweet little girl made up like a goblin terrorising her neighbourhood really seemed to fit our music; I think at their heart the songs tend to be pretty sweet and fun, but with all these gnarly hallmarks of classic metal like big riffs and guitar solos. That’s pretty much Puppy in a nutshell.

Tell us about your experience so far being signed to Spinefarm Records, one of the most well-known and respected labels in the game.

It’s been great. Dante, our A&R, was completely invaluable during the recording process in particular. We were so used to just chucking together the first bunch of songs we had, and he really encouraged us to take our time and think about what we were doing. Without him songs like “World Stands Still” wouldn’t even be on the album, and I think the fact that it’s pretty much all of our favourite track from the album says a lot. He’s our heavy metal Buddha.

No career path or amount of followers negates the fact that you are a human being that has feelings. Tell us about some parts of you beyond being a musician that you take pride in.

Yeah, I think that’s actually really important to keep in mind in terms of not getting overwhelmed by the pressure of it or anything too. Billy is big into football and loves playing whenever possible. Me and him are big Arsenal fans and try to watch every game when we’re away on tour. I think if it came down to them winning the premier league or us winning a Grammy it would be a very tough call to make; Will and I are very into gaming as well, so we spend a lot of our van journeys boring Billy with our discussions about Metal Gear Solid. Besides that all three of us are pretty keen cooks and have a not so secret war going on as to who’s the best. Obviously it’s me though.

As you are exposed to tons of stimulus, how do you proactively take care of your mental and emotional health when you’re out on the road?

Yeah it’s hard, but for me I try to let go a little in terms of what you’d expect from home comforts and take joy in the simplicity of just having to turn up and play shows and not worry about a day job for a couple of weeks or whatever. Once you get into the rhythm of that, then small things like finding a good place to eat or listening to some cool music or a podcast in the van all become nice little moments. I think the biggest thing you can do is pay attention to how others are doing around you and try to be there when they need it or give them space when they need that too.

How old would you be if you didn’t know how old that you were?

I’m pretty sure I’m still 16-years-old and playing at being a grown up, but then when I get a hangover I’m reminded very painfully that I am not.

If you could hop on tour tomorrow with any three bands/musicians, who would you choose and why?  

That’s a real tough one. We’ve been listening to Hallas a lot in the van lately and we’re all very into them, so they’d have to be there. We also went to see Ghost recently at the Royal Albert Hall which was incredible, so to be able to see that show every night we’d have to put them on there. Lastly I’d have to say Dinosaur Jr from a personal perspective. They’ve been my favourite band for years and I want to try and play a show with them before the original trio decide to break up again. Bit of a weird line up but hey-ho.

Last but certainly not least, any closing messages for your fans?

Keep watching the skies.

Puppy Social Links:



Interview: Oxymorrons

Creating therapeutic works of lyrical and musical art is the name of the game for Queens Alternative Hip-Hop Band, Oxymorrons. Beyond the music, Oxymorrons serve as an example of forward-thinking artists who proactively take charge when it comes to creating deeper and more personal connections with their fans. I caught up with Lead Vocalist, Dave Bellevue, to discuss their collaboration with iRel8, raising awareness of mental and emotional health, the bigger purpose of their music and more.

Tell us about your partnership with iRel8 and how this has deepened your connection with your fans.

The connection with iRel8 came from doing a mental health event in which I spoke on a panel for a company by the name of ILiveForOrg. It is a company that was started by an Aunt whose nephew committed suicide. My connection to it comes through my best friend who committed suicide years ago. It changed my life. He was the driving force to my music. I have chosen to be an advocate ever since that experience. I speak for many foundations and provide my thoughts all over the place, not only through my music. I linked up with one of the iRel8 sponsors at the ILiveForOrg event that I spoke at and they explained the app that they had created. The app allows you to have talks with people in real time, any time, anywhere. They have chat rooms, it’s informational and you can also get professional help on the app itself.

You’d be surprised how crucial those talks can be for those that are suffering in silence. Through societal pressure, there are individuals who are timid when it comes to bringing their pain outward. It’s bizzare to think of individuals creating fear within themselves because society tends to be rigid when it comes to candid vulnerability. There are so many individuals that are suffering within. It’s beautiful that you have transformed your experience into an opportunity to serve others.

You know, it’s still something that I undergo on a daily basis. I have made peace with certain things, but I do have my breakdown periods. Through our music and in general, we tend to push ourselves through the ringer when it comes to everything in our lives. It’s something that is needed. It’s something that is being more universally spoken about now which is great. There are so many celebrities and artists who are just committing suicide, you know? Taking their own lives. This is a huge issue in music and beyond, yet I love to see awareness continue to grow and expand. Through the iRel8 app, we have about 2500 accounts that we can give to people for free. You don’t have to pay at all and you can get so much professional help, it’s incredible.

