Three band members on a stage

Banana Apocalypse: meet the duo behind the experimental rock band

Experimental rock band Banana Apocalypse are not the first band to get their start at The Troubadour in Earls Court. 

Open since 1954, it has hosted musicians including Paul Simon, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix and there are even rumours The Beatles and The Rolling Stones have graced its stage. 

The band performing at the Troubadour when I went was Banana Apocalypse: made up of 24-year-old Cosmo Oliver and Jasper Pollitt, 23.

Oliver is a classically trained operatic vocalist, guitarist and hip-wiggling frontman for the band’s more up-tempo songs while Pollitt is a skilled guitarist who leads the way on the band’s more sedate numbers. 

They were joined for the first time by drummer Brandon Mason, 20, with the hope of adding him as a permanent member going forward.

Oliver said: “A lot of our songs really need a drummer, so having one elevated our performance to a whole new level.”

Two band members standing on stage
BANANA APOCALYPSE: Band members Cosmo Oliver, left and Jasper Pollitt, right

It’s clear Banana Apocalypse have already developed a loyal fanbase, with one member of the crowd shouting for Oliver to take his top off during their most recent performance. 

When asked how they have managed to develop this fanbase, Oliver explained: “We use gimmicks. You’ve got to reel them in with sorcery, then they’ll listen to the music.”

Pollitt added: “We don’t want to be the band that is just funny, we also want to be respected as musicians. We use gimmicks, but we’re not a gimmick band.”

A band member jumping on stage
Cosmo Oliver from Banana Apocalypse

The Troubadour itself is a lot of things, a restaurant, a party space and a live music venue. 

Upstairs is the restaurant, where you can get food like a brisket burger and mac and cheese, but down in the basement, accessible through a door with a handwritten sign saying ‘club’ above it, is where the magic happens. 

It’s decorated like a church, with religious iconography behind the stage and old pews at the back where the less inclined to dance can perch and watch the performers. 

The skull of what I imagine is the actual Troubadour sits on a shelf near the bar, watching over the nervous performers with dull eyed wisdom. 

Musician Mark Hole, 30, is an early supporter and booker of Banana Apocalypse. 

He said: “I obviously loved it when Cosmo takes off his top and starts wiggling his body, just like everyone does. I got to meet them and thought these guys are perfect.”

Banana Apocalypse cite performers as varied as The Beatles, Elvis, Green Day, Blink-182 and Aussie band King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard among their influences, bringing all those sounds together to create something unusual, yet captivating.

Their set list included the low-key songs ‘Lonely’ and ‘Endless Sea’, followed by crowd-pleasing hip wigglers like ‘Christ Reborn’ and ‘Devil Inside’, finishing with the singalong tune ‘All Together Now’. 

Oliver said: “Before I met Jaspar I was a folk singer, if you can believe it. I’d sing these really quiet songs, but Jaspar just unlocked me.”

Whilst interviewing them this creative chemistry was obvious, with both of them finishing the other’s sentences, overlapping excitedly as they talk about where they want the band to be in the future. 

Their process follows this pattern, with an ethic of no judgement between the duo. For them, there’s no such thing as too weird. 

Pollitt said: “Ninety percent of our songs are errors we just work with. When someone can hear it wasn’t quite perfect, but it was still was awesome, then they’re in for a proper show because you can never go wrong, because wrong is good.”

Oliver added: “That’s why I love Banana Apocalypse. I went to this show the other day and this poor girl kept messing up and getting more and more nervous, but with us it’s all part of the act.”

They’re ambitious too, with plans for an album in the works and more gigs in London and beyond, perhaps even Glastonbury one day.

All images credited to @indystormphotography

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