Banoffee can still hit you for six. The Melbourne-born, LA-based artist (real name Martha Brown) has had a quiet few years––she hasn’t released anything besides last year’s SOPHIE co-production “Ripe” since 2015––but don’t let that phase you: her lithe, glassy pop songs are just as hooky and emotionally thorny as they’ve always been. If you can’t believe it, don’t worry: a few spins of her new single “Muscle Memory” should lay any doubts to rest.
“Muscle Memory” is the beginning of a new chapter for Banoffee. Written after a breakup a few years back, the track is darker and sleeker than 2015’s Do I Make You Nervous?EP, pushing back on the featherweight synths that Brown used to be so fond of. Instead, “Muscle Memory” is populated with drones and trap snares, and looks to the physical rather than the cerebral lyrically.
“I wrote “Muscle Memory” a long time ago when I was going through a breakup,” says Brown. “After years of a messy and super passionate relationship, we ended things abruptly and I ran away to a cabin in [Australian seaside town] Point Lonsdale. The bed I was in was the bed we’d slept in together.” Brown explains that “Muscle Memory” is less about the emotionality of a breakup than it is about the physicality––“Even when we force ourselves to forget, we have things written into our bodies we can’t un-write,” she explains.
The track is also indicative of where Brown is as an artist right now. A few years ago, she moved to Los Angeles from Melbourne, a shift that’s changed her attitude towards music. “The new work I’m releasing … has the confidence and restraint of someone who’s been scammed at the auto dealer,” she quips, “Who’s run from their smoking car and just [begged] the tow man to ‘take it the fuck away’, someone who has no choice but to see the humour in moving seven times in four weeks just because every person on Craigslist turned out to be a creepo.” And while the move’s been harrowing and hardening in some ways, it’s also been serendipitous––the past few months have seen Brown join Charli XCX’s live band, and tour with her as she supports Taylor Swift’s gargantuan Reputation Tour, an experience she describes as “like going to school”. The fit is perfect; like Charli, Brown's music looks skyward, without sacrificing any production nuance or weirdness.
That's evidenced by "Muscle Memory", premiering today on Noisey. Read our interview with Brown and hear the track below.
NOTE: The “Muscle Memory” video contains strobing imagery. Viewer discretion is advised. There is a SoundCloud embed of “Muscle Memory” further down this page.
NOISEY: “Muscle Memory” is very different from “Ripe”, which is very different again from Do I Make You Nervous?. Do you think “Muscle Memory” is indicative of your future output?
Banoffee: Nothing I make will ever hint to the next release. It’s just not how I’m wired! I’m too manic about the world to ever make one body of work that is consistent. I wish I could, it’d make me much more successful, I’m sure. I hope though that somehow you can all find links that I can’t, or if not, perhaps the element of surprise will keep you interested. Otherwise, I’m kind of a non-committal gal.
You describe “Muscle Memory” as a breakup song; does the rest of the record follow the same trajectory?
No, the rest of the record is much more outward than inward; dedications to people, break-ups with myself, it’s much more objective. I’m not as depressed as I used to be. I think that shows in my new work, and it mightn’t go down as well, but who knows? Sometimes people want you to suffer so they can switch into that zone with you when they need to. There are break up songs and moments of sadness, but I feel empowered by it, not dominated by it. It’s more like I made a break up album, grew from it, chucked it away, then made this one.
The production on this track is a lot more dense than most of your previous output, with a lot more moving parts. Was that a conscious choice?
Kind of, the production on this is about creating a feeling. I wanted to be able to take the vocals away and the narrative still be able to seep through energetically. It was a co-production between myself and Yves Above So Below, who helped me immensely and taught me how to create layers without over-crowding.
Poor Yves, I was a nightmare to work with especially at the beginning. I found it so hard to trust him, and to give up my messy impractical ways of programming. But this past year I realised I’ve been wasting time trying to prove myself as a producer, being a producer these days is like being a DJ. Everyone is one, and no one is one. I just want to have fun making songs. Working with Y.A.S.B on this track definitely opened it up and made it different to my old work in ways I’m really proud of.
You’ve collaborated on clothing with Pageant and now you’re releasing a line of clothing with Skodia in the lead up to your album. How does fashion and design tie in with your music?
When I make music, it’s a visual experience. Everything is connected. What I wear influences my mood which influences what I create. In this way clothes are like a catalyst for creativity, the big decider on what’s coming from you once you step out the door. I see them a bit like music videos, just ways of showing the song or my work from a different angle. I like the idea of wearable songs, so this year every track I release will have a custom garment by Skodia beside it.
You’ve been performing with Charli XCX on Taylor Swift’s latest tour. You create your own version of pop, but this is very much like the centre of the pop world –– what’s it like suddenly being a part of all that?
For me, it’s like going to school, I’m there to learn (and record with cheap mics in hotel rooms). Pop music is some of the hardest music to make. It’s true mastery that gets millions of people to sway and enjoy the same rhythm, to cry when you want them to cry, dance when you want them to dance. What Charli, Camila & Taylor are doing is fascinating [and] it’s no fluke that they’re on that stage. I see how much work it takes, and these women don’t stop, ever.
But what’s more interesting to me is that they’ve tapped in to a world that’s so powerful. Pop culture is where real politics plays out. It’s the mouth that whispers into the public’s ear, plants ideas, starts riots or makes peace. Watching 50 or 60,000 people every night, eyes twinkling, mouths open with their hands up is something truly mesmerising and bizarre, and it’s pop music that’s captured their attention. What comes after this next release will be all the songs I wrote on this tour. I’m curious to see, once I’ve had space from it all, what came out of me during this time.
Find Banoffee on Instagram.