Going DIY with a smile on their faces | Banjo Rancho

Ahead of the launch of their sophomore album, Teodor Reljic speaks to Benji aka ‘Banjo Rancho’ – drummer and founder of the genre-hopping act The Ranch, about 100 Smiles An Hour and how it was largely crowdfunded into existence 

Fusing various genres together while aiming to be a crowd-pleasing live act, The Ranch will be launching their second album, 100 Smiles an Hour, on Wednesday
Fusing various genres together while aiming to be a crowd-pleasing live act, The Ranch will be launching their second album, 100 Smiles an Hour, on Wednesday

What’s the story behind your band? How did you all come together, and what were your initial aspirations about how you wanted The Ranch to sound like?

Well, it started late summer 2014. While I keep myself busy in the local music scene – playing in various bands, touring and recording and all that – I still felt it wasn’t enough. I really needed something that was going to push and challenge me. So I decided to just find some good musicians and start playing. I didn’t really have any sound that I wanted to create in mind, but I knew how I wanted it to feel. The Ranch is more about the live performance and the energy we give off to the people. It’s all about trying to write the best songs for the people, which is actually channeled into how we improvise – how we make people listen to the music and have a good time. That’s all very important to me.

How did it all lead to this second album, ‘100 Smiles An Hour’? What can you tell us about this upcoming release, and how would you say it tallies with your former work?

 So a bit less than a year The Ranch had a new line up change – the reason for it was that the members in question were not capable of dedicating the necessary time to The Ranch. Our music is very demanding, so it does require a lot of time and effort from all the members. The new line up is Ricky Cutajar on guitar, Alan Portelli on Bass and Egle on voice for some tracks. We spent the whole year ‘training’ every day... we had a couple of tours in between and we wrote and recorded a whole album. This is a slightly different album for us, since it’s made up of 11 tracks and so is much longer than our previous release, Cuckoo Island. We basically wanted to riff on the previous album while also taking it a bit further in terms of songwriting and production. Concretely speaking, the main difference is that when it came to the first album, we just up and recorded everything at once, but for 100 Smiles An Hour, we brought in some voice and lyrics for some tracks, worked and harmonies and played around with some after effects, while also adding additional instruments into the mix. 

You are also opting for crowdfunding to help make this second album a reality. What led you to go for this, and how do you hope to drum up enough enthusiasm for it?

We’re going through some tough times as musicians, since nowadays music is mostly expected to be free for the consumer. Don’t get me wrong – I gladly give my own music away for free, and I agree that it should remain that way. But on the other hand, this means we need to find alternative ways for the artist to survive. 

So we looked to see if our fans would help make our lives a bit easier, in return for something special. We did not have high expectation to begin with, but I’m happy to report that the campaign is doing well!

What do you make of the local musical scene? What would you change about it?

We’ve got some good talent and good musicians, and I think that because of this, we should focus our energies on exporting it as much as we can. Being a beautiful island in the middle of the Mediterranean, our mentality is bound to be unique, and so we can bring something fresh to the table, when compared to musicians from larger countries, perhaps. This is why I also think it’s important to tour around the world as much as possible, since it allows you to learn from different people and see different ways of doing things. 

Any plans for the band after the release of 100 Smiles An Hour? What’s in store for The Ranch’s future?

Yes, we’re always moving... though sometimes, it’s just so we can keep up with what we’re doing! We will actually be heading for another European tour later this year – making it our third tour in one year. We are making some waves in the UK, and 100 Smiles An Hour will be getting radio play there too, which will be great for us. The next step for The Ranch would be an international tour to help us grow our fan base – people seem to react quite strongly whenever we perform, so I really think it’s just a matter of getting out there! 

We are an independent band and have to do everything ourselves, which can get a bit tiring at times. But when you see people reacting to your music, you realise it was all worth it. 

The Ranch will be launching 100 Smiles An Hour this Wednesday at Teatru Salesjan, Sliema at 20:00. Follow the band's Facebook page to stay updated.