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INTERVIEW: Bye Bye Banshee

Hi Jezebel, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Hi VENTS!  Well, truth be told I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown earlier in the month…but am doing better now. Aren’t you glad you asked?  Hahahahahaha! My dog Banjo and I are in rural Tennessee, getting some much-needed rest and enjoying the fall leaves and slower pace.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “If I Die In My Dreams”?

Ooooh, yes, one of my favorites!  It’s probably important to note that my side project Bye Bye Banshee is a concept band–all the songs are about death, grief and the possible afterlife. While the other songs on the Deathfolk Magic EP take a kinder, gentler approach to the topic of death,  If I Die in My Dreams is all about the fear of death. I believe the fear of death causes human suffering and prevents people from living life more fully.

Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?

Two events or circumstances triggered the writing of the song.  As a young adult I had a vivid recurring nightmare about being pushed to my death; the lyrics describe the dream. The murderer–in this case, The Devil–was written into the song once I realized that my fear of death was strongly linked to my fear of the devil.  I was literally terrorized by the psychological abuse I experienced growing up in the Pentecostal church. Writing about it helped ease my own fear of death.

Any plans to release a video for the single?

Yes, hopefully! I’m currently looking for someone to partner with on it.  It would have to be the right collaboration, though.  Someone who understands the vision behind this project and has mad crazy filmmaking skills.  No small challenge.

The single comes off your new album Deathfolk Magic – what’s the story behind the title?
I named it for all of the wonderful people who are part of the Death Positive movement.  The movement’s primary goal is to facilitate healthy conversations about end of life, death and grief.  This movement is primarily being led by women who are making death “better”, through their work in hospice reform, social justice, the green funeral industry, education, entertainment and the arts.

How was the recording and writing process?

The writing was interesting and at times painful–it spanned several years and was written in five different cities. For this project, I do a lot of research on death practices and folklore from around the world, which is fascinating!  Recording was quick and relatively painless; we recorded most of the EP in a single session and both my co-producer Jeff Crandall (Swallows, J. Briozo) and sound engineer guru, Tom Garneau (Prince, Sting, REM)–were incredibly easy and rewarding to work with.  Because we were on a very tight budget, I chose to be ok with all the little imperfections and trust my partners to help decide what was worth fixing.

What was it like to work with Tom Garneau and how did that relationship develop?

I met Tom Garneau because he did the mastering for my first record, Queen of the Devil’s Rodeo (Jezebel Jones, 2012).  Tom’s reputation is stellar and well-earned–he’s super talented and yet one of the most grounded people I’ve met. He’s got exactly the low-key, supportive energy + skills we needed for this recording.

How much did he get to influence the album?

He was indispensable to the sound; the recordings turned out pretty cool! I wanted it to sound spooky and beautiful and a bit feral and he nailed it.  Co-producer Jeff Crandall and I shaped most of the mixes, with Tom’s advice, as well.  I come into the studio with songs written and loosely arranged. Ultimately I’m in control of my music; that’s why it’s important to work with guys who totally get and respect my overall vision. I was lucky to work with those kinds of dudes on this EP, including my talented bandmates.

What role does Minneapolis play in your music

Some people I love live there. And some people I love to play music with live there, too.

Blending different styles – how do you go on balancing together?

I’m really not sure, as it happens organically.  Possibly while smoking something green, healthy and delicious. 😉  Seriously, I do find writing in an altered state can be helpful with removing boundaries and allowing the writer to experiment with the song and the lyrics. I have very diverse musical interests but find myself drawn to artists who blend musical styles to create something unique. Female and non-binary artists do this especially well, I think.

Do you tend to take a different approach when you are collaborating with someone else rather than in your own?

I know it sounds weird but I have yet to co-write a song with anyone.  I’m open to it, though…

What aspect of grief and loss did you get to explore on this record?

Exploring my own mortality was key to this EP and project.  Also, both of my dogs were getting old/sick and then died during the writing process.   I’m more attached to animals than people, so this was really hard, but I was able to channel some of that angst and grief into the recording.

Any plans to hit the road?

Yes, but not a traditional tour.  I’ve developed a show format that weaves poetry in between 12 songs about death and grieving–we did the first performance in Minneapolis recently and the audience response was amazing! We’d like to take it to small theaters, progressive churches, graveyards and museums this spring/summer.

What else is happening next in Bye Bye Banshee’s world?

Hopefully a video before the end of the year and some tour dates in the spring! I’m also prepping for my second Jezebel Jones album, out in 2019.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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