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BlackBook Interview: Devendra Banhart on Motherhood, Mobile Phones and Walking in L.A.

BlackBook Interview: Devendra Banhart on Motherhood, Mobile Phones and Walking in L.A.
Picture by Lauren Dukoff




If tender, considerate intention have been the measure of a person’s potential as a dad or mum, Devendra Banhart will someday make a incredible father. Packaged in a mild, groovy, acoustic net of emotional intimacy, the myriad sides of parenthood are each explicitly and abstractly explored in his new album, Ma. However to a man similar to Banhart, it’s a predictably unusual artistic concept. It’s expansive, if not huge.  

“That’s truly probably the most engaging things about Buddhism to me,” he reveals. “There’s a concept referred to as Mom Recognition. You don’t should be spiritual or religious in any way to know the thought. It’s simply the thought of saying that everybody has been my mom sooner or later. A stranger, the moon. They’re mother. It simply makes it so much simpler to get via the day as an relevant, utilitarian idea.”

Whereas Banhart speaks when it comes to pragmatism, the subject matter is one in every of humanity’s deepest mysteries. We’ve got no actual reply to what love and mother are, precisely; to be a mother is in its easiest terms is to be a creator. It is to be the protector, the nourisher, an expression of unconditional love. Ma manages to philosophically and actually explore the extent of its seemingly easy title – a job that is nearly inconceivable. And but it does it by being an extremely lovely, nourishing and alluring pay attention.




Sung in four languages, including his mother’s tongue, Spanish, the album is as superbly dense and wealthy as it is groovy and sweet. Ma philosophically tackles our deepest impulses and wounds, but additionally it is a set of fabulous cocktail get together jams. Written at occasions in homage to Yellow Magic Orchestra’s Haruomi Hosono and still others in duet with Banhart’s muse and mentor Vashti Bunyan, he says that Ma consists of every little thing that he would need to tell his youngster, ought to he ever have one.  He himself misplaced his biological father right as his last album, 2016’s Ape in Pink Marble, was being completed. So Ma is in many ways about his father, who he had just begun to know better, too. 

The album transparently, but tenderly, tackles political agendas by simply present throughout cultural obstacles the best way it does. Banhart, who spent his early childhood in his mom’s house nation Venezuela, additionally clothes up in its flag in the video for “Kantori Ongaku,” and asks for help for the Venezuelan individuals in it. The video for “Abre Las Manos” is a montage of Venezuelan imagery. 

“This time greater than ever, I really feel the necessity to connect with different Venezuelans,” he explains, in reflection of the socio-political strife that has ravaged the South American nation for the last several years.

We sat him down simply as Ma was being released, and he was embarking on a 24-date North American tour, to speak about a number of the elemental impulses behind the album – the names, the origins, the necessity to disconnect from society, passing knowledge down via generations and acknowledging the mom that lives in us all. 




You sing in a number of totally different languages in your album. Language is a strong software, it’s a method to transcend limitations and understand other individuals outdoors of your language. 

I’m wondering how efficient is Duolingo. I really feel like everyone I know has it, will get it and does three languages for 3 days. However perhaps it’s as a result of I’m lazy. There could possibly be unimaginable success rates. If you consider it, we spend our lives inside our phones. And it’s simply you as your avatar speaking the language. 

I suppose that’s true, however taking a language to the streets is the actual check of how you can converse it. In fact, good luck to anybody making an attempt to get out of their avatar in France!

The French will make it more durable for you than anybody to study their language. They’re the exception. No one will make it harder. I’ve stated the phrases, and I do know I’ve set it appropriately. And they’ll fake that they don’t seem to be listening. After which they may finally reply and say, “Oh you imply…?”; and simply reply again of their right accent. It’s humiliating. Talking in France is nearly as humiliating as walking in Los Angeles.

L.A. is a weirdly walkable metropolis, however it’s like no one truly is aware of that. I all the time stroll in L.A..

I stroll in L.A. too! That’s why I understand how humiliating it’s. It’s so immune to the walker, that you simply’re braving the resistance. I like it. I truly don’t own a automotive and I stay in L.A.. Up there’s making an attempt to speak French in France, but nothing is worse than walking in L.A..

We weirdly have rhyming names.

We actually do. That doesn’t happen typically. My identify was given to me by my mother and father’ guru. You informed me your identify means snow-covered mountain and that your father’s individuals come from Zoroastrian lineages. I want to speak more about Zoroastrianism. I feel it’s so fascinating, and it’s one of many world’s oldest religions and it’s vast. The identify itself is so mystical and beguiling. It feels like some kind of wizard floating in the stars. 



Nature is so vast and bewildering. When you’re in spaces which are distant and the place nature is your reckoning, you might solely have a beguiling identify. And a beguiling technique of working towards your faith. 

