BANKS is going back to where it all started. Today, the singer-songwriter releases “I Still Love You,” which, while new to us, is not new to her. The artist (born Jillian Banks) first wrote the song years ago, before her music career even took off, but hasn’t released it until now—ahead of the release of her fourth album, Serpentina, in April.
Still, the pared-back ballad remains one of her favorites. As the title and lyrics suggest, it was inspired by one of her former relationships—one of her first boyfriends, in fact—but to Banks, the message is “timeless” and “universal.” (Who hasn’t continued to care for someone after a breakup?) “It’s more of a feeling that every human experiences,” she tells ELLE.com, via Zoom from her home in L.A.
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The music video is also stripped back, marking a departure from Banks’ intense visuals as of late, like the demonic “The Devil” and the fantastical “Skinnydipped.” In “I Still Love You,” she sits in a sun-soaked studio dressed in white lingerie and sings honestly to the camera. She and her friend-slash-director James Mountford shot it just a couple weeks ago in L.A., and edited it a few days later.
Here, Banks dives into the new track, Serpentina, and shooting the video with a handy Amazon purchase. (She’s got new tour dates to look out for, too.)
I read that you originally wrote “I Still Love You” a long time ago. What made you decide to revisit it now?
I wrote it at least six [or] seven years ago before anything happened with my career, and it just felt like a really private, personal song. I don’t know why, I just never wanted to put it on an album. I always wanted to keep it to myself. It was almost like it meant so much to me that I didn’t want to put it out because it deserves so much. It’s probably just where I’m at right now—spending so much time on my own and working through things; I just feel good about it now. It’s such a special song. It’s one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written, and it feels like an ode to where songwriting for me started, just on my own, for myself.
How do you think you’ve grown or changed as a songwriter since then, and what do you think is still at your core?
I still have the same soul I’ve always had, so I’ve definitely grown as a songwriter for sure, in general. Just [from] doing it for so long and falling so in love with the craft of it. But there’s something about those early songs—it’s your natural passion and talent for it, without anything on top of it, just raw talent. I wouldn’t even say the songs I write now are better than the songs I wrote at the [beginning]. I don’t compare songs like that.
They’re all more just like diary entries. It’s like saying one diary entry’s better than the other. You can’t; it’s more just [about] honesty. But it documents where you’re at in life. And I think there’s something that I love so much about—of course it’s me—that girl who just wrote for herself. And I really honor her and respect her. And I’m grateful that she discovered it, because I’m where I am now because I fell in love so hard with it. This song is [from] around that time. I had fallen in love with writing way before I wrote this, but I just remember writing it.
Like, I was on the floor of my shit apartment and playing on a toy keyboard. It was the cheapest keyboard ever. I still have it. It’s actually the keyboard that I wrote all my early songs on. But I would put it on the floor and sit cross-legged and write. And I remember when I was writing, it was like, “I like this concept.” I like diving into the nitty-gritty things about somebody and those details about somebody that you used to know because you were close with them, but you don’t know their favorite song anymore, and you don’t know what they do on their weekends anymore. And you don’t know the jokes they think are funny right now or what they’re into. You can miss somebody that you used to be with, but there are certain things about them that will always be. And those are the things that you can feel comfortable with. I know I loved that person and we loved each other and we knew each other, but those things like what their favorite food is right now and what they’re into right now, what movie they liked, and what song is their favorite right now, you don’t know. That’s the stuff that is really hard.
Also, the person I wrote this about was a complete stoner. We used to fight about it, ‘cause he was high all the time. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but at the time… Even that part just gives me memories, especially ‘cause the guy I wrote it about is such an idiot and I would never want to be with him. [Laughs.]
How would you say the song fits into your Serpentina era and album?
I think it fits right in. [Laughs.] I mean it closes the album, which for me was really special—a full cycle. The song is so special and close to me that when I was done recording it, I was almost giddy, and I laughed and we ended up keeping it in the recording. How the album ends with me laughing, I love that. It kind of represents where I’m at right now: just having fun, not taking life too seriously, but really feeling such immense gratitude for my life.
The video is very different from the other visuals you’ve put out recently.
Yeah. It feels so vulnerable and stripped back and raw, and I think it shows me in a different light. I think it just worked out perfectly like that. I called my friend, James Mountford, who I directed with, last-minute and was like, “Do you wanna shoot a video this weekend?” It was that chill. And I was like, I just want it to be bedroom-y and real and raw. … And we just got a studio. I got this little twin bed on Amazon and I just put some pillows on it, sat on it, and sang to the camera [about] three times.
It was that simple. I think that not having that much footage to choose from made it more vulnerable just because, when you’re editing it, you hold onto those really long shots that are sometimes a little awkward. [With] the first shot of the video, I was like, “Should we break it up? Should we put other cuts in from other takes?” And then I was like, “No, I kind of like how it just feels really vulnerable.” That’s what it’s like when you miss someone. That’s what it’s like when you love someone, when you’re falling in love with someone. But I feel like this is a really new chapter for me and I feel excited about it, excited to share it with the world. And I think it will resonate with a lot of people ‘cause it’s very human.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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