Paul Banks (American musician)

Last updated

Paul Banks
Roskilde Festival Interpol Paul Banks 2.jpg
Banks performing with Interpol in 2018
Background information
Birth namePaul Julian Banks
Also known as
  • Julian Plenti
  • DJ Fancypants
Born (1978-05-03) 3 May 1978 (age 44)
Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, England
  • Musician
  • singer
  • songwriter
  • DJ
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • bass
  • piano
  • drums
Years active1997–present
Member of

Paul Julian Banks (born 3 May 1978) is an American–British musician, singer, songwriter, and DJ. He is best known as the lead vocalist, lyricist, and guitarist of the rock band Interpol. He released a solo album called Julian Plenti is... Skyscraper in 2009 under the name Julian Plenti, though his solo material is now recorded under his real name. As a singer, his voice lies in the baritone range. [1]


Early life

Banks was born in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, on 3 May 1978, [2] to English parents. [3] His father worked in a corporate job for an automobile manufacturer, and his employment required that their family relocate frequently. [3] His family left England when Banks was three years old and moved to the United States, settling in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. [2] They subsequently moved to Spain when he was around 12, and it was here that he studied at the American School of Madrid in Pozuelo de Alarcón before the family moved back to the U.S. to settle in New Jersey. [4] [5] His father was later transferred to Mexico, where Banks finished high school at the American School Foundation in Mexico City. [6] Describing his childhood, Banks recalled: "We moved around like a military family, but we weren't a military family." [3]

Banks was involved in stage productions during his time at the American School Foundation, playing the lead role in the musical South Pacific .[ citation needed ] As a result of his time in Mexico, he is fluent in Spanish and speaks the language with an accurate Mexican accent. [7] [8] He later attended New York University, where he studied English and comparative literature, [9] and he worked at magazines such as Gotham [ citation needed ] and Interview after graduating. [10] He later took a data entry job at the Scholastic Corporation [11] [12] and worked in a café [13] in order to devote more of his time to music and rehearsals. [14] He was inspired to become a musician by Nirvana. [15]


In the summer of 1997, Banks ran into fellow NYU undergrad Daniel Kessler, whom he had met previously on a study abroad program in Paris. [16] Kessler then asked Paul Banks to join the band he had started with drummer Greg Drudy and bass guitarist Carlos Dengler. Banks was initially not inclined to join a band as he had been writing songs as a solo artist, but eventually joined Interpol as a guitarist and vocalist after listening to the type of music they were writing and playing. [17] [12]

Banks' voice, singing style, and lyrics have been strongly compared to, most notably, Ian Curtis of Joy Division. [16] Banks has said that he does not try to emulate his greatest influences because he thinks he cannot live up to them, saying "I would never try to sing like Frank Black or Kurt Cobain because you just can't do it." [18]

Beginning with the recording Interpol's fifth album, El Pintor , Banks has assumed bass duties. [19] In the music video for the album's lead single "All the Rage Back Home", Banks can be seen playing a Fender Precision Bass.

Solo project

Banks claims to have multiple solo projects under various monikers. On 4 August 2009 Banks released solo album Julian Plenti Is... Skyscraper under the name Julian Plenti, followed by a five-song EP Julian Plenti Lives... on 26 June 2012. [20] [21]

On 6 August 2012 Banks announced his second full-length studio album, self-titled Banks , [22] [23] which was released on 22 October 2012. In 2013 he released his own mixtape [24] Everybody on My Dick Like They Supposed to Be , which included contributions by Talib Kweli, El-P, High Prizm and Mike G. [25]

Other projects

In June 2016, Paul Banks and RZA announced a joint album Anything But Words as "Banks and Steelz", [26] with guest appearances by Kool Keith, Ghostface Killah, Method Man, Masta Killa and Florence Welch. [26] Two singles were planned: "Love + War" and "Giant". [26]

On 5 March 2020, Banks announced that he was forming a new band, Muzz, with Matt Barrick (of the Walkmen and Fleet Foxes) and Josh Kaufman of Bonny Light Horseman. The band also released their first single, "Bad Feeling." [27]


Banks using a black Les Paul Custom guitar during an Interpol concert Interpol - Rock am Ring 2015-9030.jpg
Banks using a black Les Paul Custom guitar during an Interpol concert

During Interpol's early years, Banks typically played a black Les Paul Custom guitar. [28] He then started using a Fender Jaguar (primarily due to the use of the tremolo in songs such as "Pioneer to the Falls") and a Gibson Flying V (which, for a time, had the word "breasts" spelled out in white tape on it) [29] [30] for songs from Our Love to Admire , and used his Les Paul for songs from Antics and Turn on the Bright Lights , although some songs like "Obstacle 1" were played with the Jaguar because of the impracticality of switching. Songs like "Mammoth" were recorded using his Les Paul for this same reason.

Banks used his Jaguar as his primary guitar for the end leg of the Our Love to Admire tour, and was also seen using a Gibson ES-135 for songs such as "Not Even Jail", but since the 2010 tour leg he has not been since using the Jaguar or ES-135 and has only been seen using his traditional black Les Paul in live settings. His Flying V, with the white tape now removed, can be seen in the music video for "Barricade". His ES-135 was his primary guitar during his live performances as alter ego Julian Plenti. In the 2010s, during live performances of his solo work, he began playing a Dave Murray signature Fender Stratocaster with two humbucker pickups and a middle position single coil, possibly to avoid having to change guitars between songs for the diverse sounds on his solo records. In terms of bass guitars, he has been seen using a black Fender Precision Bass with a maple fretboard.

According to one source, [28] Banks has used effects pedals such as the BOSS TU-2, Z.Vex Super Duper 2 in 1, EHX Micro POG, MXR Micro Amp, MXR Bass Octave Deluxe, Way Huge Swollen Pickle, Ibanez TS9DX, BOSS DN-2, and 2 MXR Carbon Copy Analog Delay (one set at higher repeats). His pedalboard on the Julian Plenti tour consisted of a BOSS TU-2, Way Huge Aqua-Puss, BOSS DN-2, EHX POG 2, Blackstar HT Dual Tube Distortion, and an MXR Carbon Copy. Since 2004, he has used two Fender Pro Reverb amplifiers.

Personal life

In contrast to Interpol's melancholic indie rock sound, Banks has been a fan of hip hop since he was a child and has worked as a hip hop DJ under the pseudonym DJ Fancypants. [31]

In October 2012, Danish supermodel Helena Christensen referred to Banks as her boyfriend. [32] In July 2018, Banks confirmed that they had split up after a long-term relationship. [33]


Solo releases

Studio albums

List of studio albums, with selected chart positions
TitleAlbum detailsPeak chart positions

US Indie



Julian Plenti is... Skyscraper (as Julian Plenti)
  • Released: August 4, 2009
  • Label: Matador
  • Released: October 22, 2012
  • Label: Matador
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.


TitleEP detailsPeak chart positions

Julian Plenti Lives...
  • Released: June 26, 2012 [43]
  • Label: Matador


TitleYearPeak chart positionsAlbum
"Fun That We Have" [45] 2009Julian Plenti is... Skyscraper
"Only If You Run" [46]
"Games For Days" [47] 14
"The Base" [48] 201243Banks
"Young Again" [49]
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.


Banks & Steelz


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