Music / Features
Track by Track:
Bananagun - The True Story of Bananagun
Words by Daniel Devlin
Monday 29th June, 2020

Akin to a warm hug, Melbourne groove-chasers Bananagun returned last week with their debut album The True Story of Bananagun. Full with colour and loving spirit, it’s a record that screams with relaxed mindfulness; a soul-searcher laden with afrobeat precision.

A few days on from its release, bandleader Nick Van Bakel has carried us downstream and provided his insights on The True Story of Bananagun track by track, out now via Anti Fade Records.
As their playful name might suggest, Bananagun are reflexive in both their sound and spirit. Beginning as the solo project of Nick Van Bakel (The Frowning Clouds), Bananagun started with bedroom demos and ambitious intentions - a hodgepodge of 60’s psychedelia, afrobeat and exotica. Extending the group to a five-piece powerhouse, Bananagun fill songs with lush horns, percussion and rhythmic prowess, while the optimistic Van Bakel screams the groups mantra through a loving nature and knack for collaboration. Returning this week with their aptly titled debut The True Story of Bananagun, the band navigate 11 tracks of genre-blurring, kaleidoscopic pop with honesty and mindful ease - a colourful record bound by relentless groove. 

Unrestricted by their five-piece persona, Bananagun follow a travelling-band style approach to collaboration across The True Story. Embracing global tropicalia with this communal energy, early single ‘People Talk Too Much’ sees Bananagun extending their arms to vocal guest Zoe Fox and saxophonist Pierce Morton, to build the jam from a seven-piece effort. ’People Talk Too Much’ nods to the groups afrobeat influence - a sunny repetition in Fela Kuti-esque fashion - and while Fox’s hypnotic vocals take the lead, guitars cut through the track nicely amidst 16th-note flurries that carry the groove through phased high-hats and percussion tambers. Finding their stride early into the album, ‘Freak Machine’ continues the party with bursting horns and colourful guitar leads. Each instrument feels integral here, building a nice musical soup atop the album's strongest rhythm. 

Although dense throughout, The True Story of Bananagun builds on an essential groove - simple songs pushed to their limits, no boundary untouched. Far from revivalist psychedelia, Bananagun feel indebted to highlife and 70’s afrobeat across the album, notably shown on intro track ‘Bang Go the Bongos’, the band utilising warm harmonies, recorders and endless percussion to enhance their jungle sound. Sheen with confidence, The True Story of Bananagun is a triumph over the bleak - an ode to the positive onlooker entranced by life’s groove.

Walking us through the album track by track, bandleader Nick Van Bakel has given his insights on each of the songs meanings below.
Bang Go the Bongos

This is probably the first song we learned, it's a pretty basic one that we got to throw heaps of percussion at, including a “cuica” drum, a Brazilian instrument made to make a sound like the possums in the jungle there.

The Master

Is super inspired by James Brown who I’d just found at the time on account of chasing the groove you see. It's about how absurd the notion of people ruling other people is. In a workplace, a religion or in a school, whatever. Fuck those people.

People Talk Too Much

The culmination of lots of jamming and inspiration from African compilations. We kinda wanted some more straight up dancing songs that were less cerebral. Pierce Morton on sax and Zoe Fox on vox.

Freak Machine

This is a new one for us and it was heaps of fun to record. The lyrics are pretty cryptic but probably my favourite on the album. There's no clear meaning, I hope it could mean different things to different people or mean anything at all - a little funky, a little freaky, that's the spot. 

Bird Up!

Kookaburras, cockatoos and native birds of central Victoria take you on a journey you will never forget!

Out of Reach

Another song about a break up! It wasn't really planned but ended up being a soul singer which is fine by me! Our friend Miles Bedford played some dynamite sax on it! It's nice to be able to wrap up some of those feelings and tie a bow on. 

She Now

Is about how people tend to slam their opinion on you like it’s world news! All the cyber intelligence competitions and everything with people trying to out PC each other didn’t seem like progress to me, it seemed like people letting themselves be made small. On ‘She Now’, I was just telling an unbiased story about a guy becoming a girl and the point is to celebrate that. 

Perfect Stranger

When you meet someone and have heaps of chemistry and it all feels natural, I guess it's about the conversation between instinct as well as how much logic and information you can exchange without words. 

Mushroom Bomb

Is about battle and how crazy it is that there's these weapons crafted to perfection. Like, you can imagine the bomb maker tightening the last screw and shining the bomb with his shirt before taking a step back to appreciate the masterpiece they have made. 

Modern Day Problems

Is another old one for us. It’s about all the problems that have arisen out of dumb contraptions that are meant to make life easier. People's obsession with shiny progress, like the progress of going to the moon before realising Earth was already perfect. 

Taking the Present for Granted

Like the name suggests, this track is about trying to be more aware of all the good things happening and that you’ve only got one life etc. It’s about being an optimist existential. Whatever you say to the universe it will agree.

The True Story of Bananagun is out now through Anti Fade Records - head here to purchase the album on limited black vinyl.