About this Playlist
When a track submission from German indie artist Izy Bandha came into musicto, I was instantly enamored by the unique style of the song and voice of the young artist. I went on Spotify to explore more music from the singer-songwriter, and minutes later, I was hooked.
Below, indie artist Izy Bandha discusses her experiences and music with me in an edited email interview.
Jane Asylum: I know that you taught yourself how to play guitar not too long ago. What inspired you to do that?
Izy Bandha: Yes, it was the first covid lockdown, in March 2020. I had a lot of time because I couldn’t go to work, so I picked up my MacBook, grabbed my first (pretty old and really cheap) Harley Benton guitar, and yeah, I just started to record some simple power chords.
Was that also when you began writing and producing your own music? How did you get started?
For my first song, “Freefall,” I started to write lyrics to some free-type beats from YouTube in 2017 or 2018, I guess. I liked the Mac Miller/Lil Peep/XXXTENTACION-type beats with this lo-fi/emo kind of vibe. I was curious about how to rebuild these beats or how to even make my own.
So, you know, I just did it. I thought, everyone starts from zero at some point. If I start now, my future self will thank me for that. You just have to do the work. Now, looking back, I’ve grown a lot. I’m studying sound and music production, which I think is a big step toward becoming a pro at mixing and mastering my own songs.
I was really inspired by Lil Peep, because he started to record his songs in a basement with pretty shitty equipment. That idea really kept me going. It‘s one step after the other.
Are you learning—or do you intend to learn—how to play any other instruments to add to your compositions?
My mom is a pianist and musicologist from Russia. She taught me to play the piano when I was a child. Also, I think—I’m not sure if you say this in English—I have a good ear. It‘s pretty easy for me to find a melody that I have in my head.
I have a good ear too, obviously, because I love your music! You definitely have a unique sound and voice—and by this I mean both a gorgeous musical voice and a signature style (a style that is your own), which extends to that vulnerability in your lyrics. What’s your process?
Aww, thanks. I’m really glad you like my style. Mostly, I start by writing down my emotions. It’s a strong, kind of urgent need/desire to express how I truly feel. I either write songs when I’m madly in love or badly depressed. The lyrics add a vibe to the song. Then I build a beat, like some drums, and maybe record a melody on my bass or synthesizer. I just follow my intuition. My boyfriend Kurt Wolf is a better guitarist than me, so I sometimes just hum a melody to him and we create songs together like that. I like sharing my passion, but it’s also a moment when you’re really vulnerable and you really reveal your true self. It’s an intense feeling!
Listening to your earliest song on Spotify, “Freefall,” there is a raw simplicity to the lyrics. Since then, you’ve self-published an album, Thin-Skinned, and released several more songs, including “Your Sex is Ugly.” Your themes remain very human and relatable, but your lyrics feel more complex as time goes on. Has your process become less spontaneous and more purposeful, or are you just becoming more comfortable with songwriting in English, since German is your first language?
It’s kinda weird. I’m only able to write songs when it hits me. I can’t just sit down and be like “Hey, let’s write a song.” For me, it doesn’t work that way. So, it’s still spontaneous, if you want to call it that.
I could never write songs in German. I think it started when I was in a relationship where we were communicating in English. When we broke up, my thoughts trying to process all of it were also in English. It just suits me better, somehow.
It also adds some distance—like it’s my alter ego writing it—but I also feel more connected to my music when I express my feelings in English. I did write a song in Russian, once, but I’m still not sure if I’ll ever publish it. It’s pretty dark—I wouldn’t want my Russian family to listen to it.
Yeah, I have writing that I definitely wouldn’t want to share with family, not so much that those pieces are dark as they are racy. I don’t think my grandmother needs that much information about me! You launched your music career during the pandemic, which wasn’t the best time for musicians because of the inability to perform live. Have you had the chance to do that?
I had some gigs in February/March of 2020, but that was with my previous band, where I wrote the lyrics and was the singer. When the first lockdown hit, we broke up. That’s when I started my solo project as Izy Bandha. I haven’t played any shows since, but that’s something I’d like to change. I’m a bit shy or anxious about performing, but I guess that’s just something I have to overcome so I can have a lot of fun on stage. I’ve been to so many great concerts—it must be amazing if you can afford a living just by playing shows, selling merch, etc.
