Bantug Interview: On Her Newest Single, Life, And Nashville
Photos by Kelsey Cherry
Words by Kariann Tan
Amidst all the up-and-coming act in the music city of Nashville, Amanda Bantug manages to meticulously wave her way through the bunch. With the stunning debut release of her Blue EP last year, we are beckoned to a myriad of tracks that takes you on a journey to the 80s and back. Now touring with Liza Anne for a handful of shows, we decided to stop by before the tour to get to know her and her music a little more. Here's what we were able to capture during the interview.
Hey Amanda! How are you today?
Good, It’s my Saturday today [though it's a Wednesday]. I’ve got a weird work schedule. I usually work, like, Friday to Tuesday.
What do you do?
I work part-time as a barista and then I work at a woodworking shop.
Ah, fair enough! So first thing’s first, tell me about the beginning of your solo project. How’d that all go?
Yeah, well I moved out to Nashville, obviously, to try to do music and I think it was my fourth year living here and I hadn’t really... done music yet. I mean, I was writing the whole time I’ve lived up here but I didn’t really connect with anything that I was writing. Because at the time, I was very folk heavy, and so I thought that was the move I was gonna make but I wasn’t... connecting with any of the songs I was writing. And then...
My first single, “Waiting”, I wrote that and I recorded it with my friend and I was like, ‘Oh, I really like this, this is really cool!’ and I just kinda released it with no plans, I just figured it was about time that I released something. Then it kinda just kept going from there. A lot of people were very receptive, and it was doing pretty decently on small blogs and that was really encouraging. If I hadn’t gotten that feedback I don’t know if I’d be putting out music right now, but people were really supportive and I just kept making songs and putting them out as singles and eventually, it became an EP!
What made you move to Nashville in the first place?
I had this voice coach when I was in middle school and she was from here, but she would drive to Georgia and teach students there. She wanted me to come up there... Actually, she wanted me to go up to Belmont [University]. I didn’t go there, but I think her just being like ‘You should come here’ to work on your music, and I visited here when I was young and I loved it, and it was just impressive so... I kinda just went for it.
Yeah, I’d imagine. Based on what I’ve heard, Nashville is a very musically-oriented place.
Does living in Nashville influence the way you make music? How you write, and how you produce your songs?
I think there’s a little bit of that. I think wherever you live is gonna influence you in some way. Nashville has this growing pop scene, and I think we’re all trying to do something a little bit different than what you would rather hear from your normal pop. I mean, every artist wants to be unique in their own way and living in a town that’s so singer-songwriter, country, Americana, we’re just trying to break away from that. If not, I think everyone has some sort of singer-songwriter influence here, and we’re trying to shape it into more of a pop thing.
Yeah, I definitely noticed that. Going into Nashville artists and this discography, I can see that. Was there a certain time, or event, that made you realize that you wanted to become an artist, or a singer?
I think I’ve always wanted to be an artist or a singer since I was pretty young. I think the first song I ever wrote.. My Grandpa died when I was ten, and something clicked and I wrote my first song and I couldn’t stop writing from there. I think I’ve always wanted to be an artist.
I’m assuming that you’ve come a really long way since then, because you released your EP Blue year, which is amazing, just saying!
Thank you so much!
No worries! And so, like you said, it caught you a lot of attention, especially within the small blog community, and the small music communities, so let’s delve into that for a little bit. What’s the story, behind Blue? Is there a story? Or was it just a compilation of songs that you wanted to put out?
It definitely was the latter! It’s funny because I didn’t really plan for any of this to happen. I called it Blue because every single artwork that I had for all the songs when they were singles were blue. It was something they all had in common. I figured, “Well, all these songs have the color blue in the artwork, so..”.
I have this new EP coming out, and the way that I’ve visualized it is that all the songs sort of emanate the color of whatever I’m calling it. I didn’t really think of the theme of blue, it was just what I did in that year. Musically, they all go together, but I don’t think there was one thought behind it all. They were just the first five songs that I liked that were different from what I was doing.
That’s fair. As that’s the case, what played a huge influence in the creation of your EP? Artists, or areas, or experiences? What influenced you in general?
That’s tough to say! All these songs were written at a different time. At least, I can remember vividly... When I first wrote Just Like a Dream it was super different. I thought I wanted to go for The 1975 feel, and then we were in the studio and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I hate this, It’s not who I am’ so I took it to this guy. I had this vision for the song, something like that repetitive baseline from “Chariots of Fire”, if we kinda stripped down the drums. And it became its own thing and I’m glad that I don’t sound like The 1975, in a way because I just want to be me. It’s funny because whenever I’m kinda heavy into writing for my own stuff, I don’t like to listen to a lot of the artists that I love. I mean, I’m influenced by Wye Oaks, Porches...
Wye Oaks! Have you heard their newest album?
Oh, yes! I love them so much! I think [Jenn Wasner] is the writer that I’ll never be. She’s great!
They’re so good, right?
Yeah, they have this really crazy, beautiful balance of feeling organic and so beautiful, yet so dissonant at the same time; they use a lot of synths but they have a really great instrumentation and sometimes it’s very orchestral. It’s so beautiful.
I also feel like SZA has influenced melodically - not in the way that she would do anything but just like, I think she helped me find my own niche because I need to come up with some pretty cool melodies and I think she just makes me more confident, if that makes sense.
