POSTED ON JULY 31, 2013:
Coming of Age
Plus, Guthrie Center looks to create artists
When Urban Tulsa Weekly first came across Damen Banks back in early 2010, he was a rising producer, the face of Swahill Studios, and busy focusing on other peoples' music. By the end of the summer, however, he had released his own album, The Score, a concept album of sorts that incorporated elements of world music, hip-hop, and jazz into one expansive package.
Over three years have passed since then, and much has changed. No longer looking to be Tulsa's next music mogul, Banks has settled down, become a family man, and closed the doors of Swahill Studios. It was a decision he didn't take lightly and one that wasn't quick in coming. After all, he had enough business lined up that it took nearly two years to tie up all the loose ends and finish work on everything that he had in the pipeline. With family taking precedence, though, and the instability of the music industry, it was a choice he is at peace with.
Even though he has closed the doors of Swahill Studios (to the public, at least) and settled in with a wife and child -- with a second on the way -- that doesn't mean he has turned his back on music. In fact, the chance to separate himself from working on everyone else's music has perhaps opened up more opportunities for him to focus on his own work.
Although he now occupies himself during the day with his auto detailing company, he still gets to enjoy music in his off hours. Now that he's had over a year of time on his own, he emerges this week with a new opus; the more R&B-oriented and tightly focused Tw2nt1.
When discussing the more international focus of Banks said, "What happened is, at the time, I was working on some more soundtrack-like background music for these commercials for a client, and they were looking for more of, like, a middle eastern-type feel. I bought this chip for my keyboard that had all of these different instrument sounds programmed on it, and I really got into that and went in that direction."
With his latest disc, however, Banks has reigned in his vision a bit.
"This is a lot more soul- and R&B-oriented," he stated, "but there's still some hip hop in there and a lot if little jazzy type things in there. Some of the songs, the vocals aren't right up front, but more in the background or just filling certain spots. That's taken from more of a jazz-type approach to the songs."
With 21 tracks on the disc, Banks still gets expansive, exercising his programming skills with some interesting beats, yet driving the songs in a more soulful direction on some tracks, and in a more ambient direction in others, while still flirting with a little Latin vibe in places a few places. Although the songs are more immediate when the vocals are at the forefront, the more instrumental direction of this album adds a depth to it and a relaxing element.
Overall, the music doesn't seem as forced and shows a growth as Banks settles into him comfort zone. In full, although it's not expansive as The Score, it ultimately returns a more natural and unforced aura, indicating a new chapter in Banks' career as a musician.
What's next in the pipeline for Damen Banks is yet to be seen. If this album is an indicative step in a more focused direction, the next step should be toward a more concise and tightly wrapped package. Although twenty one tracks give us a broad scope and picture of Banks' talent and vision, it also runs the gamut and can lose the listener's attention as it clocks in at over an hour.
My hope is that the next album will take less than two years to finish and will see Bank's deliver a tightly wrapped package that more listeners can embrace. He's already shown he has the talent and production skills. The next piece of the puzzle is focus the songwriting and deliver a concise 10-12 song cycle that engages listeners from beginning to end. Once he makes that step, he'll be ready to take his career as a musician to the next level.
A Wife And Kid Later... Damen Banks returns to the music scene with Tw2nt1, his first effort since shuttering his Swahill Studios in 2010.
As for now, though, Tw2nt1 is a pleasant surprise and an example of some quality R&B that's bubbling just under the surface in Tulsa's music scene. Banks' new album is released via iTunes and all other digital retailers this Tuesday, July 6.
Learn to Write -- Part 1
Although all of Tulsa has been excited with the activity and concerts at the Guthrie Green, not everyone is aware of what's been going on in the Woody Guthrie Center, just across from the park. The Center has launched a series of Saturday afternoon concerts, which featured Fiawna Forte last weekend and will spotlight Red Wood Rising this Saturday, August 3 at 4pm.
Even more exciting, however, is a monthly songwriter's workshop that kicks off this week. Sponsored by the Woody Guthrie Center and Horton Records, the first session is at 2pm, August 3, with Wink Burcham and Paul Benjamin exploring a number of aspects of the songwriting process. Topics to be addressed include: song structures; basic songwriting terms; and lyrics, dynamics, and sound. The seminar is free with paid admission to the Woody Guthrie Center or with an annual membership. Come check it out then stick around to explore the Guthrie museum and archives -- and even enjoy Red Wood Rising.
Send all comments and feedback regarding SoundCheck to firstname.lastname@example.org.
August has finally arrived, but the summer continues to heat up as the local calendar continues to build. It's another busy weekend in Tulsa, and we've got your highlights, so read on if you're looking for tips on how to get your music fix over the coming week.
Thursday, August 1
Cain's Ballroom holds the biggest show of the night with the return of Slightly Stoopid with Grouch and Eligh. Meanwhile, just down the street, Verse serves up some local hip-hop at Soundpony and Kristen Hemphill delivers her bluegrass infused country-pop at Hunt Club. The show with the biggest buzz, however, is easily Lord Huron with Escondido at Unit D, delivering some serious indie-clout to the west side DIY club.
Friday, August 2
The Shrine welcomes the return of Afroman with ADDverse and Alan Doyle opening, while Hunt Club hosts David Castro Band and The Yeti brings Dirty Creek Bandits with Hey Judy! and Cucumber & the Suntans. The big shows, however, are Colourmusic with Kids & Chemicals at Vanguard for the indie-rock crowd and Randy Rogers Band with Mike Ryan Band at Cain's for Texas country fans.
Saturday, August 3
Cain's Ballroom turns the tables and plays to the EDM crowd with Designer Drugs, Ookay, FTampa, and Draven Treague for a night of dancing. As you wander down Main Street, you can catch Carnegie with Clairaudients at the Yeti, Steve Pryor throwing down some blues at Hunt Club or get your metal fix at Vanguard with Even the Dogs (CD release party), Fight the Fade, Deadcore, and Hardie Avenue. And if you need some classic Stillwater vibe, don't miss Red Dirt Rangers at Mercury Lounge.
Sunday, August 4
Finish out your weekend by relaxing with an old favorite: Brandon Clark's "Sunday Service" at Mercury Lounge, Paul Benjamin & Friends at The Colony, or Dan Crossland hosting "Songwriter's Night" at Baker Street.
Monday, August 5
Cain's Ballroom is busy again, this time with the ultra-hip indie rock of Foals with The Drowners.
Tuesday, August 6
Hawthorne Heights returns with a new album, Zeros, to headline Vanguard with All About A Bubble, At Long Last, and Sleepwalking Home opening the show.
Wednesday, August 7
If you're locally minded, check out the punk/ska of The Last Slice at The Shrine. Otherwise, you can try to join the crowd of screaming teen girls for a sold out show at BOK Center with Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran.
URL for this story: http://www.urbantulsa.comhttp://www.urbantulsa.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A62513