Banyan trees are known to appear in a range of different cultures through mythological stories and fables. If you dive into the discography of Electronica duo Banyan, it would click quicker than the flick of a switch as to how their name embodies their aesthetic. World Music and organic textures are deeply rooted in the lush, Electronic sound of the Florida-based duo, to the point where shades of early ODESZA and Fakaer come to mind. Their single "Orion" was my gateway into their lore and it's been an absolute treat following their journey since I first discovered them last year.
The group is made up of Michael Saenz and Logan Gomez who originally met in college, and funnily enough, Electronic music wasn't their first love by the time they had crossed paths. Who would've thought their journey together as Banyan would lead to over one million streams in 2021, and releases with prominent labels such as Chill Nation, Tribal Trap, Czech Vibes, and ODESZA's Foreign Family Collective - yes, there is a story to that last one. In this interview, Banyan open up about their latest single coming out via Stereofox Records "Mystic", releasing with Foreign Family, artists who inspire them, and a whole lot more.
For those who don't know your story, how would you describe your journey with music thus far?
I would say it actually starts when we got randomly paired together as roommates in college. Funny enough, our moms actually met each other at orientation before we did, so it kinda feels like fate in a way. We started hanging out and playing guitar together, but really became brothers after our first shared music festival experience, Rothbury 09'. Ever since we've been thick as thieves.
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We parted ways for a few years after college, but always stayed in touch and had this vision of starting a jam band one day. Fast forward to 2016 and Michael hit me up one day saying he's been apprenticing as an audio engineer for a former soundman from the Allman Brothers, and the studio has two rooms for rent! They're ours if I wanna move up and take a shot at this music thing. One thing led to another and here we are today.
We never would've guessed at the beginning of this journey that we'd be making electronic music like this, and still joke that we're gonna retire and start a jam band one day, but we wouldn't trade it for anything.
Which areas do both of you specialize in respectively which make your production process as a team work so well?
Although we like to approach top lining and writing melodies as a team as much as we’re able, Michael generally takes the lead on composition and arrangement. Because of his background as an engineer, he typically handles the majority of the mixing and mastering with me playing a support role as a second pair of eyes and ears.
Logan is much more tech savvy and for that reason he takes the lead on keeping the day-to-day operations running smoothly. He takes on everything from hardware/studio organization, troubleshooting tech issues, handling business logistics, and generally keeping the ship afloat (from Michael’s mouth). Because he’s sometimes able to keep a few layers of separation from the production side of things, he often provides a key “listener” perspective that is really invaluable at times.
What I find quite interesting is that even though you're from Florida, it doesn't seem like your inspirations are drawn from artists in the region. What would you say you like, and don't like about the Electronic music scene in Florida? And generally, what *type* of artists inspire you guys?
I’d say that in general we have focused so much on developing our craft and sound in the studio over the years that we’re not really tapped into our local Florida electronic scene. We both come from a background of loving jam bands, playing guitar, and going to jam band music festivals so our pivot into electronic music was interesting in that way. Slowly as festivals started adding more electronic acts, we realized our love for dance music and production. But in many ways, our approach to music is super inspired by everything we’ve experienced both by performing in and watching live bands.
The type of artist that inspires us most is any artist that is pushing the boundaries of electronic music/music and doing something truly unique and/or forward-thinking. In the end though, we’re inspired by anyone who is simply writing emotionally moving music that sparks an immersive experience for the listener.
It's been a pleasure to hear the gradual transformation of your aesthetic. I'm curious as to what prompted the shift from a more Trap oriented kind of Electronic music, to a style that leans towards House and Garage?
Thanks, man! Our journey definitely hasn’t been a straight line but it means a lot to hear that you’ve enjoyed the ride.
Before our jam band days, we both also really loved hip hop growing up and it sort of informed everything we knew about beat making early on. There’s also no denying that we were heavily inspired in the early days by ODESZA’s approach and loved that they had a hip hop-esque foundation to much of their early work.
As we’ve grown as artists and our love for the electronic scene and its music has expanded over the years, we’ve really fallen in love with so many more genres than we originally anticipated. Discovering RUFUS Du Sol and Mild Minds via Foreign Family was definitely a huge reason we fell in love with house and UK garage specifically. It’s also nothing we ever expected to be dabbling in, so there is a level of excitement behind working on those genres for us.
Last year you guys really picked up steam not only when it comes to the amount of tracks released, but also a number of your most popular tracks such as "Ineffable" and your rendition of "Run" was released then. What was going on behind the scenes that led you guys to up the ante in 2021?
I think the simplest answer there is just the culmination of a lot of hard work. We took several years to focus on improving on our writing/mixing, releasing very few songs each year, and studying the craft pretty constantly. I think overtime we finally developed the confidence in our production abilities to dive in headfirst.
We were also really encouraged by our first big label release, which was with Tribal Trap, and an opportunity to do an official remix for DJ Taz Rashid. Overall it just felt like the right time to really try and take things to the next level.
In which ways would you say your workflow differs when you're creating remixes, vs making original tracks?
I’d say the approach is similar, but with a remix, our main goal in our head is to find the elements in the original that we resonate most with and sort of envision a vibe or direction we want to take it in. We’re not super methodical/formulaic about our production process so from that point it’s sort of a call and response between us and where the song wants to go, what works and what doesn't, and editing until we land on something with potential.
Talking about remixes, a massive congrats on your remix for Mild Minds and releasing with Foreign Family. For those who don't know the story, how did that release come together?
Thanks so much! So that all came about because Mild Minds teamed up with Metapop for a remix competition for his song ‘Haunted’.
We honestly didn’t think we had enough time to enter because we were pressing on a lot of other deadlines and sort of put it off. Anyway, we opened up the stems 4 days before the contest ended just for fun and landed on the main concept pretty quickly. We were super fired up from there to just try and get it done regardless of the end result.
We had sort of let the whole thing go and a month or so later when we found out that we had won, it was truly a surreal moment for us as we’re both massive fans of Mild Minds.
Shortly after that, we got an email from the FFC team asking if we wanted to put it out alongside remixes from edapollo and Liam Mour. That was definitely a bucket list moment for us!
For your upcoming release "Mystic", what sort of mood and what kind of space are you wanting to put people in by the time they've reached the end?
Empowered, grounded, and inspired to be fully themselves.
You mentioned that when it came to making "Mystic" that you were swept away in a flow state rather seamlessly... What was it about that session that allowed you guys to slip in an emotive flow throughout the production?
Well, ever since we started our journey into producing, we've always had an underlying intention to write according to what the song wants and not trying to force a particular sound onto it. This is a large part of what allowed us to feel free to explore other genres. That approach in itself seems to create moments where we can tap into these flow states and surprise even ourselves at times with how well a session may go.
Mystic in particular was a very special moment, as it's one of the first instances where we started working heavily with granular synthesis and really started to step into our own in regards to sound design and our own unique brand of organic electronica. We love the fusion of the deep melodic electronic sounds with the gamelans, hand pans, and other real world instruments.
Five synth vsts you can't live without?
That’s hard as we really only focus on 2 main synths.
- Arturia Analog Lab
If there is one thing you want to exit 2022 knowing you achieved, what would it be?
That we achieved a level of success that enables us to focus on Banyan full time.
12) So... 1) An artist/band you would have a D.M.C (Deep Meaningful Conversation), 2) An artist/band you’d love to party with. 3) Artist would like to be your mentor? You're welcome to pick from artists/bands who are retired/dead.
- Matty from The 1975
- Chet Porter