Banana Gun Celebrates Five Years With A Show And A New EP!

It’s a little difficult to wrap my head around the fact that Banana Gun is celebrating their five year anniversary this week. Granted, I’ve been writing about local music for nearly seven years, but it seemed that when things just got started rolling around here Banana Gun was a part of the new emerging scene. Now, half a decade later, they are one of the top local bands and seasoned veterans at that. Across five years they have released one studio EP (more of a mini-album/short full album), two brilliant full lengths and a live EP–all to critical praise, including my own. In that time, as well, they have played hundreds of shows with an ever growing audience of friends and fans, fervent followers who are familiar with every song, every hook, every lyric the band has ever produced and they’ve worked damned hard for that sort of loyalty and devotion. Banana Gun is Kevin Loyd (Vocals and Guitar), Nic Dehaan (Guitar and vocals), Ian Breslin (Drums), Ross Troost (Bass) and Kyle Scarborough (Sax and vocals)–together they make one of the most talented rock combos in Tempe and the entire valley. Stylistically recognizable for miles away, this crew is instantly recognizable for their music, their  sound and their style, there local success is well earned and further success would be simply well deserved. This weekend they will celebrate a half a decade by throwing an amazing show at Last Exit Live and releasing their second studio EP, the stunning I And The Me. I sat down with them after having listened to the new record to discuss the show and the EP to find out more.

The first part of the exciting news is that they will be throwing a party at Last Exit Live, which is like a local audiophile paradise. Add to that some of the best bands in the valley and then add that Last Exit Live now has a full liquor license and you have a show that Banana Gun fans can really get down to all night long.
“It’s a weird mix of bands,” Kyle Scarborough said with a smile. “We’ve got Sister Lip, Sugar Thieves, Banshee Bones from LA and Japhy’s Descent.”
“Japhy’s Descent and The Sugar Thieves,” Kevin Loyd remarked, “We’ve played a lot of shows with them and Sister Lip is doing some really great things.”
It turns out Banshee Bones were booked elsewhere on December 6th and when they told Loyd this, he would have none of it out of admiration for the band.
“We totally stole them from another show,” he smirked. “So I made that happen.”
The first 100 people in the show get a free CD of the new EP as well, which should encourage everyone to arrive early, because you want these four songs in your life. Plus, the show itself will have some pretty amazing surprises.
“The show is an anniversary celebration,” Loyd commented. “Be prepared to hear songs from everything–old sweets and new treats,”
“We’re going to play the stuff everyone expects to hear,” Scarborough commented. “And some things they wouldn’t expect us to play. I think this five year show is about both us and the fans.”
Reflecting on the half decade mark Loyd said simply, “Five years is a long time to be in a band, with all the shit you have to deal with, it deserves a celebration.”
“I don’t think any of us individually would be comfortable with letting this die out,” Scarborough said. It is clear that no one in the band has any intention of that. After all, not too many bands put out their best album to date, one of the best of the year, and then release a follow up EP that is equally matched in brilliance. Banana Gun does apparently. Because they can.

I was surprised three weeks ago when Ross Troost pulled me aside and told me that Banana Gun was releasing a new EP to coincide with their 5th Anniversary show. My reaction was along the lines of “But you already blew my mind this year with Love.Instinct, what the hell else could you do.” Turns out, the answer is the I And The Me EP. It both continues their trajectory and scatters their aim, it provides continuity to their entire career, ties up some loose ends and looks forward, it is an anomaly that will leave people guessing, fascinated and most of all, listening. This is a gift to those who have loved every move this band has made so far and a further invitation to others to delight in their world. It’s four songs across twenty minutes, the final track using half that time and it’s amazing from a rocking start to a mid tempo, to the loveliest song they’ve ever recorded to a psychelic jazz jam that sucks you down the rabbit hole at last. In my mind it is Banana Gun flexing some stylistic muscle and showing just what they can do, to listen them talk it was just a hell of a fun and a way to prove that no label can be pressed upon them–their sound can’t be cornered or pigeonholed, and they’re right.

“Skeletons” is the pure rock’n'roll opener and honestly, it’s the only rocker in the bunch. One thing that is noticeable is that Scarborough’s vocals are right up front, backing Loyd’s lead. It is an amazing scorching number and apparently one of their earliest grooves.
“Skeletons is the first riff we played together as a band,” Troost said. “We just finally made it a song.”
“It’s built from an early on thing we had,” Loyd said. “A lot of the songs on the EP are b-sides, songs that didn’t make the cut or just didn’t fit on an album. The initial part of that song was there before.”
“Nic’s idea went from this guitar part to a funk song at one point,” Scarborough said. Apparently, once in the studio with Curtis Grippe at STEM Recordings, “It just formed so fluidly. Though, lyrically it was written in an all together different manner between Loyd and Scarborough.
“We were drunkenly texting lyrics one night,” Loyd said.
“Between being half asleep, half awake and drunk texting, what I had written as lyrics was not what Kevin had written me at all,” Scarborough said. While they had both loved the idea of sharing vocals and featuring Scarborough more, the lyrics appear to have been a wonderful intoxicated gift to us all.

