3 South & Banana is the intriguing musical moniker of Aurélien Bernard, a French-born singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist based out of Berlin. After releasing a pair of well received singles in 2018, the former Vadoinmessico band-member is releasing his debut EP, Rooftop Trees, this Friday, and today we’re premiering the record in its entirety.
Rooftop Trees is an intriguing release, a record’s that is difficult to pin-down to a single genre. There’s strutting French-pop courtesy of Soleil, Beatlesian-experimentation in the shape of the title track, while the wonderful Fake Jungle is the woozy middle ground of early Tame Impala and Midnight Vultures-era Beck.
Not only do the songs sound intriguingly unusual, they equally seem to carry fascinating back stories. Fake Jungle was inspired by a one off Las Vegas jam session with James Brown, Magdalen Eyes is a musical tribute to the architecture of Aurélien’s adopted home city of Berlin, while Soleil taps into the more simple joy of the first warm sun-rays of Spring. Surrealist psych-pop might drop in and out of the world’s musical narrative on a near yearly basis; when it’s done this well, with this much intriguing variety, it’s a style that won’t stay out of the limelight for long.
FTR: For those who don’t know who are 3 South & Banana?
3 South & Banana is a collaboration between myself, musician Aurelien Bernard, and visual artist Tartaruga Feliz. It started exactly 2 years ago. Before that I was playing drums with the band Cairobi and that’s also how I met Tartaruga. She saw this amazing music video that Sebaldo made for our single Lupo and contacted us to do live visuals. After touring and releasing our first album the band broke up. This was a blow and I felt for the first time in my life the need to do something on my own. I never sang or played the guitar before but I’m a trained drummer and I studied music composition and taught myself to play bass and piano. I was also going into big changes in my personal life and felt the need to express myself about what was happening inside of me. So I started by writing poems and they turned into songs. I let myself be free of self judgment, be vulnerable and looked at my fears and in this process it all crystallized.
FTR: We’re premiering your new EP, Rooftop Trees, today, what can you tell us about recording it?
I recorded the EP in my small studio in Berlin. I played all the instruments (except the saxophone on Magdalen Eye played by my friend Oliver Fox) and found my workflow just by doing it. Usually I record a song in one day and give it some time and listen to it a lot. I re record and refine the playing until I find the right feeling, the right sound. I also made a conscious decision to not use modern editing tools because it’s not me and I don’t like to spend too much time in front of a computer screen. I like to play! On the technical side it’s pretty rudimentary but I gained some experience with recording throughout the years. I also learned a lot by observing my friend Salvador Garza (also from Cairobi). He is a great musician as well as a fantastic sound engineer and producer. I love his approach. He is free and open to experiment. He also helps me a lot with the project on the production/recording side and with mixing.
FTR: Just because it’s such an intriguing name, why are you called 3 South & Banana?
I can’t pronounce it! I grew up in France and I can’t get rid of my accent, you know the “th” the “s”, I mix them up. This used to be a joke around my anglophone friends. They used to say “say 3000 bananas” and laugh at my accent. When I was looking for a name Salvador told me “how about “3000 bananas”. I thought about it and it became “3 South & Banana”. On a deeper level it’s about the opposite. “3 South” being the unknown, the mind losing itself in concepts and the outside world. “Banana” refers to the sweetness, kindness, playfulness, the inside world.
FTR: It’s a very eclectic sounding EP, who are you influences? What were you listening to when you wrote this record?
I have a lot of influences, and I listened to all kinds of music throughout my life. At one point I felt lost in who I was as an artist, as a musician. Where are my roots? I was looking for my identity through music and could never find it. I was looking outside when in fact all I had to do was to look inside and be myself. All those bits and pieces then came together and I became just a vehicle for the universe to express itself.
When I wrote the EP I was listening to this album from Caetano Veloso – “Qualquer Coisa”. I took the guitar and studied a couple of songs from the album. I discovered a freedom in his melodic and harmonic structure that inspired me.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
I make music because it puts me in touch with my true self, my creativity, and as a result brings me a lot of joy. That’s mainly how I connect with the world. I started to play drums when I was 8 years old. My journey took me to the U.S. were I performed as a session drummer and later integrated the Blue Man Group as a Blue Man.
FTR: Do you have plans to tour the record? What can people expect from the 3 South & Banana live show?
For the live show I was eager to perform and didn’t want to wait for the time it takes to put a band together. That’s when Tartaruga Feliz had the idea to create a sort of virtual band composed by visuals that included me on the drums. I then play live guitar and sing with the visuals. The show not only help me express my ideas but also creates an immersive experience, bringing together all the skills I’ve cultivated throughout my life as a musician and performer. It is also an interesting and easy way to put together a whole show, with fewer equipments.
FTR: What’s next for 3 South & Banana?
For now I’m focusing on finishing the recordings for the upcoming debut album and I’m working on searching for places for me to perform, which is truly what I love, to perform and connect with the audience.
Rooftop Trees is out March 1st via Some Other Planets Records. Click HERE for more information on 3 South & Banana.