You’re not alone. I think Rhianna, Eddie Van Halen, Katy Perry, Carly Simon have all recounted stage fright. And now you have me thinking about your videos—particularly “Only Lovers,” which you filmed with Anastasia Braun and Lilly Kellinghusen—as well as something you mentioned earlier about collaborating with your boyfriend Kurt Wolf. This is an important topic to me because musicto has recently repositioned itself as a community of creators collaborating through music. What are the benefits that you’ve found in collaborating on your music and your videos?
I also collabed with my friend Kitty, who has her own label called “Nasty Apparel & more.” She made some really cool merch when I released my song “Sorry I Ghosted U.”
I think collaborating is a huge experience, but I must feel connected to the person I’m working with. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to open up, you know?
Anastasia Braun is my twin sister and Lilly Kellinghusen is my best friend, so often we don’t even have to communicate verbally. There is just a natural flow between us. We just grab a video camera and get started. There’s no real concept or guide we follow. And then, for example, when I edit the video (which happens right after shooting—I sit there for 12 hours until it’s done, haha) I’m just amazed by the result. Because, in the end, you might interpret a storyline within the video where there wasn’t even one. I like the authenticity and that it’s edgy and raw. And yes, you might see and hear that it’s self-made, but it makes you feel something and that’s what I want to do: to make people feel something.
That’s what it all comes down to isn’t it? That’s how people connect and relate to music—through emotion. Or at least one of the ways. In fact, excitement was one of the first effects that your music had on me. Excuse me for fan-girling on you!
Oh, it makes me really happy to know that my music excites you. Thank you! If I’m honest, it’s difficult to be an indie artist. Hah, I thought it would be easier. There were moments when I just wanted to stop. There are SO many good artists out there who have less than 1,000 monthly listeners and I really don’t understand why. Well, maybe I do. I guess it’s hard if you don’t have a marketing plan or a huge budget. However, to know that artists like Lil Peep; girl in red; nothing, nowhere; Call Me Karizma actually made it as independent artists gives me hope.
In that spirit, I want to encourage people to experience your music for themselves, but before we get there, I would like to ask where to start with Izy Bandha. If you could only pick three songs out of your current catalog, which songs, and in which order, do you feel would best introduce your music to a new listener?
It’s a difficult question because I’m mostly hyped with my latest, unreleased projects. Still, I’m proud of my music videos and probably that’s where you can start.
“Only Lovers” is one of my all-time favorites. The movie “Only Lovers Left Alive,” by Jim Jarmusch, is what inspired me to write that song. It’s one of my favorites. If you haven’t watched it yet, do it. And go listen to my song!
Number two would be “Reasons to Live.” Once, after I recovered from an episode of depression, I had to do something to keep seeing the bright side of life. I wrote down 100 reasons to be alive. Reasons which, to me, make life worth living. Later, I made an instrumental and added about 33 of those reasons as spoken word. It’s a song that means a lot to me.
Number three would be “Breathing Space.” As I’m a huge fan of The Cure, Lebanon Hanover and Marilyn Manson, I wanted to get that dark and kinda dangerous vibe. I wanted to try something new, like experimenting with some sort of dark wave/post punk sound. After that, I never made another song in this style.
Let’s talk about those unreleased projects, then. What can we look forward to from Izy Bandha in the coming year and what is the best way that fans can support you?
I’ve got two songs ready for release this summer. I’m also changing my style a bit (if I had a style before, haha). Maybe there will be an EP.
As I said, I’m currently looking for opportunities to perform live this summer. Honestly, I’m so excited for the future and hope to play huge shows one day. Thank you so much for having me, Jane!
Can’t wait! Thank you so much, Izy. It’s truly been a pleasure!
Just this past weekend, Izy Bandha released a new track called “Club 27,” in collaboration with Kurt Wolf. Listen below and follow Izy Bandha on Instagram—but, more importantly, support this awesome indie artist on Bandcamp!