Amazing. You mentioned the breakdown periods, yet it seems like the breakdowns have served as key components for breakthroughs for you. Your latest single, “See Stars”, lyrically dabbles into the interactions with people in your life steadily changing. Let’s talk about what inspired that track.

“See Stars” in general was about the battles that we have encountered through our life. It’s about battling through the music industry and how long we have been doing this while trying to break through. “See Stars” is the culmination of a really rough year for us. “See Stars” is that motivational push that reminds us of all of our circles and everything that we have been through. Our sights are set on our goals and we are about to achieve them; that’s what “See Stars” is about. You just have to keep pushing through everything that you are going through all at once. And once you see that moment, you see stars.

From my perception, your thought process of “seeing stars” is entirely different from the surface thought. Your intention and vision of “seeing stars” is the to be able to provide a safe space for both yourself and your fans to be unapologetically themselves while in tune with their mental and emotional health.

Yes! That is who we are in general. We allow and encourage our fans and everyone to be unapologetically themselves. That’s just the way it is. 

I noticed the way that you guys dress as well; flamboyant and entirely unique. Total freedom of expression. Whatever you want to wear, you are going to wear it. It’s not what your team wants you to wear, it’s what you want to wear.

Yeah, absolutely. Clothes shouldn’t even have gender assignments. Wear what you want to wear. Do what you want to do. This world is so controlled over and over again and for us, that is not how we live our lives. We just try to be that voice letting people know that it is completely okay to be yourself and that there is nothing wrong about it no matter what society is telling you.

You hit the nail on the head. No career path or amount of followers negates the fact that you are a human being that has feelings. Tell us about some parts of you beyond being a musician that you take pride in.

For me, it is just being a human being in general. I take pride in being a multilingual human being. I speak French and Krio which actually are my first languages. English is my third language. Outside of that, I am extremely healthy. I do Muay Thai and train a lot. I bike ride which is completely therapeutic in such a big place like New York. Also, I am really big on knowing what content that I absorb on social media.

I am a Buddhist and that came from my friend that committed suicide.  He was always challenging religion and challenging thought processes and it was through Buddhism that he changed his mind and altered his thoughts. I have been going to temples a lot too which has been refreshing for my entire life.

I can assume that that leads you toward a broader of awareness of the ride that you are on both musically and within. Life in New York is no joke. You are on the move 24-7. Nobody gives a fuck about you in New York and if that isn’t liberating in itself, I don’t know what is because it really pushes you to express yourself in a boundless way. There are no boundaries but yourself in a city like that. As you mentioned, being proactive with bike riding through the city helps free the mind and take in the bigger picture that you are free to do and be whatever you choose.

Exactly. The biggest thing for us is that we know that life is our own book. You write every chapter no matter what is going on. You are in full control. A lot of the times, people don’t realize that and it is due to what is set by society as to what is “normal” and what isn’t. Everything is pretty much controlled and dictated from the moment that you are born. You are told what you do.

True. We have all subconsciously absorbed all of this through our growing years until the recognition of the power of the mind begins to come to light.

Exactly. Oxymorrons tends to challenge control. We bend genres. We grew up on so many different kinds of music. For anyone to tell us that we can only make a certain type of music is fucking crazy which goes into another thing that we deal with which is being in the Alternative scene. We are a black band and people don’t tend to lean towards that. Do you know how many times that I have been told that we won’t make it because we are not American enough?

Photo Credit: Ken Spielman

But it is great to see bands like you and Radkey moving forward and pushing the “normalization” of African Americans in Alternative and Rock music.

Most people don’t know the history of Rock Music. Most people don’t know who the founders of Rock Music are. On our upcoming EP we have a song by the name of “The Ghost of Chuck Berry” in which I talk about Rosetta Tharpe. People don’t even know who Rosetta Tharpe is; like are you fucking kidding me? She’s huge. She is a woman who is one of the founders of Rock Music; there wouldn’t even be Rock Music without Rosetta Tharpe.

True. How has pursuing music affected your home life? Have you been able to find balance? Has it enhanced your relationships with others?

It’s a give and take with that. You know, when you are pursuing such a big dream and something that is so difficult to achieve while understanding energy and manifestation, you lose a lot of friends. I lost a lot of friendships. Relationships have shattered. It is extremely difficult for me. As you first start off as an artist, you just don’t know that this is what happens. You are so ready to rock with your goal that you don’t even factor in these parts. I do have to say that through being a musician, I have made a lot of good friends and have connected with some great fans. But I have also lost a lot. I am not there for key family moments at times and it’s really difficult. As time goes by, it gets harder to swallow.

