Julian Banks Group Blends Indonesian Tradition with Modern Grooves

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Julian Banks Group (Image Source: Sabine Legrand)

Growing up in Canberra, Julian Banks began playing music in high school. It was here that he met band mate (and real life mate) James Hauptmann. With James on drums and Julian on tenor saxophone and writing the pieces, their friendship and musical connection grew. The duo joined with Christopher Hale, who plays 6-string semi-acoustic bass guitar to form the Julian Banks Trio and released their first, self-titled, album in 2014.

In 2015, Julian Banks Trio was invited to play at the Ubud Village Jazz Festival in Bali. It was here that Julian was introduced to Cepi Kusmiadi, a talented Indonesian percussionist who joined the band for their Bali gigs. Playing the Kendang Sunda, a set of two-headed drums that is traditionally played within Sundanese gamelan orchestra, Cepi brought a new sound to the group. “I immediately fell in love with the sound of these drums and I was blown away by Cepi’s sense of musicianship”, says Julian. Soon after this gig Cepi officially joined the band, which grew from a trio to a quartet and became the Julian Banks Group.

Julian was so inspired by the sounds of Cepi and his Kendang Sunda that on his return home he began to write music that incorporated guitars, saxophone and drums to highlight the traditional Indonesian percussion. Shying away from any rigid labels, the Julian strives to “write tunes that have an almost ‘song’ like feel to them”. Comprising of strong melodies and groove as well as some folky sounds, their eclectic and unique ‘Indie-Jazz’ sound is certainly unique to the group.  The Julian Banks Group has expanded again to include James Gilligan on bass guitar, who brings even more depth to the band’s sound.

Although the purpose of Julian Banks Groups wasn’t to create cross-cultural exchange or become an emblem of successful bilateral relationships, the friendships they have formed and their collective passion for music is undeniably that. Despite their different mother countries and cultural backgrounds, Julian says “Cepi and I are basically doing exactly the same thing with our lives”. He attributes their successful collaborations as a result of genuine friendship and the band’s strong musical partnerships.

Last year Julian Banks Group returned to Ubud Village Jazz Festival, where they also recorded their current album. Julian describes the album as a “beautiful blend of all the instruments and Cepi’s bubbling magic on this beautiful traditional Indonesian instrument creates the perfect bed for the modern grooves and melodic sensibility of the compositions”. Recording the album the day after completing a grueling hike up Gunung Agung in East Bali. The boys decided to name their album AGUNG, in “tribute to our adventure on the great volcano”.

With support from the Australia Council for the Arts, Julian Banks Group is returning to Ubud Village Jazz Festival and playing a number of gigs in Ubud and Candidasa in Bali this month. The band is excited to be back and playing for the diverse and multicultural audience that is drawn to Bali. Along with these appearances, Julian Banks Group will be hitting the road for a number of gigs in Australia as well as recording new music.

If you didn’t think the band was working hard enough, on top of these gigs and recording, the band will be giving workshops at Yayasan Pendidikan Dria-Raba, a not-for-profit school for blind children in Bali. The Australian Consulate in Bali set up YPDR and has provided instruments to the students to learn and practice playing music. Julian hopes that the band can soon expand their interaction with Indonesian audiences, especially with festivals in Sumatra, Lombok and Java.

If you want to see the boys performing live, you can check out their full tour details on Julian Banks Group’s Facebook or their website: www.julianbanksmusic.com.

You can also check out Julian Banks Group’s latest album at: https://julianbanksmusic.bandcamp.com/album/agung-2

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