That does make sense. And I respect that from [SZA] too, it’s something I’ve noticed. So off the Blue EP, I know you mentioned that all these songs are your favorites but do you have a personal favorite off them, or a track that means the most to you?
It kind of changes all the time! “Waiting” seems to be my favorite - I guess since it’s just that it’s the baby out of all the songs. There’s something special about it but I also really love “Creatures” too. I felt like when I wrote that song, everything was super organic and it was one of those writing experiences where like, it just happened and I didn’t have any struggles with it. I wrote it in one sitting or two, and yeah! I don’t know, I felt like “Creatures” is one of those songs where people can be like ‘oh, that’s very Bantug’.
I’m still trying to figure out my writing style but I feel like that is going to be a pillar of my songs.
As of right now, what is your favorite part about you know, being an artist? Is it when you create your lyrics? Or when you produce your sounds? Or is it all the same?
Oh no, they’re all so different. I think they all bring on different emotions and feelings. I really do love writing, just because it is a safe space for me and I felt most comfortable doing that, but, it’s also the most frustrating. It’s fun because I’m still trying to figure out who I am and it’s always going to be an ongoing process of writing. I’m always trying to do something a little bit different which is cool. The lyrics is actually one of the hardest aspects for me because I don’t give myself enough credit; I just feel like I’m not that good compared to other people. I need to stop comparing myself though!
But yeah, I struggle with lyrics a lot and I think that once I get to the final outcome, I’m really proud of myself. So it’s equally aggravating and so rewarding.
Let’s talk about your newest single “Our Apartment”, can you tell me a little about it and what can expect from this song?
Yeah, absolutely! It’s funny, I have been writing and producing this through Logic [Pro X] and it’s the first song to be done through that. You just have more access to sounds and you can do so much more on Logic. I was kind of playing around with that and I made this intro that was pretty sexy and it was kind of freaking me out as I don’t write songs that sound a little sensual. I couldn’t stop myself and I had to kind of go with it. It’s kind of got this sensual feel and I tried to tie it in with the lyrics.
But for the most part, it’s about my husband and I - we used to have like opposite schedules so I would never see him and so it’s kind of about waiting for him to come home and just being with him. It’s funny because after I finished writing it, we’re both kind of just uncomfortable in the best way possible! [laughs] Just because I’ve never released anything out into the air that intimate. But yeah, it’s pretty much about waiting for my boo to come home!
That’s cute! Apart from that, you’re also touring with Liza Anne in just a few. Are you excited for that?
Liza and I are actually really good friends, she took me out on a house show tour a very long time ago. I think like, four years ago! We go way back.
I’ve never been on a proper tour so she is the only person that is really taking me out so far, which I am very thankful for. I am so excited and I’m friends with everyone with the band, so it’s just going to be really fun. I love all those people and I love her music, I think she’s brilliant.
Here’s a bit of an introspective question: where do yourself (or Bantug) in five years time?
Five years? Oh man! Hopefully I’ll, uhh, have a couple of songs out by then.
I’m still working, you know, full time - not doing music. And it’s really hard to balance that out because once you give a lot of your time and energy to your jobs, it’s hard to come home and work on music. So, I don’t have that freedom yet to kind of just do music whenever I want which I mean, is every single artists beginning. It’s definitely difficult right now, but you know, I hope to have my first record out by then. Touring a whole lot more, and hopefully I’ll be a better writer by then you know? [laughs]
I’m honestly very intrigued to what direction I’m going to be heading in. Like, even for my upcoming EP, I didn’t know I was going to be writing stuff like that. Most of the time, the songs I write just takes me by surprise. So yeah, I don’t know. But hopefully I’d be doing music full time. That’s my only hope.
One can hope. But I’ll be rooting for you, on Twitter, all that. On a lighthearted note, as I know that that question kind of went down a introspective path, I want to bring up your YouTube channel and your obsession with chicken wings. So yeah, my main question is: why?
Chicken wings has been my love since I was a tiny little woman! My siblings used to work at this wings shop when growing up and they’d always bring chicken wings home. I just have this like, connection with chicken wings and I thought it would be funny to make a little chicken wing vlog. I’ve had multiple conversations with people in Nashville about where the best chicken wings are, or like, what kind of chicken wings you should get at what restaurant. So, I just figured that I’d start a weird ass vlog about it.
It’s funny because I’ll give the review in the description, but I actually just end the video on my first bite.
How do you like your chicken wings anyway? Super crunchy? Or are you that well-done kinda girl?
I’m definitely the well-done kind of girl. I’d get dry rubs, or a lemon-pepper seasoning but yeah. I’m not much of a barbeque person. Yeah.
Just to close things off, what can we expect from Bantug this year?
I would love to be touring more! Hopefully, I can play more too, get out of Nashville and play for a lot of new people. I would like to release more music by the end of the year, but I’m not in control of that because I don’t know when I’ll be able to release a set amount of songs. But yeah, if writing goes pretty well and everything can go in the works, I’d love to release more than just my upcoming EP this year but I’m not sure about that. Hopefully more shows, more chicken wing vlogs.
Definitely more chicken wing blogs. I’ll be watching them. That wraps everything up for now, thank you so much for offering to chat!
No, thank you!
Check out Bantug's latest single "Our Apartment" available on Spotify now.