Put simply, Kota Banks is a delight. Bringing her intelligence and wisdom into her work – don’t be fooled by her upbeat pop sound: Kota is redefining a genre and an industry.
The Sydney-based pop artist, Jessica Profiri, who burst onto the music scene under the moniker Kota Banks, is a leader in the rising generation of pop sensibility in Australia’s music scene.
Following the release of her debut EP Prize, Kota’s music has been receiving steady airtime – “pop in Australia is having a moment.”
“I’m on an independent label and we’re making pop music that the mainstream is starting to take a little bit more seriously.”
With a growing class of artists – (cc: CXLOE and Mallrat) – who are pushing pop music boundaries to a fantastic reception, there’s a shift towards accepting the genre that slipped off the radar of ‘cool’ a little while ago.
“We’re making a statement when you look at the fact that pop is such a driving force right now amongst all these up and comers…. Even Triple J that can be a lot more kind of indie-alternative focus is starting to really embrace pop.
“Everyone’s starting to take notice, and I don’t even necessarily think that my latest [music] would’ve been released had I been signed to a major label.”
Signed to NLV Records, which is run by independent artist Nina Las Vegas, Kota has been given the space to explore and express her creative style.
And it’s a musical style that translates across genre boundaries. Last year saw her tour with Nina Las Vegas as part of the FOMO Festival trail, play support for international rapper Duckwrth (USA) and Australia’s EDM master What So Not.
Kota’s work challenges expectations beyond genre, she uses her music to talk about female empowerment and celebrating the female identity.
“It comes from a place of not necessarily always feeling empowered,” she explained. Referring to her singles Child and I’m It, Kota added, “they both came from negative experiences with either sexism or just rattled self-confidence.
“Taking shit experiences and… being able to turn that into a positive message is the most powerful thing.”
Female empowerment has been a theme of conversation in music for a long time now, and it’s safe to say it’s not going anywhere.
But has the prevalence of female identity (and even feminism) across all media become so familiar it no longer engages the audience?
“The whole notion of self-love for women is so important and I wanted to kind of take that…it’s kind of cliché…it’s such a topic in the mainstream media that often we become desensitized to it, and it’s important.”
A large focus for Kota is re-engaging women in self-empowerment, and to refresh a somewhat tired topic in the mainstream.
“It’s such an ongoing issue and the fact that it’s talked about heaps is amazing…” Kota noted, but there’s more needed than just talk.
“Keeping the conversation going in a way that we can actually keep accountable.
“Everyone wants to write a story or post an Instagram caption…but unless you’re actually calling people out for doing the wrong thing…. it’s important to call those people out in it in a polite way, we want to put positive energy forward.”
And positive progress seems to summarise Kota’s approach to changing how the music industry caters for women.
“We don’t want to meet that with aggression we want to meet that with education.
“Being proactive and being accountable and keeping others accountable is what’s going to push us forward in my opinion.”
Women in Music Empowerment Day is coming up in Sydney on Sunday October 7, and like Kota’s approach, the event works to re-ignite valuable conversations about women and the music industry, because unfortunately, “we all experience it [discrimination] at some point in this industry.”
“I’m surrounded by women, I have a female manager, female label boss, female creative director, female photography, I’m surrounded by women in the same industry… We need each other as a community.”
And events like WIM Empowerment Day are an opportunity to come together as a community, connect and develop.
“The people who are going to be most supportive and encouraging are going to be the people closest to me that are going through the same thing.
“I’m always there for other women who might be feeling kind of under the weather or discouraged in this industry, and I’m always here to talk about it.”
Kota Banks is certainly delivering a new energy in music. Her songs aren’t just fun and catchy in their essence, she is driving her pop sensibilities towards bettering the industry in which she works.
Women In Music Empowerment Day will be held Sunday, October 7, at Miss Peaches, Newtown.
Thursday, October 11