(SXSW 2016 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #368: Banners

By on Monday, 18th January 2016 at 12:00 pm

Editor’s note: we’re making some exciting changes in the way we cover SXSW 2016 this year, especially in the way we preview all the bands that we want to introduce you to before the big event in Austin in March. Read all about our big plans here.

Solo artist Mike Nelson, hailing from Liverpool, is better known these days by his alias Banners. Previous to his work on Banners, Nelson honed his talent in his younger years, singing across Europe in variety of concert halls and cathedrals with the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral and Liverpool Kop choirs. Upon hearing his eerie and ethereal vocal range on his latest single ‘Start a Riot’, you can see how this unusual training paid off. It was through collaboration between Nelson and Canadian producer Stephen Kozmeniuk, who has previously worked with the likes of Madonna and Nicki Minaj, that Banners was born. It’s safe to say that Banners is a big departure from both.

‘Start A Riot’ already has a 2.7 million listens on Spotify, while ‘Shine a Light’, which was also released in 2015, has an even more massive 3.6 million listens. This is impressive, considering that all of Banners’ releases have only been within the last 12 months. While there isn’t a lot out there for those keen on hearing more from Banners, what is available is quality stuff. Nelson’s smooth vocals are often reminiscent of Justin Vernon of Bon Iver: while Vernon’s voice is a tad more gravely, both artists capture the howling, haunting vocal range that evokes mountains, forests and misty seascapes.

The wavering guitar on ‘Start a Riot’ is reminiscent of Snow Patrol’s ‘Open Your Eyes’ or ‘You’re All I Have’, while Banners’ ‘Shine a Light’ reminds me of Imagine Dragons, specifically the hammering drumbeat and the warbling oohs in the background of the track. The dreamlike rhythm of ‘Start a Riot’, combined with the soulful oohs that are scattered throughout the track, both really make this song stand out as a bold and beautiful number. ‘Start a Riot’ begins gently, with just Nelson’s vocals and a soft piano, before building into a genuinely interesting and enthralling pop track of cascading sound and striking vocal melodies.

Along with the news that as Banners, he’s already signed to Island Records in America, the gravity and authority of the singles gives the distinct impression that Banners is set to make a big dent in the music industry over the next 12 months. Mixing catchy lyrics with a pop sound, Banners embodies a particular mainstream pop aesthetic that contemporary listeners are drawn to. Judging by the recent meteoric success of Ed Sheeran and Bastille, Banners appears ready to follow in the footsteps of giants.

Banners is scheduled to appear at SXSW 2016 in Austin in March.

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[…] beats the special satisfaction I get when one of the acts I tipped makes it, and I was lucky to see one of my tips ahead of SXSW 2016 and near home. While Liverpudlian Banners (real name Mike Nelson) might not be a […]

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