Keyboardist-songwriter Banks is on tour with her new third album. (Courtesy Steph Wilson)

Banks is back in action with ‘III’

Songwriter develops dynamic new material during self-imposed hiatus

Artistic epiphanies occur to keyboardist Jillian Banks at the most unexpected times; she’s grown comfortable and receptive to the revelations by now.

The other evening, midway through a New York concert under her performing moniker of Banks, as she was introducing the crowd to moody material from her new third album, “III,” it suddenly hit her: “I just felt completely untouchable, because I believed in what I was doing so much, I didn’t give a single f—- what somebody writes about my show or my album,” says 31-year-old Banks, who plays San Francisco this weekend. “And that was the most liberating thought, ever.”

Such conclusions are not commonplace in her craft. Most young careers wind up being steered by corporate honchos who lack aesthetic vision.

“This business is hard,” she says. “You’re so vulnerable when you put your art out there, and you try not to care what people think. But at the same time, it matters, because people come to your shows and buy your music. So it’s this strange dynamic, being an artist for a living.”

But she’s adapted to the environment rather quickly.

When Banks broke out with her ethereal 2014 debut “Goddess,” and the sinister atmospherics of its hit single ‘Beggin For Thread,’” she was lumped in with other single-named female musicians like Lorde and Halsey — one of the first hurdles she had to overcome. She heard no similarity in their sounds, especially in view of “III,” which finds her branching out into more jagged melodies and edgy vocal experiments that border on rapping.

“My art is very different from theirs, and theirs is completely separate from mine, so I never understood this whole movement thing,” she says.

The Los Angeles native learned the hardest lesson early on: If you don’t speak up for yourself in show biz, no one else will.

And when she felt physically and emotionally exhausted after an extensive tour backing her 2016 second disc, “The Altar,” she not only spoke up about it, she informed her management not to bother her for awhile. She was taking a year off, free of business obligations. She retreated into her hometown hideout, where she started every day with a mind-clearing nature walk that often led to a song, sometimes spurred by just a flash of inspirational color.

It was another eye-opener. Self-imposed exile makes for even purer compositions. She says, “I wisely gave myself the gift of that time off, which was just about listening to my own mind and body. So I’m in a really good place right now because I gave myself that year.”



Where: Masonic, 1111 California St., S.F

When: 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28

Tickets: $34 to $59

Contact: (415) 776-7457,

Pop Music

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