That’s why so many of those historic religions are so elemental and about worshipping wind, water and hearth. It’s not so accessible to us anymore. We take so much of it without any consideration immediately, however think of the magic of it again within the day. Simply the pure magic of finding a properly, a stream, where the water is pouring from the heavens. We might climb a mountain and get to its peak, and there discover this nectar flowing from it. It makes a lot sense that we might be in awe of these primordial parts. Being in Nepal, I actually experienced that. We have been pretty distant, in a very small village. The electricity would exit each 15 minutes. It actually helped me respect electrical energy. Or how much I’ll take without any consideration my life within the city…plumbing. The village was still being developed, so I witnessed the trouble that goes into making a septic system. I got here back to my life right here, and I just felt so lucky that the whole lot was taken care of. In a single sense, we’re so lucky because it’s so snug. However however, individuals don’t respect it as much. 

It’s essential to know those primary needs and luxuries. You someway understand your self higher.

In an setting like that, you’re just pressured to face yourself. The distractions aren’t there. I used to be in a remote village and stayed at a monastery at one level too. Monastic life is, nicely…you’ve acquired a mattress, you’ve received a bed room, you’ve obtained an altar desk and a window, and that’s it. I was given instructions that stated: the individual next to you is in a three-year retreat. Don’t open the door there, that goes into the balcony. And undoubtedly be quiet. That individual hasn’t seen another human being in three years and you definitely are usually not the primary one which they need to expertise.
I keep in mind happening tour method again when, I didn’t have a telephone on tour. That’s how previous I am. We had the varieties of phones where you would need to sort one key a number of occasions to get totally different letters, it was like a flip telephone. I barely used it, and I undoubtedly didn’t have a laptop computer with me. And I’ve by no means performed my guitar better and I’ve by no means written more. I’ve by no means been extra productive on a tour. It does require an effort, to think about the line. It’s so nebulous at this level. However you need to assume to your self – is this something that I actually need to do, or is that this a distraction?
After which it gets to the point of deep irony, and it’s a crucial irony. You’ve acquired apps now which are telling you to unplug, and I really like that. I don’t know if there’s an app that you would be able to time the place each hour it simply shuts off your telephone for ten minutes. I’m positive there have to be! Truly, perhaps not. Individuals need that app, however they in all probability wouldn’t get it!



I lived in Montana for a couple of years, and I miss that about my life there terribly – the shortage of reception. It was ultimately a comfort when the individuals in my life came to anticipate that I used to be all the time without service.

I simply need my pals and my relations to know that I really like them. But I really don’t need to hang around with them. And that’s it, but okay, depart me alone. That’s why I need to have a kid. It’s a cause to get out things, actually. 

However you’d be related to the child on a regular basis?

Yeah, however once they’re little they’re identical to little poetry machines. You possibly can just ask them something, and then write down their answers. What’s that object you see? What’s that in the sky? Okay, acquired it! After which it’s like, “Hey yeah I’d like to see you and go out…however sorry, I gotta keep house with the kid.”

However it’s fascinating to me that a man at your age – we are both at that age the place we now have to reconcile our personal timelines with the concept of parenthood – went so far as to discover the potentials of fatherhood, or motherhood, via an album. It’s touching.  Do you need to have a kid? 

I mean, I don’t know. Perhaps you should purchase me a drink first? I’m kidding. However it’s weird. The age that we are at, you do start to think about it in another way. Prior to this window, you’re not likely confronted with the thought that you could be never have youngsters. You sort of assume that you’ll…later. After which time goes by and you’re within the window the place you might, or might not. After which it’s a must to perceive should you can settle for it in case you don’t. And may you be open to having them too? It seems like a wierd determination. It looks like something that should happen organically if the backyard is fertile. The most effective factor I ever heard about parenting was that in case you are likely to the backyard, the flower will grow. That garden is, in fact, a relationship. So it’s not a lot do I need to have a kid or not, however the means to create that backyard. 




The thought of “mother” is totally different to everyone. I like the thought of pushing it past the body of 1 other mortal.

Once we are born, we’ve got this one individual to call mom. It’s like, “that’s my mother.” That one one that is my mom. Human evolution might take you to increase that concept, once placed on one being, to varied beings and totally different objects. You possibly can see mother in primordial objects. As an example, are you able to see the mother within the ocean? Can you see the mother within the stars? Which is what we have been talking about earlier, which is in many ways the inspiration for therefore many various pagan faiths. Can you see mother in different individuals? And in different elemental forces as nicely. And that might be a definition for what it means to evolve as a human being, I feel. 
I couldn’t cease eager about this one line in the autobiography of Swami Vivekananda. He was the best disciple of Ramakrishna, who was this super duper Vedantic grasp. In the direction of the top of his life, someone asks him how he’s been. But all he needs to speak is that each one he sees is mother. I simply stored enthusiastic about that, how lovely it have to be to be able to see mom all over the place. 
These individuals are arrange in that they are religious superheroes, and it’s their karma they usually’re born that method – however it’s relevant to all of us. It’s something you must work at. It’s not one thing that simply occurs. You must apply it. But in case you do, you can begin to consider that mom is in all places. You don’t need to be frightened by the belongings you don’t understand, they are mom. The world isn’t scary, it’s mother. Think about assembly a stranger, and immediately behind that thought, considering, “You already know what? That’s my mom. This was my mother at one time.”

