BANNERS is the project of Mike Nelson, a UK based musician whose tune “Start A Riot” gained over forty-two million streams on Spotify. His debut self-titled EP (released in 2016) is a collection of five beautifully crafted songs that tug at the heart strings. Jesse Raymer got a chance to chat with Mike about his upcoming EP, touring, and his favorite parts about creating music.
Last year you released your debut self-titled EP. What was that process like?
It was cool actually! I recorded it all before I was signed to Island Records. I had just met a guy that I work with a lot in Toronto named Stephen Kozmeniuk and he produced it all. We went to the studio for a bunch of weeks and wrote a lot of songs and then recorded them. It was quite a nice process, writing to recording was relatively quick. I realize now that getting to write and quickly record is a rare thing, so that process was exciting. Quite hard work, but I like that!
You have a new EP coming out. What can your listeners expect on it? What are some of the major external themes that influenced the EP?
Well, one of the songs I have I'm a bit stressed out about because it’s called “Empires on Fire” and it’s about politics and the world being a bit mad. It’s “global warming-y” a little bit. I’m slightly worried that we’re going to release it and everyone’s going to be like “You’re only doing that because of Donald Trump! You’re just jumping on the Donald Trump Bashing Bandwagon!” But I’m genuinely not. I was talking about the world being screwed way before him.
You’ve toured with Milky Chance and this fall you’re touring with Echosmith, which is super awesome. What are your favorite parts about touring?
I’ve been really really lucky because I’ve been to the states a little bit, obviously I’m English so it’s all the way at the other side of the sea. But I’ve been to New York and I’ve been to San Francisco, but I haven’t really been to much of America. Since those cities (New York and San Francisco) are so diverse I felt like they weren’t really representative of America. So what’s really awesome is that in the last year, I’ve been to every state. And I’ve been driving, so I get to legitimately see it (America.) Another great part is getting to meet people. You can release a song on Twitter and get feedback but you don't know if it means something to people. So touring is great for that, really.
What are your favorite parts about creating music?
The bit I really like now, now that I’ve been playing live, is imagining how we can make music sound good live. The writing bit is great, but it’s quite stressful. I like turning the amp up loud and jumping across the stage. Playing live is really great and a lot of people get really stressed out at the concept, but once you get your head around that it’s your time to do your thing. After a while, it gets a lot easier.
Who are some of your favorite musicians? Do you have any lyrical icons?
There’s this band in England called Elbow, and I really love the lead singer Guy Garvey. His voice is amazing and his lyrics are absolutely brilliant. Also, Joanna Newsom. She’s an absolute dream boat. She’s a bit of an acquired taste, but once you’ve acquired it you can’t get enough of it. I also really love Arcade Fire, and MGMT’s first album.
What are your goals for this project? Any dream places you would like to tour?
Ah, it’s a bit of a strange and intangible one, but just making it as good as I can make it. It’s a really awful answer. But I think of the gigs I’ve seen in my life and the ones that really blew me away in terms of how the band makes it personal with an audience and makes it a real experience while it being a big space or production. To try to play bigger places, and make the gigs better and better while still involving people is the goal. To just make it better, and not pat myself on the back.