Banji dive headfirst into their irresistibly fun, feverish, and freeing debut album ‘Freshcakes,’ a record of raw reckonings channeled through a radiant soundtrack that’s as catchy as it is cathartic.
for fans of easy life, Glass Animals, The 1975, Mt. Joy
Stream: “Chills” – Banji
There’s something irresistibly freeing about Banji’s debut album.
Buoyant and bustling, Freshcakes is boldly uninhibited: A lively, groovy, and glistening record of raw reckonings and upheavals channeled through a radiant soundtrack that’s as catchy as it is cathartic. Funk-fueled, soul-soaked, psychedelic, R&B-infused, hip-hop-inspired, and pop-driven, Banji’s songs have many sides, but they all ultimately flow together into one cohesive melting pot of an album that hits hard and leaves an instant, lasting impression. This is the music of a soul unleashed – and as the band pour their hearts out in golden, glitzy hues, we too can get a taste of that sweet, uninhibited freedom.
Crumble in my crunch
Woke up too late for lunch
Same as the day before (day before)
Daydrinking, white wine from a box
My stomach tied in knots
And wonder how it came to this (came to this)
It’s always too fast for me
Sanity spinning, brainbox capacity
Fills up till it spills
Rules of reality add up to go after me
Thinking irrationally just leaves me with chills
I don’t know what’s left
Pick it up for breakfast
What comes after that?
It’s all up on its head
I don’t know what’s left
Hours, minutes, seconds
What comes after that?
It’s all up on its head
– “Chills,” Banji
Released October 14, 2022 via [PIAS] Recordings, Freshcakes is delicious delight we can’t get enough of. The debut album from Utrecht, Netherlands-based quartet Banji is a polished outpouring of sonically and emotionally charged indie pop music. Frontman Morris Brandt’s impassioned, feverish singing and vulnerable storytelling fit like a perfect glove, and together with bandmates Twan de Roo (keys), Gilles van Wees (guitar, bass, keys) and Jasper Meurs (drums), Banji deliver a string of thirteen unforgettable performances that plunge into the depths of our humanity and pull out something real, raw, and beautiful.
“Banji’s songwriting has always reflected my surroundings and environment,” Brandt tells Atwood Magazine. “Big themes of this album are struggling with adulthood, self-worth and self-esteem, mental health and frustrations, addiction, and finding your own self-discipline and maturity over time. The lyrics that flowed out of me throughout the making of Freshcakes tend to be built around introverted thoughts, personal social situations, and subjects that I find difficult to dissect. Stressful feelings about mistakes made, expectations unfulfilled, and the guilt that surrounds that. At a young age I’ve learned to use music as an output for frustration and stress. The main thing that I wanted to do with this record was find a place for those feelings and letting them go, kind of like therapy in a way.”
Unlike many of their contemporaries, who will release upwards of three to four EPs over a five to ten year span, before ever embarking on a full-length album, Freshcakes is Banji’s first multi-track record. The band formed in 2018 and debuted their song “Listen” in late 2020, establishing themselves right off the bat as an effervescent, energetic outfit with a penchant for big, boisterous melodies and achingly alluring earworm choruses
“The instrumental to this track felt very lively and energetic,” Brandt explains. “There are a lot of little elements hidden in the music, almost as if they’re constantly trying to talk through each other. I took that concept and pictured a couple sitting at a dinner table. ‘Listen’ ended up being a song about favouring child-like stubbornness over maturity. The inability to filter thoughts, and instead, trying to talk your way out. It’s basically me saying to myself, ‘things would be a lot easier if you just listened.’ It’s also the first song we finished, and felt like a good introduction to the band, asking people to listen.”
With the scene set, the equally expressive songs “Dogbreath,” “TalkieWalkie,” and “Chills” followed in 2021, and the story goes on from there – all leading up to the tail end of 2022.
