Born in Nigeria and raised in Birmingham, UK, Jacob Banks is a singer-songwriter and self described ‘storyteller.’ His powerful, brooding vocals lend themselves to the cinematic, and in the first five years of his career in music, Jacob’s work has been critically revered for its ability to paint vivid portraits of modern life and love in these uncertain times. His debut album ‘Village’ arrives early next month via Interscope records, so Highsnobiety Soundsystem invited him to curate the first of a new playlist series; The Guestlist: Ten Tracks of influence and inspiration.
“I have a new album called Village. It’s based off the phrase; “It takes a village to raise a child.” I’ve always loved that phrase because it doesn’t say it takes a good village, or bad village, or mediocre village, it just says it takes a village, so we’re just essentially all just a product of whatever cards we’re dealt from the point of view of a storyteller. I’m just celebrating all my loves: my love for hip hop, my love for soul, my love for afrobeats, for reggae, my love for UK youth culture, and politics: My love for whatever. What I hoped for with this album is that it keeps people company. I hope you find a friend in there somewhere. I’ll be cool with that.”
Scroll down to listen to Jacob’s picks for Highsnobiety Soundsystem’s The Guestlist on Spotify, and find out what a few of his selections mean to him below.
Don McLean – Vincent
“In my humble opinion, I don’t think there’s a better written song than this; it’s so fucking clever! It’s just Don and a guitar- you don’t hear any other instrument until the last chorus, and then when those strings come in, it’s just wonderful. This song humbles me. I think as an artist, you’re always racing against your taste level. Well, this song here is the pinnacle of my taste level. It always lets me know there’s room to grow, there is a level above that I haven’t reached yet. We’re gonna get there, we’ll attain that level at some point, and this song represents that for me, be humble, player, there’s room left to grow.”
Bon Iver – 8(circle)
“This song is special. Until today I couldn’t tell you the lyrics of the song because it just doesn’t matter. But, the vibe, this feeling of freedom that this song is, well, there’s very few songs that I’ve heard in my life that feel like freedom. I was chasing this feeling so hard for the album.”
Amy Winehouse – I Heard Love is Blind
“This song, for me, is just brutal. The concept of the song, is Amy talking about cheating on this guy, and kind of flipping on him. She makes him feel bad for his absence. I feel like that skill as a writer, to be able to allow the listener to be on whatever side you want them to be on, takes some exquisite technique. I don’t know how she’s managed to do that. For me the honesty in this song has taught me so much.”
OT Genasis – Everybody Mad
“As into myself as I am, even when I get into my head to write my songs… I’m still Jacob from the bits. This song reminds me I’m still a G. People think I’m soft, I’ll kick you in the chest rudeboi! Seriously though, I still represent a culture: Gritty, ugly, disrespectful hip hop, because that’s what I grew up on, that’s how I dress, it’s how I speak. When I’m presenting myself I always make sure I’m not representing a minority of myself.”
Maro – Flying to LA
“Just listen, just her voice, just the mood that she sets for me. As incredible a vocalist, writer, and guitarist Maro is, she always scales it back because she doesn’t need all of that, she’s not needing to yell at you. She just wants to keep you company. It taught me about not every song has to be a roar, sometimes it just needs to be a little mellow conversation.”
Tame Impala – Feels Like We’re Only Going Backwards
“I’m always chasing feelings, and there’s a certain tranquility I get from this song. Though it’s kind of blaring at you, and the drums are loud and the snares are harsh, it still feels like driving through a tunnel. That’s what this song feels like: Driving through a tunnel with everyone I love the most in a van that’s too small for us, but we’re happy to be here. With every song on the album I try to really paint a feeling, because I feel like as an artist, I often listen as a critic, I’m not listening to enjoy. But, when the feeling is so good, I can only listen as someone who feels privileged to listen. I’ve missed that feeling, I wasn’t listening to compare notes, I wasn’t listening to the mix, the master, the low end. This is a massive benchmark for me, chasing a feeling.”
From Jacob’s New Album – Village: Jacob Banks ft. Seinabo Sey – Be Good To Me
“This song probably took about a year to figure out. It didn’t take me a year to write it, it just took me a year to figure it out. I’d come back to it every four months and just try again to get it working and I’d stop and I’d come back and it went on and on. One day I tried again and it just made sense. I wrote this hook while I was playing FIFA. When I play FIFA I always put my phone down and I hit record on my ‘Memos’ app and I just sing while I play. The song embodies me as an artist, in a few respects. It has lots of layers, it has the old school, the new school, the storytelling, and the production value as well.”
Subscribe to The Guestlist, presented by Highsnobiety Soundsystem, below, and stay tuned for our next guest curator. Jacob Banks’ debut album “Village” is available to pre-order now, and will drop on November 2nd via Interscope Records.
- Video Directed and Edited: Yuan Hu
- Production: Atip Wananuruks
- Additional Editing: Louie McPherson and Musa Clarke
- Photography: Charlie Cummings
- Styling: Jay Hines
- Styling Assistance: Fred Nimo
- Special Thanks to: Jacob Banks, Shoshanna Stone, Jamie McEvoy, The Pool Studios and Jake Boyer. Robbie Russell - Highsnobiety Soundsystem.
- Brands: OFF-WHITE, Heron Preston, MC Overalls, Dolce & Gabbana, Jil Sander, Saint Laurent, Fillipa K, Gucci, Levi’s, JW Anderson, Vans, Puma
- Thanks to: Flannels, Browns Fashions, Selfridges