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Devendra Banhart: “I’ve always seen aggression in men as suppressing the feminine and in women the masculine.”

Originally from Texas, Devendra Banhart spent her childhood in Venezuela, her mother’s country, which is why her knowledge of our language is perfect. Naturally, the interview goes like this, although he immediately apologizes: “Sorry if my Spanish is bad, I just haven’t spoken Spanish in a while.” These kinds of expressions, between the delicacy of the Venezuelan speech and the grammatical accident, sometimes make the conversation with Banhart seem like magical realism. His heightened sensitivity dominates his work and also how he approaches the answers. When asked if his new album Flying Wig (Mexican Summer, out September 22) was intended to sound awkward, he says, “I think the search theme has a lot of room here because it has a lot of potential.” . Humans share a specific sense of seeking peace and love, but these are things that come and go. In my case, when they arrive, I suffer because I know they will eventually leave. And when they’re gone, it hurts. This is a dance. This search is a dance, and it seems to me that this is also the theme of my album.”

Banhart is speaking via video conference from his home in California. It was the city where he settled when his mother left Venezuela. She was 12 years old and one of her first friends there was the sculptor and performer Isabelle Albuquerque. The title of his eleventh solo album – Flying Wig – belongs to him. Albuquerque gave him a wig for his birthday, which became a talisman during recording sessions, and later became a source of inspiration when the artist dreamed that he was flying, surrounded by other wigs and toupees. Albuquerque isn’t the only female powerhouse at Flying Wig.

Kate Le Bon, one of the most fascinating artists to appear in alternative music in recent years, is responsible for its production. An extravagant and atypical artist of Welsh origin, Le Bon has an interesting discography, which has recently alternated with artists such as Wilco or John Grant. “We worked in the same studio and visited each other while recording, but this is the first time we have collaborated. Initially, we were going to hire both of them as producers. Once we got to work, it wasn’t even five minutes before I called my manager and told her that the producer would only be Kate. He knew very well what he wanted to do, he brought energy and gave me a lot of confidence because he was going to shoot in my head. I only had to think about composing and writing. I gave him some guitar and voice demos and he knew where to go. “Very precise and at the same time very rare to have such confidence in a person.”

The artist will perform in Spain on November 10 in Madrid, on November 11 in Valencia and on November 12 in Barcelona. Sadness is constant in Banhart’s music. She has been on the air since she released her first album in 2002 and has stayed with her all these years. A plastic artist who also has exhibitions and art books, Banhart immediately became part of the contemporary American alternative music circles of the 2000s. Becky, Anon, and members of The Strokes were some of his companions on his adventures. Creatives, time. in which their presence became a normalizing element of Latin culture in English-language music. A global vision of music led him to integrate Venezuelan folklore and bossa influences into his work. And what at first must have been an exotic anecdote to his colleagues was eventually seen as a constant source of enrichment. A pioneer in breaking down cultural barriers, which at the time still seemed irreducible, he collaborated with Marisa Monte and Gilberto Gil, helped bring Rodrigo Amarante and Helado Negro to prominence, anticipating the cultural melting pot towards which North American pop was moving. Still, Flying Wig may be one of the most Anglo-Saxon albums in their discography. More electronic and less organic than at other times, the album’s sound is at times reminiscent of mid-’70s Brian Eno. “I’ve been listening to Eno since I was 15, Another Green World is one of my favorite albums. . I also love the album he just released with Fred… and I also really like what his brother Roger is doing. Comparing yourself to him is one of the best compliments you can pay a musician. But the only person responsible for this comparison is Keith. He is the one who brought that sensibility to the album. “He developed a language, a palette of sounds that is very peculiar, made up of very diverse elements.”

It was Keith Le Bon who prevented him from appearing on the album cover. This is the first time Banhart has been encouraged to do so. In the photo, she is seen covered in something that looks like a dress. He explains that it is just a piece of cloth. “But I recorded the songs in an Issey Miyake dress that Kate gave me. It looked terrible, but I put it on anyway. I needed something that would give me confidence. We’ve been through the pandemic, all those horrible things. I felt very vulnerable at that moment.” The way he manages the balance between the masculine and the feminine is one of the most distinctive features of the artistic entity called Devendra Banhart. He insists that the relationship he maintains with his feminine side has nothing to do with sexuality, it is entirely spiritual. “I believe that all people should strive to find a balance between the masculine and the feminine. They are two energies inherent in us. And that has enormous wealth potential. ” Banhart usually refers to herself as both masculine and feminine. And she says that after her parents’ divorce, when she moved to live with her mother in Venezuela, she copes better with her absence by wearing dresses. “I was already starting when I was nine years old. I would put it on and it was like… wow! It heals. I like it!”. In this regard, she found a way to develop her spirituality. “This is what makes me connect with my motherly energy. I continued to do this when I was about to go to high school. Everyone wanted to hit me and there were real problems. Aggressiveness, an obsessive attempt, experienced almost as a religious ecstasy, to suppress the feminine in men and the masculine in women. It scared me. I was afraid of the feeling of fear that came from the root of this fixation. “I knew it was stupid.”

A conversation with Devendra Banhart always goes over the most unexpected terrain. Don’t expect generic answers or vague stories. He gets emotional when he talks about the friends he recently lost. Hal Wilner, Ryuichi Sakamoto, art curator Diego Cortez. “Do you know Diego’s work? I want to cry. I’m sweating, my hair is standing up because Diego will be happy to know that his hard work is appreciated. He was the first person to exhibit Basquiat. He also organized my first exhibition, I recently came to America and he brought me an exhibition in Harlem. When I went out to lunch with him in New York, it was impossible to pass two blocks without greeting the artist. Patti Smith, Laurie Anderson…all the art legends came out when you were with him.” Pure emotion. Devendra Banhart doesn’t know what filters are. You don’t need them either. Music is enough for him and he has more than enough.

Source: El Diario





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