Interview by Kieran Webber | Header Image by Tex Bishop
Tempesst are the brainchild of twin brothers Toma and Andy Banjanin. It all started in their coastal hometown Noosa, Australia. Since then the project has moved around the world, stopping off in New York City and now calling Hackney, London home. In fact this is where the debut album ‘Must Be A Dream’ was recorded, in their very own Pony Studios. The band wanted to be in charge of their art, from the artwork through to the music itself. It’s very much their own sound and music, this confidence and pride is felt throughout their music.
The debut album itself is a delightful barrage of psychedelia that is centred around the bands impressive songwriting. Floating towards the outer echelons yet remaining increasingly grounded. Whirring guitars bounce off melancholy vocals creating an incredibly mellow yet alluring soundscape. It’s clear that Tempesst are influenced heavily by the 70’s, particularly The Beatles.
After getting our ears around the album and digging into their backstory we were keen to find out more. We caught up with Toma to chat about the new album, life under the pandemic and much more!
Kieran: Firstly thank you for taking the time to answer our questions! How have you all been?
Toma: We’re all good, we’ve been at the studio most days writing and working on our live set. We have shows booked for March so hopefully they’ll actually be a thing by then.
Kieran: You have integrated yourself into a variety of scenes in hubs around the world. What made you stop in London?
Toma: Andy and I kept getting our visas rejected in the U.S and got tired of having to hustle the system to make NYC work. We’re from a small town on the Sunshine Coast in Australia and after living in NYC it was hard to settle back in. Within 3 months we were in London.
I like the fast pace of a big city, I love to work and everyone I know here is working hard at something. Life in London has a spontaneity to it, I don’t have a firm routine and don’t know what interesting things I might get up to or who I might run into day to day. We often talk about the ‘other life ’because there really is a stark contrast. Most of my childhood friends are married with kids they had in their 20’s and literally mine commodities in the middle-of-nowhere Australia.
Kieran: Did geography ever affect your music or songwriting? Do you have one particular place that you hold close to your heart? If so why?
Toma: I’m at the studio writing and recording most days when I’m home in London. I also spend a month or two in Australia each year for Christmas and write a lot while I’m there too. Not a bad case study for the question considering they’re on opposite sides of the world with completely different ecologies and ways of life. You’d think that a sunny climate automatically equals happy upbeat songs but I’ve actually written some of the more dark introspective songs whilst in Australia in the middle of summer? Life is unpredictable and my songwriting reflects that. Sometimes I draw inspiration directly from what I witness in my geographical surroundings; usually it’s more indirect, a conversation, a mood or feeling, a memory induced by my surroundings that inspire the song.
“Life is unpredictable and my songwriting reflects that.”Toma Banjanin
My favourite place on Earth is my Grandads farm in Bacchus Marsh, Australia. It’s 160 acres of Australian bush with 1 acre of vines, enough to make a few hundred bottles of wine each year. There is a little timber cabin in a valley that overlooks the dam with no water or electricity. The simple life…
Kieran: You released the debut album ‘Must Be A Dream’ via your own label, what made you start one and what benefits does it have?
Toma: We didn’t feel like anyone could offer us anything that we couldn’t do ourselves. We’re lucky to have our own recording studio in Hackney, Pony Studios, where we made our album. We also produce our own videos, photography and artwork. A record company would usually pay for all of that and own it for a long time and we’re not interested in that. We got a distribution deal instead and started the label. We also want to help more artists release great music without having to give it away for 30 years.
Listen/watch ‘Must Be A Dream’ here:
Kieran: Do you have a favourite track on the album or one that you feel stands out?
Toma: The last track ‘Voices In My Head’. I initially started writing the song 8 years ago, it’s gone through many incarnations, none of which were quite right but I couldn’t let it go. It’s been a long time coming but it’s finally complete and I’m proud.
Kieran: What was the idea and influence going into this album?
Toma: It was the first time we didn’t have to rush! The idea was keep working on the songs until they couldn’t be better and I’m confident we did that. I was listening to a lot of the 70s post Beatles records Wings, Plastic Ono Band etc and lots of Phil Spector records.
Kieran: Did you have a particular message or idea that you wanted to portray through the album?
Toma: The same themes keep getting revisited throughout the record but it wasn’t a conscious intention from the beginning, it just panned out that way.
Kieran: How has the pandemic affected the band and the album release?
Toma: This year has been wholesome in a weird way. I never have time to listen to my records or read and I’ve be able to do a lot of that. We had originally planned to tour the record this year, that’s been pushed back. Otherwise it’s business a usual, we’re writing and rehearsing most days.
Kieran: Recently it was announced that venues can start putting gigs on again but with strict social distancing measures. Do you feel this is going to work and are you likely to play shows this year?
Toma: I hope it works. It’s going to depend on the artist. Some artists can pull off the sit down, jazz club, table service vibe and it’s really good, others rely on the energy of a heaving room to deliver a decent show.
Kieran: How do you feel the music industry will look by this time next year?
Toma: The creativity hasn’t stopped, there’s going to be lots of new music out next year. Also predicting lots of sold out shows. I’m starving for a live show and I know I’m not the only one.
Toma: What can people do to support the arts and artists?
Toma: Listen to records and buy a t-shirt, baby.
Kieran: What’s the plan post-pandemic?
Toma: We’re writing Album 2 at the moment and will properly start recording it towards the end of the year. Also we’ll be playing lots of new songs to anyone who comes to a show in 2021.