Joe Banfi is a boy with a guitar but he's more than just a lonesome acoustic troubadour. He's not just a singer-songwriter, either, nor is he simply a musician with a voice. Here is someone whose intention it is to have his name embody a whole series of sounds and instruments, to signify an ethos, an aesthetic. To represent the idea of the solo artist as something more.
For some sense of what Joe Banfi - a 23 year old from Northwich, a small commuter town outside of Manchester - is about, imagine Kurt Cobain if he had gone out on his own before Bleach or after Nirvana and hooked up with a producer up to the task of providing a wide-ranging palette of atmospheres and effects. One minute he's singing in a whispering falsetto over sparse backing, the next he's rasping and roaring over a wall of incendiary noise. The impression given is of a young man capable of anything.
Communion's Kevin Jones and Ben Lovett could tell from Joe's demos that he was channelling the right sort of artists in exactly the right way, offering a new, unique mix of vintage elements - of Nick Drake and the Deftones, of folk and grunge, even metal. And you can hear the speed with which he's developed and progressed from winsome folkie to multifaceted recording artist over his two releases, 2012's 'Iron' EP and this, the 'Nomads' EP.
He wrote his first song, aged seven, and began playing guitar two years later. He learned about riffs and rock dynamics from his cousin, about ingenious, intricate song structure from the Deftones, about fingerpicking from Nick Drake and about riveting storytelling from Springsteen, specifically the 'Nebraska' album.
Joe is becoming increasingly adept at filtering personal feelings and autobiographical experiences through historical or fictional narratives, using the first-person to offer universal takes on the human condition. On the 'Nomads' EP, on 'Family', 'Oarsman' and the title track, he delves back in time to explore the perennial nature of emotions, of suffering and isolation, frustration and despair.
'I write in the first person for most of my songs because I like the way it sounds, but it's not always my perspective,' he explains. 'I like to use different personas to bring out different perspectives. The songs address everyday feelings. 'Nomads' is about being left behind. 'Family' is about taking things for granted. And 'Oarsman' is about sticking with something. I use various scenarios from the past to articulate feelings because I'm more comfortable doing that. A lot of the time, though, I just let my subconscious do the talking.'
Joe is heading towards a fuller realisation of his influences: a symphonic, studio-enhanced fusion of the folky and metallic, of the ragged and the refined.
'It's not like I'm some tortured soul,' he laughs. 'I appreciate the beauty in the world. But there's so much ugliness around, so many people wanting to fit in, afraid to be different. I'm interested in the things that unsettle me: issues like jealousy and loneliness and arrogance and pride. I'm trying to get closer to the truth.'
'Nomads' EP Tracklisting:
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