BANKS is no stranger to water. Whether she’s drowning in it, swimming through it, or wishing she was made of it, water is a constant theme in the singer’s three bodies of work to date. “I feel like it can consume you and you can consume it,” she says. “When I write about when I’m feeling really powerful, I feel like I could consume something. And when I’m feeling really vulnerable, it feels like something can consume me. It feels like, in that way, water is my friend. We are one.” In “Skinnydipped”, her second single off her unnamed fourth studio album, water is equal parts cleansing and enigmatic. The song is a regenesis—a woman coming into a new and undiscovered power. The production slides below her piercing delivery as she bites on lines like, “I aired out my sheets ’cause they smell like you / I cleaned out the salt in my wounds,” and her harmonies further build a world around her to begin anew. It’s a waterfall of emotions, and she’s asking you to join her for a swim.
In the music video, co-directed by the artist herself and Michael Stine, BANKS reimagines herself as a siren on the water. She metaphorically molts her skin like a snake, because, for her, the animal “signifies rebirth and… being present in whatever skin you’re in.” Working closely with Lessja Verlingieri of Lever Couture and her fashion director Jenny Williams, BANKS felt that the perfect embodiment of everything “Skinnydipped” had to say was in the seductive stylings of Bulgari diamonds. She is (literally) dripping in the Serpenti collection: “It made me feel like a siren—so powerful, but you can’t tell if it’s dangerous. That’s my favorite feeling.”
BANKS’s new music marks a renewal of sorts after she took the last year and a half in lockdown to overcome mental and physical health struggles and restart her career as an independent artist. Through it all, music has held her down, a necessary anchor in the uncertain world of releasing music on her own and healing herself from the inside out. “In those moments [in quarantine], I felt like wet pudding on the floor,” she says. “Making music really helped me come out of it, and I feel like I had to go [there]. I needed to work through things that were beneath the surface for a long time, but never had time to rear [their] head.”
Below, ELLE.com caught up with the singer (Jillian when she’s not performing) about her new single, creating for herself and by herself, and dressing as the siren she’s always been.
You co-directed both “Skinnydipped” and “The Devil”. How important is it for you to be so deeply involved in what you’re creating?
That’s everything to me. I’ve always written all my own music but been deeply involved in the production. I think having time off, just to marinate on everything and the certain things that I was trying to work through, set me off on this journey of feeling the most independent that I’ve ever felt. I think real art comes from the person. It’s sharing what you need to share. It’s exuding everything that you don’t know how to say otherwise. In order to really know an artist, it has to be coming from them, or else it’s not your own art.
How do you go about translating the emotion and mood of a song into a look for a music video or tour? You always seem to have a very specific theme, and it’s always a little dark and mysterious, yet clean and simple.
When I make music, it’s so visual. If I close my eyes, or if I’m writing a melody, I immediately see a color, or I immediately see something jagged, or something really soft, or something smoky. I feel like textures are huge… you can you can feel something when you listen to something. And, in that respect, when I’m in fittings, it’s more [about] whatever my gut leads me to. As you go through different phases, you’re attracted to different things, and I think that I’ve definitely been about simplicity. I like the clean, simple, flowing soft fabrics—but I think “The Devil” needed something a little rougher.
What was your creative and styling process for “Skinnydipped”?
It’s my favorite video I’ve [ever] done. My friend Lever Couture designed every dress that I wear in it, and she’s just so avant-garde. She knows how to fit a woman’s body so well—there’s a lot of fabric, but it’s see-through. One dress I’m wearing is plastic—literally, plastic all over your skin. It was really fun in that respect, because “Skinnydipped” is about sirens on a lake in their natural habitat, and you can’t tell if they’re dangerous, but they’re divine, and it’s really empowering. The dresses that I wore for it felt unique and they felt divine. It felt like a creature who you discovered in the woods, who was the queen of some sort of weird thing you’ve never seen, would wear these dresses. I think they lift you up larger than life, but they’re also really simple at the same time.
I love that you’re wearing Serpenti pieces in the video. Whenever I think of Bulgari, and specifically the Serpenti line, it’s always very powerful and sexual and freeing. What drew you to wear those pieces?
Oh, yeah, for sure. I mean, “Skinnydipped” is a seductive little beast. Those pieces of art that I was able to wear, you feel so powerful wearing them. They feel like everything that I wanted to represent women as in this video, which is divine, empowered, seductive, sensual, mysterious, everything—that’s what the Serpenti collection is. The idea of sirens has always intrigued me so much because they’re these beautiful, enigmatic creatures, but you can’t touch them, and you want to, but you can’t tell if they’re dangerous or not. The Serpenti collection made me feel like that—it made me feel like a siren.
What are you most looking forward to with this new album and new era?
I’m most looking forward to just seeing what I can do. I’ve never owned my own mind as much as I do now; I’ve never owned my own creativity as much as I do now. I don’t even know what’s going to happen, but I’m so excited to see.
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This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
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