I’m wondering if that software of mom is extra my velocity. It looks like all the loving, universal ideals of motherhood without all of the etheric, unfavorable attachments or the confusing line of where the boundaries of the mom’s life finish and their baby’s life begins.

There comes some extent in our lives the place we have now to reckon with the thought if we like the people who our mother and father are. They’re our first deities. But they’re the truth is human beings. And you must asK, “Do I really like you since you’re my mother and father? Or do I really like you because of the human being you’re?” This extremely flawed human that you are? In all probability at that time in your life where you ask yourself that query you’re identical to, “Fuck you, Mom and Dad!,” it doesn’t matter what. And perhaps at that time you simply love them in some elementary approach as a result of they’re your mother and father. Or, you possibly can love them for who they’re. 
I feel it’s sort of the identical method with a dad or mum. It’s like, “Oh, this human I made right here isn’t this accessory. It’s not this piece of clay that I can mould into what I would like. It’s truly not mine.” And you to need to attempt to let it go. It’s a second in time where you are a dad or mum without the ego attachment of [ownership]. And that’s a selection you can also make – to embody and apply a kind of parenthood that is purer. It might be much less direct, however it’s extra pure. However we’re genetically programmed to make it almost unattainable. 

I assume there isn’t a real approach to know till you’re faced with it in your personal life. 

I’m wondering what that’s like as a mum or dad though, when your kid asks you something you don’t know the reply to. It’s so constructed into us to know all the things. Are you able to admit that you simply don’t know? And may you inform your child that it’s okay to not know? The world is consistently telling us we should always know the whole lot. And a mother or father ought to undoubtedly know.
We reside such totally different lives than we did before. The concept of being tribal is basically loaded as we speak. But traditionally, in tribal societies, there was a lineage. Information was simply handed down by way of ancestors and you’d just train your baby what you have been taught. It nonetheless works that approach, however all the system and structure is so fractured as we speak. It ought to be a source of compassion to keep in mind that people who find themselves horrible to their youngsters? Their mother and father have been horrible to them. It’s a question of hoping to turn into the acutely aware delivery that breaks that chain. It’s simply so apparent – till you’re confronted with it.
It’s so funny once we’re round our mother and father, how we revert to being little youngsters. How we modify. So the query there’s how can we spend time with our mother and father with out reverting to this little, frightened creature? If you consider it we spend most of our lives bodily or emotionally suffering. And that doesn’t go away, however our cope with it modifications. And our capability to determine it emerges if we’re fortunate. But I feel it’s our mother and father who most associate with the time in our lives where we largely haven’t yet come to understand that we spend nearly all of our existence in some kind of emotional and bodily pain.

But what extra necessary of a gift does a toddler deliver you than the present of being present?

I was fascinated with this the other day, I received in a scorching tub and I was like, “Wow. This is so nice.” And I used to be wanting up at the stars, and it was like “Aaah, wow.” And then I assumed to myself what have I been feeling all day leading up thus far that didn’t really feel identical to this? However when you can be conscious of that ache, you’ll be able to determine it. You’ll be able to ask your self in case you are consciously or unconsciously right now struggling. Either physically or emotionally, am I in ache? 
But this brings us again to that lack of distraction. You, in Montana…it’s a blessing and a curse. You could have this lack of reception, and that’s annoying. But then it provides you a give attention to yourself.

Nicely, what do most of those calls and texts really amount to, actually?

Nicely if we figured that out, we’d be on it! Nevertheless it’s type of like…in hospice care. There actually ought to be extra documentaries about it. What do individuals say that they wished that they had accomplished more of in their life? There actually ought to be extra exhibits concerning the ends of people’s lives. I imply, I assume the rationale why there aren’t extra documentaries about hospice care is that folks would start considering to themselves that they need to watch less TV! But they all the time say, I should have worked less. I ought to have had extra enjoyable. I ought to have gotten out of that painful relationship and divorced earlier. Which is hilarious. Which I really like.

It’s that means to tune again into that area that brings the every day pleasure that may punctuate the ache and suffering. However I feel a source of that joy additionally comes from that identification you spoke of earlier. For example, I am at present in St. Louis, which is four hours from my mother, as she is working by means of some well being points. It’s the right place.

Ah, that’s humorous, truly. My mom just lately referred to as me and she or he was so joyful! She stated that she had written a poetic line for me. It goes: “I maintain my loving mom at bay!” It was one thing she needed to provide me, but I feel that it was additionally her method of understanding what I do together with her. Shut, but not too shut. I wish your mother a radical restoration. 


N.B. Devendra Banhart’s Mom Venezuela is suffering by means of a longstanding socio-economic and political disaster that has left her individuals dealing with excessive disease, crime, hunger, inflation and mortality charges. For his current North American tour, he has partnered with PLUS1 so that $1 from every ticket bought in the U.S. (excluding Dana Level) will go to World Central Kitchen. WCK has responded to the disaster along the Colombia-Venezuelan border and has served more than 350,000 meals thus far.


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