Alt-Rock Band Aims to Create A New Sound for Miami

From left to right: Banana Chant members Ander Perez, Vanessa Faith, Marco Smith, Giovanni Negron, Tanis Perez.

Jonathan Fields & Guido Gonzalez/PantherNOW Staff

Although the coronavirus pandemic forced many performers to use alternative means to contact both fans and fellow musicians, one rock band aims to make quarantine a little less agonizing.

Singer Giovanni Negron and drummer Ander Perez, both FIU alumni, are the founding members and self-described “nucleus” of the Miami-based alternative rock band, Banana Chant.

Rather than despair over the new status-quo of lockdown, the duo hope to contribute and do their part, making music to give their fans and friends a bit of healthy distraction from the current crisis.

“We just want to focus on what we can do because we can’t really solve half of the problems of the world,” said Perez,  “We’re not gonna come up with a cure but what we can do is make music that will make people forget about their problems.”

In this spirit, the band partnered up with Knifepunch Records, an Orlando-based independent record label, to release a compilation album entitled “Songs to Stay Home To” that will benefit coronavirus-related charities.

Cover art for Banana Chant’s latest song “Baby Dragon”

The album features Banana Chant’s latest song “Baby Dragon,” a guitar-heavy, downtempo track with poetic, emotionally charged lyrics.

Banana Chant blends many different genres together, including funk, psychedelic, indie-pop and even emo, into a unique sound that they hope will become synonymous with Miami.

While the band draws from an eclectic set influences, the style they weave together seems to defy traditional rock music categories.

Banana Chant’s unreleased song “Limbo”

“I think music is evolving to the point where it is less about genre and more about feeling,” said Perez.

Today, the band hosts livestreams of their performances on their Instagram every Wednesday and are currently working on their second extended play record, titled “Paying Off Student Loans,” merging several different genres including pop and psychedelic rock. 

The E.P. will include five new songs, with the hopes of being released some time before the end of summer. “I think it’s gonna be quite the ambitious project,” Perez said, “we’re really hauling ass.”

The story of Banana Chant could be traced back to Perez and Negron’s senior year in Jan. 2017, when they decided to attend the electronic dance music festival, Life in Color, which is held annually in Miami.

Negron and Perez attended the event with the former wearing an adult-sized banana suit, while the latter was recording the event with his GoPro camera.

During the   festival, where attendees were drenched with giant jets of day-glow paint, Negron’s presence stirred up a frenzy among the crowd.

“You wanna be right at right at the stage,” Perez said, “we started chanting: Follow the banana! Follow the banana!”

As the two attempted to reach the front of the stage, their fellow festival goers enthusiastically showed their support.

“So, we tried to go to the [very] front,” Negron said, “so [the crowd] started [to] chant, and they put me in the front. Because who says no to a banana?”

Negron, still wearing the banana suit, led a group of his friends through the thick crowd up towards the stage. Perez continued filming the unfolding scene, completely awe-struck.

“Everybody just started chanting, ‘LET THEM THROUGH! LET THEM THROUGH!’,” said Negron.

However, the true eureka moment wouldn’t happen until a month later, when Perez was reviewing the footage he captured on his GoPro, innocently titled: Banana Chant.

Negron was, admittedly, a little hesitant over adopting the name.

“At first, I was a bit skeptical about that name because I thought that no one would take us seriously,” Negron said. “But when I started thinking about Red Hot Chili Peppers and Smashing Pumpkins—it’s all food related bands.”

Perez, however, eagerly adopted the new name. And soon, the foundation for the band was being laid out. The first to join the duo was Perez’s older brother, Tanis, who also works as a solo artist on the side.

“The band started out with me and Gio and then we ushered in my brother, who was at [the University of Florida],” said Perez, “He was the main guitarist on the record, and the bassist.”

The next to join was Marco Smith as second guitarist, a neighbor who knew Negron and had recently left a band of his own.

In addition to the food-related name, the group now shares one other notable similarity with bands like Smashing Pumpkins or the Talking Heads: a female bass guitarist.

Vanessa Faith, the band’s bassist, has been helping craft a new sound for the group, drawing more inspiration from the funk and psychedelic genres.

Faith was a co-worker with Negron at Sports Grill, who then bonded with him over their shared love of music before joining the band.

“So, then we’re like, ‘let’s try her out,’ and then jammed with her for a while,” Perez said. And the rest is now history.

As for what truly drives the band to continue creating music, it’s not exactly fame or worldwide recognition they’re looking for, but timelessness, which is a guiding principle for the members.

“Everything always changes,” Negron said, “it’s like you’re a hit one week, and then the next week you’re not. That’s why we’re so connected to rock music, and pop-rock music, and all this. It’s because they always last longer.”

Perez also shares the same sentiment.

“We don’t want to make music that completely shifts the landscape of what’s popular,” said Perez, “but we want to make people realize that there is so much more out there, that it’s not a genre-based art, that it’s a feeling-based art—and if you can capture an emotion in a song then people will listen—and that’s the goal.”

You can listen to Banana Chant on their YouTube channel, Spotify and Instagram @bananachant.

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