Banjolectric Rebrands the Instrument As a Modern Pop Machine (album premiere)

With Banjolectric's So Below, Gregory Mulkern sets out to prove that the instrument is capable of much more than many of us are currently aware of—and, he succeeds.

In the overarching musical landscape, the banjo is in a bit of a precarious position. Celebrated in the realm of traditional folk and country music, the instrument is frequently seen as a cacophonous relic, offering itself to posh indie wannabes and old-time artists without much to see in-between. With Banjolectric, Gregory Mulkern is gearing up to change these preconceptions into something more positive and forward-looking, setting the banjo front-and-center on the album and letting it speak for itself as it reinvents itself across five separate tracks. Billing himself as an "electro-folk" or "New Americana" act, Mulkern's Banjolectric is as much of a science experiment in letting an electric banjo loose across several wildly different arrangements as it is a passion aiming to prove that the instrument is capable of much more than many might currently ascertain.

"Pope Lick Road", for instance, heftily swings with poignant, twangy blues undertones, wherein "A Better Man" rides an almost funk-laden groove. Every track presents a new playground for Mulkern to explore in Banjolectric's So Below, wherein he explores each to its fullest capacity to further establish a point around the instrument's more multi-faceted nature. As Mulkern tells PopMatters, With 'Banjolectric', my focus is the songwriting, but I also wanted to show that the banjo can do more for modern music than add 'dust bowl chic.' So Below is like science fiction about a world where the banjo never lost its original status as America's pop instrument. I insisted on recording every instrumental sound on the album using a banjo to reinvent it for modern music production.

So Below releases on 15 November.

Related Articles Around the Web



Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Confinement and Escape: Emma Donoghue and E.L. Doctorow in Our Time of Self-Isolation

Emma Donoghue's Room and E.L. Doctorow's Homer & Langley define and confront life within limited space.


Political Cartoonist Art Young Was an Aficionado of all Things Infernal

Fantagraphics' new edition of Inferno takes Art Young's original Depression-era critique to the Trump Whitehouse -- and then drags it all to Hell.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

OK Go's Emotional New Ballad, "All Together Now", Inspired by Singer's Bout with COVID-19

Damian Kulash, lead singer for OK Go discusses his recent bout with COVID-19, how it impacted his family, and the band's latest pop delight, "All Together Now", as part of our Love in the Time of Coronavirus series.


The Rules Don't Apply to These Nonconformist Novelists

Ian Haydn Smith's succinct biographies in Cult Writers: 50 Nonconformist Novelists You Need to Know entice even seasoned bibliophiles.


Siren Songs' Merideth Kaye Clark and Jenn Grinels Debut As a Folk Duo (album stream + interview)

Best friends and longtime musical collaborators Merideth Kaye Clark and Jenn Grinels team up as Siren Songs for the uplifting folk of their eponymous LP.


Buzzcocks' 1993 Comeback 'Trade Test Transmissions' Showed Punk's Great Survivors' Consistency

PopMatters' appraisal of Buzzcocks continues with the band's proper comeback LP, Trade Test Transmissions, now reissued on Cherry Red Records' new box-set, Sell You Everything.


Archie Shepp, Raw Poetic, and Damu the Fudgemunk Enlighten and Enliven with 'Ocean Bridges'

Ocean Bridges is proof that genre crossovers can sound organic, and that the term "crossover" doesn't have to come loaded with gimmicky connotations. Maybe we're headed for a world in which genres are so fluid that the term is dropped altogether from the cultural lexicon.


Claude McKay's 'Romance in Marseille' Is Ahead of Its Time

Claude McKay's Romance in Marseille -- only recently published -- pushes boundaries on sexuality, disability, identity -- all in gorgeous poetic prose.


Christine Ott Brings the Ondes Martenot to New Heights with the Mesmerizing 'Chimères'

France's Christine Ott, known for her work as an orchestral musician and film composer, has created a unique new solo album, Chimères, that spotlights an obscure instrument.


Man Alive! Is a Continued Display of the Grimy-Yet-Refined Magnetism of King Krule

Following The OOZ and its accolades, King Krule crafts a similarly hazy gem with Man Alive! that digs into his distinct aesthetic rather than forges new ground.


The Kinks and Their Bad-Mannered English Decency

Mark Doyles biography of the Kinks might complement a seminar in British culture. Its tone and research prove its intent to articulate social critique through music for the masses.


ONO Confronts American Racial Oppression with the Incendiary 'Red Summer'

Decades after their initial formation, legendary experimentalists ONO have made an album that's topical, vital, uncomfortable, and cathartic. Red Summer is an essential documentation of the ugliness and oppression of the United States.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.