Banoffee, otherwise know as Martha Brown, exploded at the end of last year with her debut single “Ninja” becoming unavoidable on Facebook, Twitter, and every music blog going. For an artist with only a barely there Soundcloud to her name, the chatter (largely word of mouth) was impressive and a telling example of making noise in the internet age.
Martha managed the sticky task of following it all up with “Reign Down,” (below) and is now negotiating the awkwardness of finding yourself internet famous.
Noisey: With “Ninja” you gave an impression of coming out of nowhere, had you been doing much prior to that?
Martha: Not as Banoffee, before 2010 I had been in a band since I was 15 called Otouto. I’ve always been a sucker for R&B and a bit embarrassed about it in my family. I was the immature kid listening to NeYo and Mario in my room. I’d done a lot of writing but I’d never considered releasing, when I wrote “Ninja” people really seemed to like it so I thought I’d give it a go.
Was it intimidating to have that much attention so early?
It was more embarrassing, is that a mean thing to say? I’m really self-conscious and I feel like “Ninja” is such a personal track. When it came out, it was like standing naked in front of everyone.
Do you regret making it so personal?
I didn’t think about it until it got attention. Then I was like, “shit, what am I doing?” But I couldn’t do it any other way. The whole EP is like that. It may as well be pages from a really angsty journal. It was intimidating, it was a new experience doing it on my own, talking to people about the song knowing that I was speaking about myself.
Were you hesitant to put out “Reign Down,” it’s a lot of attention on a second track.
I was very nervous about releasing “Reign Down” and I’m pretty nervous to release my next one to be honest. I had a theory that “Reign Down” would flop because it’s different, more R&B influenced. I didn’t know whether if people who liked “Ninja” would even remember who Banoffee was. I guess you just have to get over that, I thought everyone was going to hate the first song and they liked it.
That’s had a bit to do with the clip’s popularity, was it always in the plans?
Yeah, every single I release is going to have a clip. Vinyl is still going well but CDs have totally died, and you don’t really get a physical aspect anymore. A lot of things are going down the drain and I like to have something that’s a little bit more of a package, something a bit special.
There’s a trend of releasing songs slower, and as more complete objects.
It’s good to showcase other people as well. I’ve done both my clips with Alice Glenn who’s my cousin and I live with her—we keep it in the family—and I love being able to go, “this is something I’ve done, but check out this girl too, she’s doing really amazing things”.
Does being a solo female artist make it easier or harder to get attention?
I think about this about 80 percent of the day, it’s easy to get attention but it’s hard to get attention for reasons you want. I feel a lot of my work is trying to be recognized for what I do instead of the way I’m doing it.
It’s that paradox of being a girl: easy to get attention, hard to get respect.
Exactly. I feel in the last couple of years women are starting to nail it, especially in the Australian music industry. For the first time in ten years I’m entering female collaborations and meeting women who are doing amazing things. Most people I know who work in the creative industries also studied feminism at uni.
Does it make you uneasy to also have so much focus on being a cute girl.
Very uneasy, the word cute makes me want to throw up. I guess you’ve got to work, if someone’s trying to be nice, you try to take it as a compliment. I definitely find it difficult when men comment on me working with digital gear: computers and synthesizers—they’re surprised girls are working in a predominantly male-dominated industry.
And people always think you’ve got a guy behind the scenes.
Or they’re like, “Do you need help with that computer program?” I maybe needed help carrying something in, but you didn’t offer it then, you offer it when I’m perfectly capable of working my own equipment.
Was it hard when you were starting playing live after having such an online start?
I still find it hard, I really enjoy it but I work with backing tracks and they’re all on a 1970s synthesizer, which could die at any time. I get nervous is anyone going to be there? Will people know what I’m playing? It gets more and more exciting as you go, and it’s like a rush that you obviously don’t get on Soundcloud. The internet is great, I definitely acknowledge that I’m more on an internet artist than a live artist, I’ve played on way more blogs than I have live shows. But playing live gives you a rush, it’s like being in a concert as a kid.
You don’t play many gigs though?
It’s a conscious decision, I love playing live but I’m really picky about the people I work with and the shows I do. I’m quite an introverted person. I would rather play less and only shows I really love, with people I love to work with.
Banoffee's debut five track EP will be out soon through Two Bright Lakes.