“ Bankhead swirls the music with such precision that it feels fresh and engaging” - Art Jipson
“as snazzy a piece of Guided by Voices influenced power pop as has crossed my desk in ages” - Steve Simels
“His sophomore indie rock album... adopts a classic 70s LP format to tell a story about insomnia–sometimes in fried-nerve distortion and sometimes in sighing piano balladry, but always with an ear for adventurous song structures and well-wrought lyrics.” - Taylor Ruckle
Growing up, music was all around alt-rocker Mike Bankhead. His father was a former drummer who had the skills to pound out complex Rush drumbeats on the steering wheel. Bankhead’s buddies all played instruments, and he found himself at numerous jam sessions where he would learn rudimentary guitar chords and bang on the drums. He was also a passionate poet who studied verse and rhymes schemes. And privately, without even being able to play an instrument, Bankhead wrote his own songs.
“One day, I thought ‘what if I actually learned how to play,'” the Dayton, Ohio-based artist recalls, laughing. “I then thought, ‘why not make my own music?’ It took me a long time to share my songs - it’s only been in the last five years that I’ve thought they were good enough to release.” Since that fateful time, Bankhead has issued a debut, a split album, and a follow-up full length in 2020.
Bankhead’s music captures the exhilarating era of the 1990s when big hooks, sharp-witted lyrics, and inventive musicianship ruled the airwaves, and left of the dial were genius indie songsmiths a little too clever for prime time, but just as catchy as their mainstream counterparts. We’re talking early Radiohead, Fountains of Wayne, Smashing Pumpkins, Superdrag, Guided By Voices, Pavement, and Archers Of Loaf.
Bankhead is a bassist, singer, and a songwriter, which forms a unique perspective. The bass is typically a supportive instrument, which could limit his approach if he relied solely on it for composition. Instead, Bankhead has branched out and studied music theory, and he has taken piano lessons. This enriched vantage point has opened many possibilities. His songs feature unique chord sequences, non-stock chord voicings, well-developed melodies, and a powerful sense of dynamics. This sophistication is tucked away in hook-laden pop-rock with a dash of artiness. Bankhead’s music is mostly guitar heavy, but he does employ piano for stately indie-rock balladry.
As a natural poet, Bankhead’s lyrics feature refreshing turns of phrases and evocative imagery. For him, writing is cathartic, and, in his lyrics, Bankhead explores heartbreak, self-discovery, spirituality, nostalgia, depression and anxiety, relationships, ruminations on life and the media, everyday living, and themes of love and longing. As a wordsmith, Bankhead counts as influences poets such as Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, and Lewis Carroll. Though his perspective is literate and learned, his words are accessible and authentic; there is a natural flow to his poetic sensibility that never feels scholastic or forced.
Bankhead’s latest, Anxious Inventions & Fictions, is a peek into his lives, both real and imagined. “The songs on the album explore the kinds of things I think about when I am up late at night, and I can’t turn off my brain,” Bankhead says with a good-natured laugh. “They are assorted musings on life and my observations on shared human experiences, mostly leaning toward mournful ones.”
Mike Bankhead is currently hard at work on a concept EP that takes a close look at Black experiences. He has also recently started a podcast.