If you want to feel instant envy, take one step inside Banta singer Sharaya Mikael's dreamy Los Angeles home. Filled with a harmonious blend of vintage throwback and modern elements, it's the perfect representation of her own unique aesthetic vibe. We sat down with the Banta frontwoman to learn more about how to embrace teenage magazine advice and why she never wants you to listen to her iPhone voice memos. If you want to hear more from Banta, check out their website here and their brand new album here.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I ate a whole box of Oreos and watched 5 of the original Star Trek movies yesterday in no particular order. That's the truth. That's not an average day for me, but I didn't hate it.
Describe your songwriting process.
My songs usually start with a voice memo in my phone. I try to capture moments of melodic inspiration as they pop into my head and before they get away. I would be mortified if anyone ever opened that app on my phone. It would be worse than reading my diary. I also keep a notebook of lyric ideas, equally as incriminating. From there I try to sit down at my piano and piece the fragments together. Sometimes a whole song will come in fifteen minutes. Sometimes its days of beating my head against the wall trying to solve the puzzle (usually the latter).
You've got killer stage style, who are your biggest style inspirations? How do you put together your looks?
Oh, why thank you! Im drawn to the 60's, 70's french-pop aesthetic. Brigitte Bardot is a big style Icon for me. I am actually pretty lazy when It comes to putting outfits together. That's why I go with these crazy statement dresses with bright colors and crazy patterns because they don't require any extra effort. I look for dresses that I can just throw on and be done with it. I've learned the hard way however, that polyester is not functional when it comes to performing. It gets so hot and sweaty!
You've clearly got a strong eye for aesthetics and curation in your home. How do you approach home decor? What are your tips for making a house a home for people on a budget?
I suppose it's kind of like my songwriting process. I just gather a lot of things that I really love and try to make them all fit and make sense together. I shop on the cheap at a lot of estate sales, garage sales, flea markets and thrift stores. I like to start with a few statement pieces that I love, and then build the room around them. I have a cozy-eclectic style so rugs pillows and blankets are big for me.
What is your go-to karaoke song?
Hands down, girl power song: Queen of the Night by Whitney Houston. Or really anything from the Bodyguard Soundtrack.
What is the best advice anyone has ever given you about being an artist?
It's so cheesy, but all that "just be yourself" stuff from Seventeen Magazine when I was a kid really turned out to be great advice. In my early days of singing, I often mimicked artists that I admired. I would try to imitate their sound exactly. I read somewhere that the most an artist can offer is authenticity, because that's the only thing that makes art original...or something like that. People don't want to hear copycat stuff, they want something real and true to itself. It wasn't until I really found my own voice and owned it, that I began to blossom as a vocalist. I'm still figuring it out too.
How do you respond when someone refers to you as a "female musician" or a "female artist"?
I don't like that the term "female musician" sets women up as "other" and insinuates the default musician is male. I feel that the distinction is not helpful in creating an environment of equality when there are clearly so many amazing women rocking stages and writing hits. But at the same time, I do appreciate the sentiment in press and media outlets using this twist as a platform for feminist issues. There is indisputably a lack of female representation in the music industry on the business side of things. It's much more rare to see a "female label head" or "female A&R rep" or "female manager", than a "female musician". So in my opinion the semantics don't seem to help the underlying issue.
What was the coolest moment you ever had on stage or at a show?
For me, the coolest moment is always looking out at a crowd and seeing people singing along to my songs. It makes me feel connected in a way I can't explain. Oh and there was this one time that we played at Hotel Cafe and Lucinda Williams came up to me after and told me she dug the music. She was like "I'm Lucinda" and I was like "You are Lucinda Williams" as I shook her hand. That was a pretty great moment.
What's next for Banta?
We are playing at the El Ray on September 24th. Then taking some time off to focus on writing. I'm starting on our next record here in Los Angeles with Producer Jacob Summers of Avid Dancer. I'm pretty excited about the direction the new stuff is going and can't wait to share it.
Photos by Kate Rentz.
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