Arts & Culture

‘Banana’ makes fruitful addition to campus music scene

Newly formed, ‘groovy’ student band offers eclectic, soulful setlist of both covers, original songs

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, October 20, 2016

Student cover band Banana put on a show for crowds Saturday at Gigs on the Grass with varied setlist including “Valerie” and “No Diggity.”

Student cover band Banana ripened this past weekend at “Gigs on the Grass.” The dynamic duo of Rosanna (‘ana’) Lederhausen ’17 and Ben (‘ban’) Spector ’17 aimed for popular appeal with a set list that ranged from Amy Winehouse collaboration “Valerie” and Hozier’s “Cherry Wine” to Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” and Alicia Keys’ classic “If I Ain’t Got You.” Banana pairs Lederhausen’s lead vocals with Spector’s guitar and backup vocals.

Banana became acquainted through mutual friends and taking the same first-year seminar CLPS0050J: “Psychology of Creativity.” In the most cosmopolitan fashion, Banana began to take shape abroad on the University-led Birthright trip to Israel in January.

“One of the Israeli soldiers on our trip had a guitar, so I wanted to join in and play,” Spector said.

“I knew Ben was really skilled, really musically talented,” Lederhausen added. “I wanted to sing, and it turned out that we knew all of the same songs.”

The informal jam sessions and impromptu performances continued back on  campus, where they transitioned into more formal practices by the end of the spring semester. “One time a lot of people just stayed to listen and we played for hours,” said Lederhausen, who now has more time to spare after leaving the golf team. “I can jam and do gigs. It’s a dream come true.”

This semester, despite having only performed under the name Banana once, at a mutual friend’s birthday party where they sang Spector’s original song “Take It Slow,” Lederhausen and Spector’s “Gigs” performance exuded “nothing but good vibes,” Spector said. “As people, we really vibe well. We generally are on the same page about where we are in the music in terms of performing, which is great.”

Groovy Banana

Primarily a cover band, Banana does not focus on a single genre, Spector said.

“We get so much joy out of playing music that we’ll play anything,” Lederhausen added. “So the Banana sound is comprised of stuff we can really groove to.”

“We have such an eclectic sense of music. I listen to folk, hardcore rap, Beethoven,” Spector said. “We grab from different areas. Not country, though. Anything but country.”

More concretely, “Winehouse is a pretty good example of the kind of music we like to play. Poppy, but soulful and groovy, too,” Spector added. “We don’t like to play popular songs. If it’s been done before, we don’t want to do it.”

But a passion for “groovy” music isn’t something recently discovered by the duo, as both members “come from a long line of family bands,” Lederhausen said. “I play music with my dad, who also has a dad band,” Lederhausen said. “We sing old stuff, like general pop-rock hits, and play classical music for my grandparents because my grandfather is an opera enthusiast.”

Likewise, Spector’s family is musically gifted and has played together. “Both my parents play piano, and my dad is really into nice, simple harmonies,” Spector said. “My oldest brother is a phenomenal singer. He likes to play very vocally driven stuff, which tends to be more soulful music, which is somewhat similar to what Banana plays.”

Besides providing the Banana-mates with a strong performance background, their family experiences molded their early musical palates as well. “My family was really into John Mayer and Dave Matthews,” Spector said. “When I was really young we listened to Relient K — a Christian punk rock band — ‘Be My Escape.’” Later, Spector became acquainted with the ballads of Maroon 5 and Five for Fighting.

“Growing up I listened to the first Adele album, and it changed my life,” Lederhausen said. The album “‘19’ was pivotal to my musical experience. I would belt Adele, and that’s how I learned that I could sing.”

Brown Banana

Though new to the music scene as a group at Brown, both halves of the group have maintained their involvement in the musical community throughout their collegiate careers. Spector, who is involved in the applied music program and has participated in jazz jams and musical theater, has found his musical inclinations deeply influenced by the Brown community.

“When I came to Brown, I got much more into jazz, hip hop, funk. … Amy Winehouse was a huge discovery for me,” Spector said.

“My roommate for the last three years is a phenomenal jazz pianist. He’s shown me how to appreciate more music,” Spector added. “Where I grew up, people didn’t listen to rap to appreciate it. Here, I have met so many more people that deeply appreciate the art of rap and hip hop, and now I’m way more into it.”

Though not experiencing a complete musical rediscovery, Lederhausen’s “tastes in music have been refined at Brown,” as have her performance skills. “Brown students keep pushing us to be better. Student groups like richard, which captures this neo-soul, funk, jazz, hip-hop movement playing very hard grooves, encapsulates what music at Brown is and how music has shaped us.”

The fruitful life

With no immediate split in sight, Banana has begun to experiment with more original music options, both in genre and in originality.

“I would love to play more with electronic beats and make our sound more funky, like Chicago house movement,” Lederhausen said. They deviated from their typical cover set list, as the birthday party performance this semester was the “first time (Spector) had ever played a song (he) had written in public.”

“Sure, it’s easier when you don’t have to worry about the music,” Spector said. “When you are developing your songwriting skills and finally decide to share, it’s hard to open up because it feels so personal,” Spector said.

But Banana feels it has been received with open arms. “I’ve wanted to be in a band since freshman year — it was validating to see how easy it was,” Spector said. “There’s so much anxiety about getting started it’s silly.”

“This has been such a great opportunity to search within myself because music makes me so inexplicably happy,” Lederhausen added.

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