Rising To The Occasion: Bantug On Her New EP, Middle School Angst, And Toxic Masculinity

A woodworker by day, Nashville’s Amanda Bantug is multi-talented. She is smartly-written and well-spoken, and she is insightful and reflective in ways that benefit her art. Her second EP, Red, shows off this insight through its personal lyrics and dynamic synth beats. Bantug’s voice is a current throughout all of it, flowing perfectly in tune with the music itself. I got the chance to speak to her over the phone about Red, social media, and a whole lot of feminist thought.


Suburban Rose: First off, I love the new EP. Aside from sounding super pretty—your voice and the music and everything—lyrically, it’s super poetic but in an unpretentious way. Can you talk about your mentality going into writing this in comparison to your first?

Bantug: Blue was not even going to really be an EP; it was kind of just a collection of all these singles I kept putting out. The intention of this one [was] I wanted it to be more of a cohesive piece and I was writing all these songs within the same time frame. I think I wrote “Circles” two years before I wrote “Waiting” and then probably waited a handful more months and just kept writing individual singles. This one I wrote altogether. I honestly don’t really remember the writing process. It’s in my bedroom, so it’s a casual thing. Whatever [was] on my mind that day, I [tried] to put it to paper. I think what I’ve been learning with Red is that except for “Want Out” all the songs were things I went through a long time ago, [so] it’s now actually fully processing for me. I know I have a better grasp of these things that I’m singing about.

SR: It sounded much more concise, and content-wise it sounded revelatory almost.

Bantug: Yeah!

SR: Okay, cool, I just wanted to make sure I was getting that right and not just making something up.

Bantug: No, it’s really cool just to hear people’s interpretations of it; that wouldn’t be wrong even if it weren’t my intention.

SR: Interpretation over intent.

Bantug: Exactly.

SR: Also in your Spotify bio, Katy—side note, she seems so sweet based on the emails we sent back and forth—

Bantug: She’s so nice! She really is.

SR: And she’s the one who wrote the bio, right, and the lyrics on there are from “Want Out”; even before I heard the actual song, I loved the words especially because [they were] so relevant.

“Is our humanity damned?

How did it get this way?

The fact of being a woman makes me feel unsafe and I want out” 
Bantug: I was watching a lot of movies and TV shows that had a prevalence of assault and rape, and I think that just made me super hyper-aware and paranoid for a long time. [It] was a really weird anxiety, just being paralyzed by these fears that I had—which are valid—but I think I was trying to dial it down to a healthy kind of fear. That one was a pretty difficult one to write.

SR: That fear is justified, I think, especially because the way its’s portrayed sometimes is way too much. Like, you can get [the point] across without making it so graphic but then they do [make it graphic and] it kind of doesn’t have to be done like that.

Bantug: It’s difficult because I’ve talked to some people about that and they’re like, “Well, that’s what they’re trying to portray because they wanna make you super uncomfortable,” and yeah, I totally get that… it’s just when you see it all the time, I just hope people aren’t getting numb to it. I know that every time I see something like that, it hurts even more.

SR: You play multiple instruments, so I was just wondering if you’re the one doing all of it in production?

Bantug: Yeah! Production is such a loose term and it kinda depends on what genre you’re in, but I would say that I definitely produced it and then Grayson who mixed it helped with a lot of production as well. But all of the guitar parts and most of the synth parts and some samples were all recorded in my bedroom.

SR: It’s really well-rounded since it’s mostly you doing it.

Bantug: I try to do as much as I can—not to go back to the woman thing, but just growing up doing more male-dominated things, I always had to rise even more to the occasion or kinda prove to myself that [I could do it]. But it’s just, you know, that pressure you feel when you’re younger—and even now in certain situations—but it’s not even proving that women are as good as men but that I want to do this because I can. But it is a big thing because a lot of women are still misrepresented in music and I just want to do as much as I can for myself.

SR: Right, and it’s not that women can’t do it, but there’s this weird assumption that men are better at it or something—like there was that comment at, what, the Grammys earlier this year?

Bantug: Oh, yeah!

SR: Where that guy said that women need to step up, and it’s like, what are you talking about, dude? There are so many women doing their own thing.

Bantug: Absolutely! It’s funny because once Red came out I had a lot of men ask me, “What did you do?”—like they’re asking if I played all the guitar parts, and I’m like, would you even ask your male friends what they did on the EP? I think they would just assume that they did mostly everything, so I just want that [to be] the same for women because a lot of us are doing that and a lot of people don’t assume that about women. But women assume that about themselves subconsciously, and that just doesn’t help our case.

Source: Kelsey Cherry

SR: [In terms of] touring: you haven’t done a whole lot of shows.

Bantug: No. I only did a really short run with my friend Liza Anne, and that was a really great experience. I’m hoping I can hop on a couple more this year.

SR: I heard Liza’s… not the whole record, but definitely the singles and some of the other songs when they came up in my releases, but she’s so great. I have to listen to the whole thing, though.

