Fresh Finds: Bantug Talks About Red, Her Inspirations, and Her Love For Nashville

Photos by Kelsey Cherry

We love indie-pop icons that bless us with super catchy melodies and eye-pleasing aesthetics, so naturally Bantug is everything we’ve needed and then some. Amanda Bantug, musically known by the moniker Bantug, serves us sweet and soft synths with dream-rock guitar riffs in her latest EP Red. Hailing from Nashville, TN, otherwise known as the heart of the nation’s music scene, she is heavily inspired by the tight-knit and supportive community she lives in. A star both on and off the stage, she works diligently at her craft all the while hustling through her day job to help manifest her career in music.

One of the most down-to-earth artists in the game, we recently got to talk to Amanda about the stories behind Red, fangirl a bit over SZA, and get a taste of what we can expect in the future of Bantug. Read our interview below, and listen to the playlist she curated featuring some of her own musical inspirations!

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us! Can you tell us a little bit about who you are, where you’re from, and how you got stared?

So I’m originally from the suburbs of Atlanta, GA, but I moved to Nashville, I think, six or seven years ago? I was kind of trying to do the singer-songwriter thing, but I was never really [dealing] with that very well. I don’t even think it was until the fourth year I had lived in Nashville that I started doing stuff for Bantug, so it’s kind of been just like… me trying to figure out my songwriting and the kind of genre that I’m flourishing in, but my first song was “Waiting” so, I think ever since I wrote that my songwriting just completely changed.

And as far as your music, if you had to describe your music using only three words, what would they be?

Oh wow! Three words? Um, I guess how people have been describing it to me is like “indie dream pop”, but I don’t necessary know how to describe my music in three words, so I’ll go with that one, that’s a safe bet.

Sounds pretty good to me! Your latest EP Red, which is fabulous by the way, what was your favorite song to write on that one?

I was just thinking about this the other day. I think “Find Yourself” is my favorite one. I called it “House” at first, and that’s why I just mixed up my words, but “Our Apartment” was already written and I was like, Oh I don’t want to have an EP full of like types of songs you can locate. It was one of those songs that just came organically and I wrote it super fast and my husband and I just recorded it in my room. It [was] just a really, such a genuinely joyful time to write because I don’t have that experience with all of them, but that was just a nice, easy song to write.

With your previous EP called Blue, obviously there’s a little theme going on there. Is there any special reason behind the titles?

Well, at first … I’m just bad at naming things. The first EP wasn’t supposed to be an EP because I had released four songs as singles and I was just like, Well I might as well just wrap it up with a fifth single to make everything one big compilation… I never wrote those songs around the same time, and I didn’t have a theme planned out for it, so the only thing that they had in common was the color blue for all their artwork. So, I just called it Blue, and then I thought it’d be funny to name the next EP another color, but this one has more of a theme going on than the last one.

It’s interesting when you kind of pull something together just to do it and then you find meaning it in afterwards.

Yeah, exactly!

So, going from Atlanta to Nashville, what is the most exciting part of being a musician for you? Is it the live shows, being in the studio, etc.?

Oh man. I think it changes every now and then… I just love writing music, and I used to be pretty fearful of playing shows, but the more I started doing it, the more I fell in love with it, so I definitely for sure do love [it]. I think I’m actually wanting to play a show pretty badly at the moment and that doesn’t happen immediately, so I think right now I’m pretty excited about just playing live shows.

What would your dream tour line-up be, if you could tour with anybody in the world?

Oh my gosh, I am not ready for this. It would be a dream to open for SZA even though I don’t even think that would even align with our music… That would be really fun. If I could, it would just be really fun to tour with a bunch of my friends really. I think sometimes I get scared of meeting musicians I really look up to, and sometimes I want to keep it that way. But yeah, I think a big friend tour would be amazing.

So, I know you did just mention SZA, who is also my queen if we’re going to talk about her. Who have been your biggest musical inspirations, especially while you were writing Red?

SZA was an inspiration but in a way that… she’s been around for a while, but she really popped off a year or so ago and her melodies… I think she found herself, her melodies are such her niche. [I] have never heard anyone write the way she does, and I think that just kind of helped me find that within myself. I wouldn’t say I’m trying to emulate what she’s doing but capture the essence of what she was [doing].

Porches was also a little bit of an influence. I’m trying to think. Man, I feel like I wrote this [EP] so long ago… [W]henever I’m writing I try not to listen to a lot of music that I like just so that I don’t try to sound like them. But honestly, living here and having such a good community filled with a lot of friends that are just so good at their craft, I think that is what inspires me because it’s just really cool to see all of my really good pals succeed at what they’re doing and express themselves with whatever medium that is, and so it kind of makes me want to be the best version of myself at that time.

It’s really good to be inspired by the people that you surround yourself with; I think that’s the best way to do it. As far as your career, what do you hope to accomplish? Where do you see your music taking you down the road, whether short term or long term?

Oh man, I ask myself that all the time. You know, I would love to go on more tours, that would be pretty fun to do that for at least half of the year, but I work a full-time job at this woodworking shop, so I would hope that I could do music full-time, in small steps, and kind of just focus on… I don’t get to write a lot, so I think like ever since Red I’ve written like nine or ten songs, I wish I could just be writing as much as I could, but I just don’t have the time and energy for it. So, just like a whole lot more writing and whole lot playing more shows.

It’s pretty impressive to be a musician and also working a full-time job, especially woodworking because that sounds pretty difficult and intricate.

It can be pretty hard, but you just got to be confident and go for it.

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