MUSIC blogs has been gushing about electronic-pop artist Kota Banks over the past year.
The likes of Purple Sneakers and Junkee have declared Banks, the alter ego of Sydneysider Jessica Porfiri, “one to watch” in 2019 and it’s hard to disagree.
Through a combination of pop sensibility, hip-hop rhythms, banging beats and an undeniably large dose of sass, the 24-year-old appears ready to breakout beyond the club scene.
Banks’ tracks Empty Streets, Zoom, I’m It and Holiday have already notched up millions of streams and last year she released her debut mixed tape Prize on Nina Las Vegas’ hip club label NLV Records, after rejecting overtures from the majors to maintain greater creative control.
“When I stop to think, I freak out a little bit,” Porfiri says, taking a break from recording her next album.
“I’m more the type of person to get pushing forward and making plans for 2019. But yeah, 2018 was a great year for sure.”
Porfiri grew up in the northern Sydney suburb of Killara, but spent three years back in her family’s native Italy in Florence.
“I’m definitely very Italian at heart,” she says. “I’m at my Nonna’s every weekend eating pasta. I’m definitely a super wog and it’s just the energy that goes into my music.”
At school Porfiri regularly sang, but it wasn’t until the age of 18 that she discovered the art of songwriting.
Her initial plan was to write pop-country tunes and that desire to improve her craft led to stints living in Los Angeles and Nashville. The latter proved a particularly beneficial experience, despite her music today carrying no elements of country influence.
“The most important thing was this intangible energy that you bring back that I’ll always have within me now,” Porfiri says.
Eventually Porfiri created the Kota Banks character, who debuted her first single N.F.F.A (no fake friends allowed) in 2016. Banks is a fun, sporty and feisty young woman, who Porfiri explains, is an exaggerated version of herself.
“I’m not usually confrontational or super sassy,” she says. “I definitely have that within me, so it’s a chance to amplify that.
“It’s a really fun energy and there’s a lot to explore within those types of emotions and personality.”
The clearest example of Porfiri injecting the Kota Banks character into her songwriting is catchy hip hop-flavoured I’m It.
Porfiri says she wrote the song and it’s lyrics, “I wake up every morning tell myself I'm it” and “I love myself and that's not cocky,” as self motivation.
“I was really not confident and writing songs is a way I pep myself up sometimes,” she says. “My alter-ego really comes from my music and that's where I channel all the strength. I really needed it that day.”
Catch Kota Banks at the Up Down festival alongside The Bloody Beetroots, Adrian Lux, The Jillionaire, Carmada, Motez and more at the Newcastle Foreshore on March 17.