Bantug: Yeah, she’s great!

SR: I think I probably first heard her through Coin.

Bantug: Are you a big Coin fan?

SR: I am!

Bantug: That’s awesome. I went to their very first show, and I think I met Joe, like, six years ago? I was friends with a bunch of Belmont kids so I knew them through those friends, and it’s been really cool to see Coin and Liza just hustle their asses off here in Nashville, and now it’s their full-time job. It’s so much fun to watch that.

SR: And Nashville—I mean, I’ve never been there, but it’s huge for musicians, isn’t it? It seems like everyone knows each other and just supports each other, and that’s so great.

Bantug: I think that’s really what’s so special about this city. It’s so easy to put your head down and do your own thing and have it feel like a competition, but here there’s this understanding that we’re all trying to do the same thing; what’s the point of working against each other when we could be working with each other to make something really beautiful?

SR: Okay, so your Twitter is amazing. Some of it is so funny. I feel like a lot of [those kinds of tweets] are on those huge internet personality [accounts], but they tend to be stuck-up. And then here you have the same sort of tweets but without that. Just content-wise. Do you know what I mean?

Bantug: Oh, yeah. I mean, you can be aware of people’s personality on the internet, and I try… I know so many people who in real life are nothing like who they are on the internet—and that’s fine, and I think the internet is kind of a safe place for some people to do that—but I think for me I just want to be as much as me as I can no matter where you see me. So I say some fucked-up shit sometimes.

SR: Honestly, my Twitter is just me yelling about TV and screaming into nothing, so it’s totally fine.

Bantug: That’s beautiful.

SR: It’s fun. You said something about being skeptical about middle school and how it was the worst three years of your life, and—me too.

Bantug: [laughs]

SR: Middle school was the worst three years of my life, too!

Bantug: It truly was!

SR: People say high school sucks, and it does, but middle school is the worst thing.

Bantug: I know! Okay, let’s see… I guess I was eleven when I got into middle school, so I feel like ten through eighteen were the worst years of my life. I think middle school—I mean, everyone felt this way, but I guess I was a little bit more angsty than some people, but I was just like, no one understands me at all, always getting into trouble, and I was trying to be someone who I wasn’t at all. Trying to fit in. And then I went into high school and other shit—I just never felt good about myself at those ages.

SR: Oh, me too—[dog barks loudly in the background]—oh my goodness.

Bantug: Hi, pup!

SR: She’s a Yorkie, so she’s very small and very loud.

Bantug: It’s okay. I am, too.

SR: [laughs] But yeah, middle school: I got suspended once [because] this one kid bothered me every day and kept telling me that I needed to go back across the border, and first of all, that’s gross to say, but also, I’m not even Mexican? My dad’s Filipino, like, I’m Asian, that’s not—

Bantug: Hell yeah. We’re both Filipino then.

SR: Nice! I was wondering about that but didn’t wanna start off by saying, like, “Hey, what’s your ethnicity?” because it’s so annoying when people do that. But I feel like it’s only an issue for me when white people do it.

Bantug: No, I know. I actually was talking about that today. It’s weird when, with white people, that’s one of the first things they ask me, like it’s casual. And it’s really not a huge deal, but I just don’t think they think about how personal that question can be because I’ve never asked a white person what their ethnicity is.

SR: Exactly!

Bantug: I mean with Asian people—or any nonwhite people really—it’s okay to ask, I feel like.

SR: Absolutely. I get excited, which sounds weird, but that’s why I ask. But I’m mixed, so it’s sometimes hard to tell, but sometimes someone will ask and I have no issue if they’re not white because they’re genuinely curious. But with white people it’s this weird exotic thing, and that’s not—

Bantug: Yeah, like we don’t have to get into this.

SR: It’s just weird. But so I got suspended, and [long story short] even though this kid was the one harassing me every day, you know, physically and then all the stuff he was saying, they said it was my fault. That he had a crush.

Bantug: That’s what keeps perpetuating this disgusting [toxic masculinity]. That’s another conversation, though. But I get that, I feel.

SR: And I was eleven! And it’s worse because—I kind of got over it a few years after, I guess—

Bantug: I think it’s always gonna be a soft spot. I mean, you can get over it, but that’s something we grew up with all the time, so when it happens as an adult, you’re like, “Oh, this [still] isn’t over?”

SR: Right, and it keeps happening even with this supposed progress. These poor kids constantly going through the same things, and it’s terrible, and they don’t deserve it, and nobody deserves it.

Bantug: Well, it’s not gonna get any better with our [president]!

SR: Oh, man. I go to school in DC, and when I’m there I live maybe ten minutes away from him. Gross.

Bantug: Ugh.

SR: Anyway, we talked about pretty much everything except your music, so I’m sorry [for the huge tangent].

Bantug: Oh, it’s fine! I love conversations like this.


Red is available now. You can find Bantug’s quality social media content at @bantugmusic.


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