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“Removal from Reality” : Alex Banin’s “DID I IMAGINE” Questions Memories

Written by on September 27, 2021

Alex Banin’s debut EP “DID I IMAGINE” is a reflective look at the Chicago artist’s life pre-pandemic, full of bouncy beats driven by conversational lyrics.

Banin, who was born in London and raised in New York, moved to Chicago at 18 to attend Northwestern University, graduating in 2020. Amidst competitive fencing practice and majoring in Learning and Organizational Change, Banin gradually explored her passion for music. She played some shows just before the pandemic started and released a few singles that blended R&B with pop melodies. Her debut EP “DID I IMAGINE” was released July 19, 2021.

Though Banin’s in the process of moving to LA, she said Chicago is “all she knows” when it comes to being creative.

“I don’t know if I have a typical Chicago sound,” Banin said. “I think that’s what’s really nice about Chicago, there’s a lot of people doing their own thing and coming together to influence each other while still staying true to themselves.”

Banin started working on her debut EP while she was isolated at home during the start of the pandemic, unable to play shows or go to the studio. She said she “went back to the basics,” writing reflective songs alone with her guitar. It was not unlike how she started writing songs growing up, only back then she wrote them in secret.

The artist noted that it was “far too easy” to get into an introspective mood while isolated at home during the pandemic, and she spent a lot of time thinking about past experiences.

She continued, “That’s always how I’ve processed stuff, especially when I’ve had a lot of time to myself. It gives me a sense of closure, just writing a song and having it out. It’s how I move on from things.”

On the second song on the EP, “Rolling” (a Vocalo In Rotation pick for August of 2021), Banin reflects on being in a different place than she was at age 16. The song features Chicago artist Saba during the second verse. The song started as a ukulele voice memo, but as it developed, Banin said she asked Saba to rap on the track because she looks up to him, wanted a feature and felt he’d be the perfect fit.

“I immediately thought of Chicago people first, just because those are the people around me and the sounds around me,” Banin said. “Even though he’s not here in Chicago anymore, he’s definitely left a legacy, and he was very nice also.”

While working on such a retrospective EP, Banin said she found herself thinking more about the ways her memory was unreliable and the ambiguous nature surrounding the past. During the early days of the pandemic, Banin’s entire routine and sleep schedule changed, which she said made it even easier to question reality.

“I was trying to tap into what I was feeling at certain points, and when I remember things, there’s always an element of, did this happen?” Banin said. “What is real and what am I just wanting to remember? What things am I conflating with each other and trying to make sound better or worse? And so, even though it’s all true to me now and when I wrote it, I think about was it true at the time?”

The EP’s visuals include Banin posing with a giant rabbit head she found in an antique store in Rogers Park, which ties back to its concept of “removal from reality.” Writing music and coming up with visuals go hand in hand for Banin. She said she takes note of when unique pieces catch her eye then lets the music and visuals “develop each other.”

In her music video for “Forget About It,” the rabbit heads take on a life of their own and appear with Banin in different settings, which she said ties back to the ways “we imagine things and place them into our realities.”

Written By Kayleigh Padar 

Follow Alex Banin on Twitter and Instagram, and stream DID I IMAGINE on Spotify below.

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