Don’t want to say something I’ll later regret
‘Cause I’m not trying to start an argument
I can’t win
I’m okay with sleeping on the floor
‘Cause I’m not trying to score
In an argument I can’t win
On vacation, trips, in bars
I’m dumb enough to start
Discussions bigger than buildings
There’s no need to tell me my dinner’s getting cold
All I can do now, get through to her somehow
Thought out words take too long to leave my tongue
So I wanna take control I wanna say don’t talk just listen
Don’t talk just listen, don’t talk just listen
“This record is basically a product of our shared determination to explore our musical tastes and create a body of work that feels special to us,” Brandt explains. “We set out to make our first record right after we started this group in 2018. We started in our rehearsal space with ideas we produced on our computers. Throughout that process we learned a lot and ended up producing most of the record ourselves – which was definitely a challenge, but looking back, it was an essential part of our development as a band, and specifically for this project.”
“I feel like it shows the spirit of our musical ethos, just create the stuff you love and do it by any means necessary. Even if it feels too difficult, just find a way to make it work. I’m really proud of how we ended up with a record after the endless hours of writing, recording, producing, thinking and figuring it all out. It definitely feels like we captured the building blocks of our tastes and creative energy, and I can’t wait to build upon this foundation.”
Brandt describes the album as “playful, refreshing, and versatile.” The album title itself holds a few different meanings. “There’s a couple of reasons why this title felt right to me,” he says. “There’s an element of freshness and excitement we wanted to convey in our production style, and the title lends itself to that. To me, it also ties in thematically with the idea of addiction, obsession, and how something exciting doesn’t always stay exciting. There’s some metaphors sprinkled throughout the record that made the title feel right. PLUS the instrumentals kind of feel like tiny little cakes to me!” he laughs.
The first of those tiny little cakes, the title track “Freshcakes,” is a minute-long amuse-bouche introducing the sights and sounds of the record to come. Bouncy, woozy, hypnotic, and warm, it’s a perfect taste of Banji’s ear-catching sound – one that draws comparisons to bands like easy life, Glass Animals, and The 1975, while still standing out as a uniquely enticing and singular experience. Highlights include the smoldering “Cornflakes,” the euphoric anthem “Chills,” the hearty, pulsing “Dogbreath,” the mesmerizingly moody “Lazy,” and the explosive final two songs, “Chatterbox” and “Maybe.”
“’Chills’ is about being in a rut,” Brandt says of the album’s soaring, uplifting third track. “That feeling of how everything around you goes too fast to keep up with. It’s something everybody struggles with now and then, looking for grip. But when you can’t find that, you tend to give up and it feels like you’re stuck. Sometimes I get really tied up with myself, and it feels like my brain can’t really process what I’m trying to deal with. Being okay with that, acknowledging it, and taking a step back has helped me a lot.”
But we have to be strong
Whatever happens we have to carry on
If everything goes wrong
Let it go wrong, let it go
What comes after that?
It’s all up on its head
Same as the day before day before, day before
– “Chills,” Banji
Meanwhile, Banji leaves listeners in a space of dazzled and breathless amazement with the turbulent, churning finale, “Maybe.” At four and a half minutes, it’s the album’s longest cut – as well as its most explosive, rising and falling in waves of emotive musical cacophony.
“With ‘Maybe’ I tried to capture the idea of someone completely surrendering themself to a person,” Brandt recalls. “Up to the point to where the value of mundane life seems made up, or even worthless. It’s a big feeling, and the song also questions whether that feeling will be returned. I wanted to describe tiny intimate moments that can feel really expansive and impactful. I felt like that’s where the contrast in the song comes from, those explosive choruses in opposition to the more peaceful verses. That idea also makes it a very fun song to play live. It feels big.”
you look at me like i’m loopy, maybe I am
i’m as nuts as a teenager
in a tinfoil hat
and maybe that’s it,
or maybe there’s a small chance
well you look at me sparkling
with the sheets over our heads
we say we’re not tired, but the clock says 3 AM
well, maybe, just maybe you’re the one I can…
– “Maybe,” Banji
Banji dove deep, they worked hard, and the result is a remarkable, multi-faceted debut album that is sure to stand the test of time.
