A Weird Band from Scotland
The Banana Sessions are a band. Not just any band either – the sort of band that haunt your dreams with annoyingly catchy melodies, Beatles-esque harmonies and washboard beats. But don’t let that put you off - if Marmite can win the hearts of many, then so can we.
The Banana Sessions exploded onto the Scottish music scene way back when in 2007. Fresh out of music school, Roberta Pia and Calum Wood had met and bonded over tea and bananas and began to write songs about the most mundane topics they could possibly think of - running out of tea bags, the health benefits of bananas, stories about bears in the forest and being chased by imaginary white rabbits. It’s safe to say they had a wild imagination from the off – but with Calum coming from a Pearl Jam background and Roberta from a Billie Holiday background, their approach to song-writing was quite different. Whilst some might find that a hindrance, Calum and Roberta used it to their musical benefit to create tunes designed to mess with your head whilst soothing it all at the same time. After staying up late one night writing their first EP featuring their first ever song, Bananas – they aptly named themselves The Banana Sessions and the rest was history.
Their second formation welcomed Tom Pickles on flute, Calum McIntyre on drums and Tom Donaldson tuba to the equation, and it was at this point that they began to storm the festival scene with rigour. They travelled the UK extensively and graced stages from Knockengorroch to Beatherder to Glastonbury and back again – often in one weekend. These Buckfast-fuelled days were what some might call the glory days, basking in a tonic-wine fuelled glow, they played and played and played until they couldn’t play anymore – and then did it all again the following week. Fans were made, records were sold, good times were had, and the foundations of a solid band were formed.
Their first two EPs were called simple The Green EP and The Yellow EP – the Yellow was recorded around one mic in Edinburgh and the Green was recorded in a remote bothy in the Highlands. It was around this time that they also recorded their Prodigy Medley – more commonly known as their ‘tenuous claim to fame’ – complete with a music video to boot. The Prodigy saw the video, Liam Howlett said ‘That’s really cool. I dig it.’ – and they posted it on their website which saw multiple fans flowing in from Eastern Europe and beyond. One band from Bulgaria even did a cover of The Banana Sessions’ cover of Prodigy songs – how’s that for inception.
The band were so busy playing live, going from festival to festival, that they couldn’t find the time to record an album so in 2012 they took some time out to do just that and Mixtape was born with the help of our long-term and very loyal producer Garry Boyle of Slate Room Studios. Garry is something of a fifth Beatle to The Banana Sessions. The concept of the album was that the songs had been written over such a long period of time that some of them were wildly sporadic in comparison, a little bit like an old school mixtape you might have made back in the 90s. Guests on the album included an array of excellent folk musicians – from Aidan O’Rourke and Martin Green from Lau, to Mary Macmaster from The Poozies and Macmaster and Hay, to Mike Kearney from The Katet. As if that wasn’t enough talent, Dave Hook (aka Solareye of Stanley Odd fame, recent SAMA award winner) was in charge of post-production on the record and turned it into what sounded exactly like a 90s mixtape complete with skits, a moment when the tape runs out mid tune, and faint bagpipe music from a previous recording thrown in for good measure. After an epic rollercoaster ride of gigs, gigs and more gigs, the five-piece called it a day due to other commitments and, frankly, sheer exhaustion. Roberta moved to London for the bright lights and dizzy heights, Calum moved to Ireland for the quiet life, and the rest of the band moved on to work on other music projects.
2016 saw the release of The Banana Sessions second album, Be Bold and Brilliant, marking the moment that the band transcended into folkier and more mature territory. You guessed it – they got the band back together, only this time as a stripped back three-piece and with guests Euan Burton and Doug Hough on the record. The Be Bold and Brilliant Tour stormed across the UK in true Banana Sessions style and saw the band stronger than ever. Straight after this, they went back into songwriting mode and spent a weekend in Eyemouth conjuring up a whole batch of new songs and we’ve been keeping them under wraps ever since - until now.
2019 sees the band reform once again with the same stripped back classic line-up of vocals, guitar, percussion and plenty of harmonies with some brand-new material, some very old material and an album of B sides featuring music that has never been heard before. The band will embark on a two-week tour in February 2019 – The House Concert Tour, where they will visit houses from the Highlands to the South West. Stay tuned to find out more.