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New Orleans Emerging Musicians: Alfred Banks

Alfred Banks (Photo: Katie Sikora)

I was just waking up one morning last month, coffee in hand, and trying to readjust to life at home again after a ten day run with New Orleans’ own Tank and the Bangas, Maggie Koerner, and Alfred Banks, the last of which I had the privilege of working with for the first time on tour.

Pensacola, Tallahassee, Tampa, St. Augustine – with every show, Banks’ songs stayed in my head longer and longer following his performances. He successfully warmed up the crowd each night, and his ability to weave his personal history into his set matched that of a well-seasoned professional.

Charleston, Charlotte, Asheville, Atlanta – growing up Uptown in New Orleans, Banks lets his neighborhood and his adolescence color his songs. And while he is not shy about telling his story, his warmth as a performer makes the moments when he asks you to visualize his dreams along with him feel authentic, not gratuitous.

Ending our run in Memphis, Banks ended his set by expressing his gratitude to his tour buddies and his awe for his manager, a small but genuine act that made me like him that much more.

So when I sat down at my desk (after catching up on lost sleep for two days) and opened an email from my editor asking me if I knew any local rappers we could feature for our Emerging Artist series, I didn’t have to look very far.

Alfred Banks (Photo: Katie Sikora)

Katie Sikora: When did you start playing music?

Alfred Banks: I started performing June 6, 2009 at the Dragon’s Den in New Orleans for a showcase called Grassroots.

KS: Where did you grow up?

AB: I grew up in Uptown New Orleans.

KS: Describe your personal connection to music.

AB: I got connected to music initially thru my oldest brother Orlandas who almost signed to No Limit Records in the late 90s.

Alfred Banks (Photo: Katie Sikora)

KS: Describe your sound/ musical style.

AB: My music sounds like Lupe Fiasco and Charles Hamilton had a baby. I’m energetic with my lyricism and emotion.

KS: What has been your favorite performance experience in New Orleans thus far?

AB: My favorite performance in New Orleans was Voodoo Fest in 2017. That was incredible. So much love and energy. It was an epic moment for my career for sure.

KS: Which New Orleans musicians most inspire you?

AB: I get inspired by people like Truth Universal. He really gave me my first shot at a show and I always remembered that. Now I try to provide opportunities when I can to reciprocate to others what he did for me.

KS: Favorite place to catch live music in NOLA?

AB: I really enjoy watching shows at House of Blues. That venue is electric. It has an energy to it that I can’t explain—like New Orleans.

Alfred Banks (Photo: Katie Sikora)

KS: What do you love most about this city?

AB: I love the fooooooood! Best food in the world if you ask me.

KS: What is your favorite non-musical activity to do in New Orleans?

AB: I love riding my bike around the city. It’s how I write songs, get to meetings and relax.

KS: Favorite food to eat in NOLA?

AB: My favorite food here BY FAR is a hot sausage on french bread dressed with everything. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

KS: What are your next performances?

AB: My next shows are going to be on tour with Tank and the Bangas in Canada. I’m really excited about that! It’s going to be amazing. And then June 21st is my Ten Year Anniversary Show at the Howlin’ Wolf. I’ve been doing this for ten years so this year on June 21st, we celebrate.

KS: Is there anything else you would like to add about yourself in regards to your music?

AB: Follow me on Instagram and Twitter! @Underdogcentral

Katie Sikora graduated from the University of Miami with a degree in Visual Journalism and worked as Photo Editor at The Peninsula Pulse in Door County, Wis., Media Strategist for Levy Restaurants in Chicago, Ill., and an Archivist at The National World War II Museum in New Orleans, La. before pursuing her namesake photography business shooting everything from shark tagging research to vodou ceremonies and—you guessed it—weddings! Her photographs have been published by The Chicago Sun-Times, Gambit, The Times-Picayune, RedEye Chicago, The New Orleans Advocate, Houseshow Magazine, Antigravity Magazine, In The Bite Magazine, Thrillist, CBS Chicago, NBC Chicago, and the World Wildlife Fund amongst others. She is the creator and director of The Sexism Project, an ongoing portrait and interview series featuring the stories of real women in real industries experiencing real sexism.

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