Fun, feverish, and freeing, Freshcakes is the inspiring, energizing roller-coaster ride we never want to get off of; a cozy, crafty record with endless quirks to uncover and layers to unfold.
“It takes a lot of work to make a record and pour yourself into a piece of art, but in the end it’s 10000000% worth it,” Morris Brandt shares. “If you can figure out how to stay away from doubt, and trust your first instincts, there are gonna be people who identify with your music. As long as you honestly connect with it, there’s gonna be an audience out there who will do the same.”
Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Banji’s Freshcakes with Atwood Magazine as Morris Brandt goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of the band’s debut album!
Stream: ‘Freshcakes’ – Banji
:: Inside Freshcakes ::
In the process of writing this one, it definitely felt like the curtains were opening and the show was about to start. The story I was writing with this record opens with this song as some sort of prelude.
Cornflakes is a song that came together around the same time as Dogbreath. I always felt like there was some subconscious link between the two, in terms of how they both connect from a lyrical perspective. The overall subject turned out to dig a little deeper into my own habits and I decided to write about temptations, quick releases, and with that, carelessness.
Chills is about being in a rut. That feeling of how everything around you goes too fast to keep up with. It’s something everybody struggles with now and then, looking for grip. But when you can’t find that, you tend to give up and it feels like you’re stuck. Sometimes I get really tied up with myself, and it feels like my brain can’t really process what I’m trying to deal with. Being okay with that, acknowledging it, and taking a step back has helped me a lot.
Listen ended up being a song about favouring child-like stubbornness over maturity. The inability to filter thoughts, and instead, trying to talk your way out.
I wanted to encapsulate a type of regret. One that is not rooted in truth, but in appearing truthful. Feeling guilt-ridden about your actions, and wishing it would have gone another way, but failing to accept true consequence.
‘Tired’ and ‘Cornflakes’ felt like they were two sides of the same coin in a way. Tired ties into the more problematic side of my habits, and how they effect the people around me. Those temptations and quick releases I was talking about in ‘Cornflakes’, end up catching up with me in ‘Tired’.
I wanted to write down some of the conversations I had with myself in the shower, cause that’s really the only place I can actually win arguments. I thought that was a fun concept for a song, but I ended up writing about frustration. Being tied up and missing a sense of freedom and forwardness. Trying to handle that, but failing to consider all the way up to the point you’d rather spend your energy screaming at a wall.
This song dives deeper into the idea of internal struggle. Creating this tension in your mind, where the control that you look for in your own head seems to disappear. It ends at a place where I realize that I need to see through what’s happening, take a deep breath, and reset.
‘Lazy’ is the place where that deep breath is taken, but airs out different frustrations as well. It’s about work, in a way that I thought was funny to write about. Tying into the idea of those quick releases, this person feels like the world is unfair and can’t comprehend the things he sees around him.
‘Loudmouth’ is about me growing up as a kid who got into trouble in certain ways. I feel like I dissect the cause, and eventually the effect of me growing up with a label on my back.
WAITING FOR U
The title of this song is a line that pops up throughout the record in a few different ways. You can see it as me waiting on myself, people in my life waiting on me, or us as a band, waiting on our audience. to me, the line suggests rejection of responsibility or involvement in outcome. ‘Waiting For U’ is about being afraid of making difficult choices, and rejecting the idea of taking on heavy baggage.
The energy of ‘Chatterbox’ was definitely different, but also felt familiar in a way. The song is about certain people who are kind of offensively self-assertive and conceited. There are snippets of conversation happening in the song that are more or less inspired by real ones I’ve had. ‘Chatterbox’ is special to me because it took me a long time to realize that it’s best to acknowledge these types of patterns when they’re happening.
With Maybe I tried to capture the idea of someone completely surrendering themself to a person. Up to the point to where the value of mundane life seems made up, or even worthless. It’s a big feeling, and the song also questions whether that feeling will be returned. I wanted to describe tiny intimate moments that can feel really expansive and impactful. I felt like that’s where the contrast in the song comes from, those explosive choruses in opposition to the more peaceful verses. That idea also makes it a very fun song to play live. It feels big.
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