Bryan Banks is a professional musician who will release his first solo album, “The Sudden Sounds of Urgency,” on Friday, Sept. 1, and hold a CD release party Saturday, Oct. 7, at Thirst T’s, Olyphant. Previously, Banks drummed with area acts such as Owen’s Grudge, Dashboard Mary, Asialena, Jonathan Dressler and John Quinn. A native of Rockland County, New York, he relocated to Scranton in 2001 and now lives in Dunmore, where he works at Stericycle.
Meet Bryan Banks…
After spending so many years as a drummer, what was it like to record a solo album where you wrote and sang all of the songs and played almost all of the instruments?
Behind the scenes, I had been playing guitar as a way to write and a way to express thoughts, and to have that serenity. The dichotomy is different when you’re drumming, especially in a high-energy group like Owen’s Grudge, where you’re always coming at it a certain way. It was good to have another release point, and it was a helpful tool for me with drumming, because I could understand the mentality of the singer and the mentality of the guitar player, and I think it made me a better musician.
What inspired the album?
Over the past couple of years, I’ve just been venturing out into the songwriting process. I always liked to put the pen to paper. There were some events in life that lead you to go in that direction, and I wanted to prove something to myself — that I could take something from start to finish. I worked on it for seven years, off and on, balancing being a working musician and a having full-time job. And I have to thank the guys at S.I. Studios. They were essential and patient. There are 10 songs on the album. There could have been 12 or 13. And I tracked close to 20 pieces. It started off where I was going to get these life-changing emotions out, but then I realized the writing was too personal … so I had to modify that.
How creatively fulfilling was it to work through all of that as an artist?
Unbelievable. Music has been the driving force in my whole life. And I’ve been blessed — and I use that word strongly — because I’m a man of faith. It’s a blessing, because people have been very kind to me, regarding accolades about my playing. But I always know I can get better and be better. But this was really self-fulfilling. It’s something you created from scratch. There was something about knowing I did it all and that I could accomplish it. And I really didn’t realize how fulfilling it was until people started saying that they couldn’t wait to hear it. Over the past year or two, I’ve started playing the guitar out more as a solo performer, because I felt I couldn’t cheat the game. I’ve been known for drumming, thanks to all of the artists that have let me share their stages, and now that I’ve started to come out with the guitar, I wanted to earn my keep. I didn’t want to just be “the guy who plays drums” and have that association. That would have been easy, but I can’t ask you to go purchase something or listen to something if I can’t legitimately do it.
Tell us about your shows. What, in addition to your own songs, do you play?
I try to incorporate a wide range of stuff. I’ll do “Stand By Me” and “Easy” by the Commodores, then I’ll do Alice in Chains’ “Man in a Box” and “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover.”
Who are some of your all-time favorite artists?
Prince; Rush, because of Neil Peart; Eddie Van Halen, who transitioned me into rock music and guitar; and I like Sevendust and Living Colour.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I enjoy video games, preferably the sports ones, because I can compete.
Montreal. I’ve been there four times.
Favorite vacation spot?
All-time favorite movie?
“Shawshank Redemption,” “Forrest Gump” and “Pulp Fiction.”
Favorite TV show? “Suits.”
Do you follow sports?
Yankees, Giants, Knicks and Rangers.
Favorite book or author? John Grisham.
Biggest pet peeve?
Ignorance. In any shape or form, wherever it’s coming from. There’s a lot to be learned, and you can make a choice to learn if you want to.
Probably eating. (Laughs)
Is there anything about you that might surprise people?
I was on a dance troupe with the New York/New Jersey Knights, of the World League of American Football, and performed twice at the Meadowlands. And a lot of people didn’t know I play guitar, but I’ve been doing it off and on for years.
Have you had a moment in your life, or a person in your life, that has really helped shape you, and helped define you as the person you are today?
The whole process of being in the studio. Because there were a lot of nights when I was there by myself and you’re tracking, and there are so many stages of human emotions. You go through positivity. You go through self-doubt. You go through confidence. Also, I’ve had some near-death experiences with car crashes and a drowning accident. I was in two really bad accidents, and I almost drowned, and so I have an appreciation for life. I am a man of faith, and I try to keep that first, in front of everything. And as far as people in my life, my mother. She used to direct the gospel choir. And I draw a lot of strength from her.
UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos by Emma Black