Decades after its Sunset Strip heyday, Los Angeles has no shortage of hot new bands on the rise. Phases (featuring the Like’s Z Berg), Halo Circus (featuring Allison Iraheta, one of American Idol’s most talented expats) and Echo Park’s Banta are well poised to break out nationally as 2016 picks up speed. Imagine if Rumors-era Fleetwood Mac truly went new wave in the early 80’s — that’s just about the sound Banta brings to ‘Someday’, a single from their promising full-length debut, Dark Charms.
Banta is Sharaya Mikael (Lead Vocals/Guitar), Alathea Reese (Keys & BGV’s), Dan Perez (Lead Guitar), Jon Marcu (Drums) and Steve Grohne (Bass). The group unveiled their debut EP in 2014, recorded with producer Andrew Stonestreet, and began playing shows around Los Angeles, including the Buzzbands LA Showcase at Echo Park Rising and opening slots at The Satellite and The Troubadour.
Dark Charms was pieced together over several sessions in Portland and Los Angeles with Stonestreet and producers Andy Brohard and Ryan Castle. “I can’t believe this album is actually finished,” Sharaya Mikael said via her rep. “It was such a long process. It feels like going on a really long hike and looking back down on the whole valley that you just climbed up. I have that standing on the mountain top experience.”
After grooving to the single for a while and staring at the band’s promo shot like it was a dusty vinyl sleeve, POPDOSE caught up with Sharaya to talk friends, fashion and Fleetwood Mac:
POPDOSE: How did your sound evolve from your solo material in Nashville to the formation of the group in Los Angeles?
SHARAYA MIKAEL: When it comes to songwriting my strengths lie in melody and lyrics, I’m not much of an instrumentalist. Working with Andrew Stonestreet was a great challenge becuase he is all about the groove. He was able to take the songs I was strumming on my acoustic guitar and give them an edge that I wanted but didn’t know how to accomplish on my own. It was those first few demos with Andrew that created the template for what the Banta sound would be. I didn’t know many people when I moved to LA, so I recorded the EP with Andrew, in hopes of forming a band. I had sort of an “if you build it they will come” mentality, and sure enough they did.
How did the band come together? A shared love of artists and albums or an ad in LA Weekly?
Well If I’m being completely honest, I was just looking for players with really great hair. Its an important factor in forming a rock band. I met Alathea at a clothing swap, noticed her rad curls, and overheard her talking about her new Nord keyboard. I hadn’t even hear her play! I was just like “hey, wanna be in my band?” Same with Steve on bass and Jon on drums, we met at a parties or through mutual friends and I just loved their energy. I went into our first practice with no idea if they were even good. It all just kind of came together mystically, and I totally lucked out, because they are not only amazing people, but really awesome musicians as well.
The concert images I’ve seen show you channeling vintage Fleetwood Mac style (Christine more than Stevie). The fashion in the latest press image looks like a collage of the Beatles, Rilo Kiley, The Beatles and Prince & The Revolution.
I have always been a vintage fanatic, and drawn to objects with character. Wearing something that has a history of its own makes me feel unique and special. So my performance dresses are really just an excuse to go shopping! There is really no set rule or plan for our stage style, but it has always miraculously worked out that we avoid clashing. The photo shoot for the album cover and press images are definitely a nod to the bands you mention and more.
Does the look reflect the band’s sound? Is everyone in the band free to do their own thing or is there a strict fashion aesthetic in place?
We wanted the aesthetic to have that nostalgic-familiar feel, but also express that its by drawing from such a wide scope of influences that makes our sound unique. We are not trying to mimic or replicate something thats old, but because those bands are part of our musical DNA, there are similarities that peek through for sure.