Best known as Interpol's distinctive baritone vocalist, Paul Banks was a singer/songwriter in his own right before joining that band. During the mid-'90s, he adopted the alias Julian Plenti to perform as an acoustic solo artist at New York venues such as the Knitting Factory and Tobacco Road. Around that time, Banks ran into his old friend, guitarist/vocalist Daniel Kessler, and joined his up-and-coming band Interpol. As the group worked its way from eight-track demos in the late '90s to signing with Matador Records in 2002, Banks continued to write and perform his solo material. However, as Interpol's fame and time commitments grew after the release of their debut album, Turn on the Bright Lights, the solo work was put on the back burner.
Three years and two Interpol albums later, Banks revisited the Julian Plenti material, demoing new and old songs with the recording software Logic Pro; in 2008, he recorded final versions of these songs with string and brass sections, also recruiting friends like Interpol drummer Sam Fogarino, Ratatat's Mike Stroud, Stiff Jesus' Striker Manley, and the Occasion's Charles Burst. The results, Julian Plenti Is Skyscraper, arrived in summer 2009.
Interpol's self-titled fourth album arrived in 2010, and saw the band touring behind it into 2011. In 2012, after a ten-year anniversary deluxe reissue of Bright Lights, Banks returned to his solo career, issuing the Julian Plenti Lives EP -- which featured covers of songs by J Dilla and Frank Sinatra -- under his own name that June and following it with the simply named Banks album that October.
Banks took a step into the world of hip-hop in 2013, releasing a mixtape titled Everybody on My Dick Like They Supposed to Be. It featured appearances by Talib Kweli, El-P, High Prizm, and Mike G. That same year, he began recording material with Wu-Tang Clan leader RZA. Their collaborative efforts were unveiled in 2016 as Banks & Steelz. Combining Banks' baritone and guitar with RZA's production and rhymes, Anything But Words arrived in August 2016 and featured guest appearances by Ghostface Killah, Kool Keith, Method Man, Masta Killa, and Florence Welch. ~ Heather Phares & Neil Z. Yeung