Oregon. Tennessee. California. These places have all, at one time or another, been home to Sharaya, the front woman of Banta, an indie rock band out of Echo Park, California. At the Wonder Ballroom with her father in the audience, Sharaya tells the crowd that she feels at home playing a show in her native state of Oregon. She was certainly at ease performing on the stage where she had once seen so many shows. The beautiful Sharaya, who is as down to earth as they come, greeted us with hugs and apologies for running late and sat down to tell us more about her path into music. Keyboardist Alathea later joined us.
Sometimes it is that moment when something good happens that we are forced to evaluate if we are truly getting what we want out of life. This was true for Sharaya, as it was the moment a great opportunity was offered to her at work that she realized despite it being a good job it wasn’t a job she was really passionate about. She states, “And I kinda had this quarter life crisis, like is this what I want to do for the rest of my life? I was 25 at the time, and I felt like I hadn’t really done anything yet. I ended up planning this road trip with a friend of mine….and she’s a writer and wanted to do all 50 states, and I was like I’ll play music and you can write a book and we’ll go on tour. And I had no idea, no idea what I was doing.”
“she’s a writer and wanted to do all 50 states, and I was like I’ll play music and you can write a book and we’ll go on tour. And I had no idea, no idea what I was doing.”
Sharaya quit her job and prepared for the tour by doing open mike night sessions in Portland. She then travelled across the country and tells us, “That road trip became like an experiment of like what if I did pursue this…would I even like it?” She did love it and after returning to Portland made the decision to move to Nashville.
After exploring the music scene and learning the industry in Nashville as a singer-songwriter, Sharaya decided to move to LA and shares, “I moved to LA with the mindset that I want to start a band so I am like the core singer songwriter. It is the band that fills out the sounds. It is the band that takes it to a rock n roll level. ”
She met Alathea, the keyboardist, at a clothing swap in LA and invited her to join the band. She didn’t know if she was any good, but was willing to see what would happen. One gets the sense Sharaya has a fun loving spirit. This is even more evident when Sharaya describes the name Banta. It happened after being teased about her on stage banter and faking an accent. Banter turned into Banta.
Sharaya and Alathea both agree that the most satisfying part of what they do is playing live and connecting with the audience. “When you play a show that a crowd is responding to…when they are having an experience with you that is the most rewarding, you make this connection you know”, Sharaya shares. The Echo Park Rising festival remains one of their favorite shows. Sharaya recalls how a few years ago she went and thought how cool it would be to perform at the festival with a band. The following year her band Banta was on stage with a full crowd and she felt like ‘okay we are doing this’.
Despite how gratifying it is making music, it is not without its challenges. Touring is expensive and there are moments where Sharaya wonders if she should be doing something else. Yet, she remembers that those rewarding moments can’t be bought. She knows she is not doing it for the money. She does it because she loves it and knows it is worthwhile.
“It’s other people’s expectations of you, it is really hard to shake that off.”
Sharaya and Alathea share this advice: don’t be scared, just do it. Sometimes you have to fake it until you make it. Sharaya says it is important to surround yourself with positive people who will support you, and states “All these little things like really affect what other people think about you. Like you should not do this, you should be married and you should have kids. It’s other people’s expectations of you, it is really hard to shake that off. Like other people are judging you. You have to have really thick skin. You have to know that you are doing it for yourself and choose to listen to the people that are encouraging and choose to shut out the negative stuff.”
Maybe at 25, Sharaya hadn’t really done what she wanted to yet. But all those moments before made her into the kind of person that had the courage to explore her passion. And we think that is pretty damn extraordinary.
Learn more about Banta at http://bantaband.com/
Digital album at https://banta.bandcamp.com
Written by: Andrea Garrity
Photos by: Angelina Lusetti & Andrea Garrity