Jillian Banks was 25 when she splashed into the national, and then international, consciousness as Banks. It was 2013, and the Los Angeleno singer and songwriter’s gift for harmonic tension and lyrical conflict was consistent with a moodiness running through R&B and pop at the time; she toured with The Weeknd, then not quite a superstar, and seemed to glide through her 2014 debut, Goddess.
At the time, there was something like a disconnect between her recorded music and her live shows, though. The minor-key turmoil she expressed so aptly on her recorded material—a murky urgency matched by overcast synths and sub-bass—wasn’t as tumultuous in her live shows, where her powerful belt was afforded a chance to shine, and where often somber production qualities didn’t compress down the range of her voice.
Last month, Banks released The Altar, her second album, and everything has fallen into place. Like The Weeknd, her cohort with whom she continues to tour, she seems to have outgrown somberness, and replaced any uncertainty with power; in the process, her music has grown ever-so-slightly poppier, a strength coming through the fog. Produced by frequent contributors Sohn and Tim Anderson, among others, she’s layered a defiant sultriness on hollowed-out synths, singing primarily about her journey from a relatively shy performer into someone who realized that she’s got to take care of number one first—or, as she sings on track two, that she “fuck[s] with myself more than anybody else.”
On a fetid day in late August, Banks visited the Jezebel offices and we spoke with her on our rooftop, a mistake because we were all sweating and dehydrated by the end. She was game, though—the view is unbeatable—and told us about making this album, which was a lot about “trusting her gut” and “communicat[ing] without feeling apologetic.” She was honest and strong, fully in her element. “These songs,” she said, “are my altar.”
The Altar is out now on Harvest Records. Find US and Europe tour dates here.