Banks on Her Revealing Songwriting: "I Would Never Want to Sing Someone Else's Words"

Photo by Steph Wilson
III is Banks' most revealing album to date.
There’s always been something mysterious about Banks. Her penetrating brown eyes have a story to tell, but she never reveals much beyond glamour shots and performance clips on social media. Since she broke out in 2013, she's detailed her stories through her songwriting rather than on Instagram. And on her latest release, III, she exposes a more vulnerable side to herself than ever after taking almost three years between albums.

“Well, you have to take time to make the art, right?” Banks says with an attitude over the phone. She's done enough interviews over the past six years, and she's apparently over it.

It's understandable. Articulating one's artistry is probably frustrating for most musicians, particularly for one such as Banks, who has never been comfortable fitting within the confines of a genre. Her music is often described as alternative R&B — fusing synths and ASMR tingles on carefully constructed beats. But Banks can distill it down and describe it in just one word. “I don’t think of music in genre,” she says. “I just think my music is just that when it comes out: art.”

It's only natural that taking more than her usual time between albums has shifted Banks' sound even more. In 2013, the singer released two EPs and soon followed them with her 2014 debut, Goddess. Her followup, The Altar, came almost exactly two years later. Taking an extra year to craft III has given Banks even more time to play with her sound.

“I think people are always developing," she says, "and if you feel boxed into one sound, it gets pretty boring. You have to reflect your own growth, and, obviously, experiences change where you’re at in life.”

Those three years of experience are reflected in III's 13 vulnerable tracks. On "Contaminated, the final distributed single before the album’s release, she details the turmoil of wanting to stay in a relationship while knowing it’s far too tarnished to fix. “It’s about that harsh realization that no matter how bad you want it, it’s not going to work,” she says.

It's these relatable themes that have made Banks' third LP her highest-charting album. The key is in her revealing songwriting. “I would never want to sing someone else's words, and I would never want anyone to sing my words unless they were singing along with me,” she says.

While touring in support of III, Banks plans to bring to life that lyricism — the fundamental element that has earned her a still-expanding fan base. “You can expect lots of movement, romantic savagery," she says of her live show. "It’s fun; it's sexy; it's playful; it’s soft and loud.”

Banks. 8:30 p.m. Saturday, October 19, at the Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-673-7300; Tickets cost $39.50 to $59.50 via