Julian Banks Group Blends Tradition with Fashionable Grooves

Growing up in Canberra, Julian Banks started 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 mateship 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 on the Ubud Village Jazz Competition in Bali. It was here that Julian was launched to Cepi Kusmiadi, a gifted Indonesian percussionist who joined the band for his or her Bali gigs. Taking part in the Kendang Sunda, a set of -headed drums that’s traditionally performed within Sundanese gamelan orchestra, Cepi introduced a new sound to the group. “I immediately fell in love with the sound of these drums and I used to be blown away by Cepi’s sense of musicianship”, says Julian. Soon after this gig Cepi formally 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 started to put in writing music that incorporated guitars, saxophone and drums to highlight the traditional Indonesian percussion. Shying away from any inflexible labels, the Julian strives to “write tunes which have an almost ‘music’ like really feel to them”. Comprising of strong melodies and groove as well as some folky sounds, their eclectic and distinctive ‘Indie-Jazz’ sound is definitely distinctive 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.

Though the purpose of Julian Banks Groups wasn’t to create cross-cultural exchange or develop into an emblem of successful bilateral relationships, the buddieships they have shaped and their collective passion for music is undeniably that. Regardless of their different mother international locations and cultural backgrounds, Julian says “Cepi and I are basically doing exactly the identical thing with our lives”. He attributes their profitable collaborations because of genuine friendship and the band’s strong musical companionships.

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

With assist 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 happy to be back and playing for the various and multicultural audience that is drawn to Bali. Together with these appearances, Julian Banks Group can be hitting the road for a number of gigs in Australia as well as recording new music.

For those who 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-revenue school for blind children in Bali. The Australian Consulate in Bali set up YPDR and has supplied devices to the students to be taught and practice enjoying music. Julian hopes that the band can quickly expand their interaction with Indonesian audiences, particularly with festivals in Sumatra, Lombok and Java.