Through the lens of a fan, the instant access of social media and really the instant access of everything these days throughout society leads artists to being in the forefront at all times. That is challenging. As an artist, you have to choose to make time for your family. You have to choose to make time for your spouse. You have to choose to make time for your loved ones. You’ll see who is really there for the right reasons in the long run. It takes time to navigate those waters.

Yeah, for real. There is no book on it. No one is teaching you that when you first start music. You have no clue. It’s all trial and error.

For sure. Last but certainly not least, any closing messages for your fans?

Be yourself at all times. I love seeing beautiful people being unapologetically themselves in every city that we go to. At the end of the day, we are inspiring all of our fans with songs that come from the heart and that is so special to us. It’s not even all about us; we do this for you guys. This is way bigger than us. Rage on.

Oxymorrons Social Links:



Interview: Chasing Deer

London Indie Band, Chasing Deer, are on the brink of an exciting time as the upcoming release of their debut album, ‘Hands On’, is right around the corner. Through commitment to expanding awareness through implementing BSL into every one of their monthly single releases, the gents continue to reach into the hearts of listeners worldwide through being in tune with and growing their compassion bone. I caught up with the guys to discuss the upcoming release of their debut album, ‘Hands On’, raising awareness for BSL, the importance of downtime with the family and more.

Congrats on the upcoming release of your debut album, ‘Hands On’. Tell us about the creative and recording process and what you learned along the way.

Thanks! We’re really excited about it, it’s been a long time coming. As we perform every day as a trio, as well as live together, we have had endless opportunities to think of ideas and write songs about our experiences. This album has been significantly more collaborative than previous Chasing Deer releases so its represents us at this point in time very well. We split our recordings between a variety of studios, recording with modern producers as well as some very well established names.  

Did you discover any new avenues of expression through experimentation in the studio? If so, fill us in.

We wouldn’t describe this album as experimental as such, however we do love to visit studios with a good collection of vintage instruments and microphones to breathe new life into them. The Amsterdam Recording Company specifically has been one of our favourite places to record, with a whole host of keyboards and guitars available to us.

It is incredible how you are being proactive in raising awareness for BSL. Tell us about any backtale that has led you toward your connection with BSL.

Initially we loved the image of a hand against a black background as a striking and iconic look. This led to us researching signs, what they meant to people and then British Sign Language. Adam’s (drummer) mum used to learn British Sign Language whilst working with children in schools and it was all around him for many years, so we thought this would be a fantastic cause for us to get behind through our own artwork. We incorporated sign language into every one of of our monthly single releases and will have a BSL interpreted performance for our album launch show on 22nd November!

If any of our viewers have never been to London, what are some must visit restaurants that you recommend to check out?

We love our Greek and North African cuisine at the moment, with a restaurant called Souk Medina being one of our favourites for quite some time. When you’re sitting inside you will have no idea you’re still in London!

No career path or amount of followers negates the fact that you are a human being that has feelings. Tell us about some parts of you beyond being a musician that you take pride in.

We take pride in the inspiration and happiness we bring to people, whether outside a shop on cold winters morning to a queueing pensioner or as an important part in somebody’s wedding day. Learning from new cultures through our travelling also brings us new ways and inspirations to be positive and inspired.

As you are exposed to tons of stimulus, how do you proactively take care of your mental and emotional health when you’re out on the road?

It can be difficult not only touring and performing in such close quarters, but in living together we literally spend every hour together. Humour really helps us along, as well as actually playing the music itself. If we’ve had a falling out, everything is forgotten as soon as that first note is played together. We find time for as much exercise as we can as well as trying to eat healthy. It’s always great to have so many connections with our home towns, and we regularly return to visit our families for some down time.  

How old would you be if you didn’t know how old that you were?

I suppose age is just a number, as they say. We are energetic, like to laugh and don’t take ourselves too seriously so people may well ask if we are actually a group of kids after a little too much sugar.

What is your personal opinion on how immersed society has become into the social media world?

We actually wrote a song about this on our previous EP ‘Moving On’ called “The Simple Life”, which is about turning off mobile phones and enjoying the world around you.

As a band we are very active on social media as it’s a necessity in the modern age, but we are big supporters in the movement to go out with friends and family (to see live music!), to support a local event or even to the pub once in a while. The world has had much taken away from it by social media, which is then being nicely repackaged and sold back to us (Watching a live stream of a musician playing down the road for example).

Last but certainly not least, any closing messages for your fans?!

If you like what you read, come and join us at a show near you or drop us a message!
You can be part of our journey on all major social sites and listen to our music everywhere too.  

Chasing Deer Social Links: