A goddamn sweet combination of talent, practice, honesty & sharp wit make Sydney-based Kota Banks the rising superstar that she is.
With an unexpected, but exceptional new EP under her belt, Kota talked through the reason for putting this lil pocket of work out and the idea of giving a bit more of herself in Sweet & The Spice. Nic Kelly in bold, Kota in not-bold.
What were the emotions you were feeling on release day?
I just… I felt proud. I felt a relief. Because I’ve written the songs over the past few months, there were lots of changes that I was making to the EP. There were songs that were going to be on it, that weren’t on it, and it was kind of a stressful process in a way, just curating it and putting it all together. So I just felt like when it came out, that meant that I couldn’t make any more tweaks or changes and so it felt like a relief, but I felt overwhelmed too. And then the response was really lovely, so I felt happy. And then I was kind of sad to let go of this project that I’d spent the whole of quarantine finessing and working on and giving all my attention to so it was just a whole… I was just a mess. A whole bunch of shit going on. But, yeah.
How strict were you on yourself to make it four tracks?
Sometimes I attempt to meander and just give too much. Especially because I still haven’t put out an album, I just wanted it to be more of a little taste than something that was a huge body of work, especially it was more something that was spontaneous and reactive to the time. So it wasn’t meant to be like this big serious body of work that I’d spent time on in that way. That’s why I limited it to four tracks.
This feels like a really thoroughly thought-out, planned kind of project, because the songs really represent that whole feeling of the Sweet & The Spice, but this was all kind of a little bit more spontaneous and people think?
Yeah! I mean, it was definitely planned. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not I was just careless and was like, “yeah, fuck it,” but at the same time, it definitely was spontaneous in a way. I hadn’t planned to release an EP yet, I was working on an album. But when everything shut down and I lost a whole bunch of work, I lost all the gigs that I was meant to be doing and I couldn’t travel anymore, like I was meant to be going to SXSW, so I had a lot more time to just make something less cohesive. Originally, the plan for this year for me was to make a cohesive album and to really spend time on cultivating this one sound. But it just wasn’t what I felt like doing anymore! I felt like the environment was unpredictable. And I felt like a new president every day and I was experiencing all these conflicting emotions. So in that way, it was spontaneous and I feel like the music kind of reflects exactly the way that I was feeling.
When did you come up with the title? The songs you’ve chosen and the moods you’ve chosen represent the title so perfectly.
I wrote the title after I’d written the song called Never Sleep, which was the last song I wrote for the EP, and I actually wrote it like a month ago maybe? There’s a lyric in the song where I say got the sweet and the spice, and I just thought it had a really nice ring to it, and it represented all the flavours perfectly. So I just thought like, hey, that sounds like a good title!
In terms of the order of songs, obviously we start really spicy with Snip Snip and then we end up with this lush situation at the end. Was that order something you were considering really deeply?
The order was really important to me because I wanted it to feel quite disjointed, but also a journey of some sort. I wanted to start really aggressive because I think that’s a strong sounding start to an EP, but also because at the beginning of lockdown, I really felt aggressive and upset that this year wasn’t going the way that I’d planned, so it was kind of a reflection of the way that I felt at the start of the EP and then gradually as I was meditating more and I was writing songs and expressing myself and finding new ways to keep myself occupied, I mellowed a bit. You can kind of hear that. You can kind of hear the progression from me being really aggressive and angry to just kind of relaxing and finding a smoother energy. I definitely did think about the track order, it’s always really important to me. And I wanted it to sound disjointed, as well! There was a fine line.
It’s certainly a surprise with every song. It moves between some different moods pretty impressively. How often have you been meditating recently?
When I was in the thick of lockdown, a lot. I even made myself a guided meditation course on Logic. I just created this whole world and thought of what my favourite place would be and then just got on the mic and described it to myself for twenty minutes. Because I was just so anxious at the beginning, It did wonders! I was doing it maybe like five times a week, just the twenty minutes before I went to bed. And you can kind of hear the influence it had on the music as well.
Most people need another person’s voice in their ears to remind them that everything’s gonna be okay.
I know! I feel like such a narcissist. I didn’t have anyone else! I didn’t want to pay for therapy, so I thought fuck, I guess all I’ve got is me!
DIY til I die babey. When I heard Yes, and I’m not saying this to sound like I’m blowing smoke up your ass, but it’s the first time in a while that’s made me think that I might be able to love again. It’s been a while. I heard Yes, and I went, “you know what? I reckon I’m like, ready, now.” So thank you for that moment.
I love to hear it. I mean, I actually wasn’t falling in love when I wrote that song. I wrote that song a long time ago, I was recovering from a breakup, but I wrote it like I was at the beginning of the relationship, and there was still hope for me. So I can relate to what you’re saying. I’m happy that you feel like that.
You may refer to it as narcissism, but it feels like there’s a lot of self love in this project. And that’s really important, isn’t it?
Yes. For sure. I feel like maybe I explored it more subtly this time? I mean it’s also quite brash obviously, and a big explanation of my self love, but this was more just me finding love in creating, which is subtler, but still beautiful.