There is not more of a sudden shift on the first listen of I And The Me than that between “Skeletons” and the simply wonderful “Leave Tonight.” We go from pure rock to an amazingly warm Americana song that is the first signal that you are in for something different and it’s welcomed. This is the closest to a Country song that Banana Gun has pulled off in a while and it’s pretty fucking brilliant. Sadly, it’s the shortest song on the entire affair, but nothing here could be better from the twin guitars, the locomotive bass, the train track drums and Loyd’s fucking amazing emotive voice here, with Scarborough backing him. It’s perfect.
“I think Nic put down the fucking best country ass hooks on this song I’ve ever heard,” Scarborough said. “I felt when we recorded this that we love to rock your asses off, but we love this too. And it could be a taste of what’s to come.”
“This song never fit on anything else we recorded,” Loyd mused “It just had this good melody, good lick and I like that it stretches our sound a bit.
“‘Leave Tonight’ is one of my favorite fucking songs in the world,” Scarborough added. “It got me out of my shell a bit to sing, you can’t play sax on a country song, so I had to step up and sing!”

What follows next slows it down even further, but with both great effect and amazing beauty. “No Light” is probably the sweetest, soulful and emotionally moving song that the band has done to date. With orchestral accoutrements that have never accented the band like this ever before, the entire affair take on both a spiritual and orchestral tone about it. In one word, it’s lovely.
“Nic came up with as a response to ‘Light On’” Loyd said. “That song was built in the studio.”
“It’s so different from what it was originally,” Scarborough said. “That song almost came out on Elephant In The Room. I was expecting banjo and then Kevin comes in with mandolin and bells!”
“It wasn’t ready until now,” Kevin added. “We went with a really orchestral feeling with this.”
If you are wondering about the cello, that happens to be Dehaan, who from the talk of his bandmates and the sound of this EP is the secret star of the band on this recording. On this song, his concept, he provides the architecture for the building in which the rest of the band lives and I want to see him wielding that cello on stage, because it’s amazing.

The finale of “Soapbox” is one of epic proportions. First of all, it’s nine and a half minutes long for fucks sake! Secondly, it’s not boring during any of that time (I hate long songs, trust me). Finally, this is just an amazing tune and while it takes up half of the running time of the EP, it’s worth every second of it. I have to say that here the star of the show is Scarborough’s saxophone–it is the musical line that drags me willingly, lovingly through this near ten minute tune. I’ve listened to this a dozen or more times at this point and I am simply hypnotized more and more by the damned sax. Sober, after a few drinks, and even beyond it is the sax that plays like the pied piper to lead you down the rabbit hole. There is an amazing change up that happens at the five and a half minute mark, right before the vocals kick back in that will blow your mind and after that point Scarborough wails on vocals as well. As I am not a fan of long songs, I am always stunned when I stumble upon one I love and this is certainly one.
“Kevin brought this to the table,” Scarborough said, “It gave us kind of a kick to try something new.”
“That was a fun one,” Loyd said. “We had an outline, but we just followed what was happening and it all fell together, I hope.”
“We sort of jammed on it for months,” Scarborough said. “The day we went in the studio is the day I solidified something. Nic has a phenomenal ear  for hearing what people want to hear. I didn’t have shit written, we just pressed record. Nic is also a great pianist and he brought an electric Rhodes to the song.”
“It’s good to get in there when creativity strikes to be able to something and them and they can play it,” Loyd commented. “We have never tackled before a super long song. It’s really easy to feel stagnant in a band–we play a tune a million times before we play it out. This happens to be exciting.”
“This is a song enjoyed best after smoking a joint and laying in bed with your lover,” Scarorough added. She is not wrong, in fact the entire EP seems designed with that purpose in mind.

I And The Me is both a departure, a step back and a step forward. In truth, it’s representative of everything they have done to date and where they are going without, perhaps, their even realizing it. I’m not sure four songs could capture the quintessence of Banana Gun better than what is found here, honestly. Part rock, part Americana, part orchestral love tune, part epic psychedelic swoon–that may be all four elements of their formula well represented here.
“This EP is more of a thank you to our fans and everyone that’s supported us,” Troost said, a sentiment echoed by everyone in the band.”We’re just glad to be where we are. The local scene has lost a lot in the last year from bands to venues and we want everyone here that supports music to know we appreciate them.”
The EP is clearly designed with fans in mind, but I have a feeling that it’s going to attract some new attention and Loyd even hinted at a new live EP in the next year as well as a full album. One can only hope that Banana Gun keeps traveling down the road they are on, because the music is good and the vibe is right.

Please be sure to catch Banana Gun this Saturday, December 6th at Last Exit Live for their 5th Anniversary Show, featuring support from Japhy’s Descent, Sugar Thieves, Sister Lip and Banshee Bones. Don’t forget that Last Exit Live now has a full bar! The first 100 entrants get a free CD of the new amazing EP. This will be an amazing night and Banana Gun has a ton of surprise songs that they are going to play for you this evening. You don’t want to miss this for the world!

 

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