“We fought twice as hard as our male counterparts”

From the synth-pop sounds of The Weeknd and Dua Lipa to the unprecedented rise in streaming numbers of Kate Bush, the ’80s continue to influence today’s musical landscape. So it makes perfect sense that Bananarama is coming back with their brand new album Masquerade. The timing couldn’t be more fitting, with the band having shaped the pop scene since their very first release in 1981.

Celebrating 40 years in music, Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward have released the infectious title track from their upcoming twelfth studio album. Speaking to Official Charts, the band look back on four decades of Bananarama, how they fought “twice as hard” to be heard and why they have no plans to stop anytime soon.

Hey, Bananarama! You really do things your way with the Masquerade album. What does it do?

Sara: It’s been a very self-sufficient decade for us. At first we didn’t really know what we were doing, it was completely new; but we tried to keep control as much as we could. We weren’t made, so we wrote our own music and dressed however we wanted, but we didn’t know anything about the business. 40 years later, we know a lot more. Times have changed, you can release your own stuff without a huge record label. We have reached a very good point in our career.

Keren: I think that although we always did what we wanted to do and planned our own moves, looking back you can always think ‘we could have done this differently or even better’. But you learn from your mistakes.

This album is typically Bananarama. It’s a nod to the past, but it’s also very current and chart-ready…

Sara: We never sit down and think “let’s see what’s trending” or “let’s write in this vein”. We always write from the heart and don’t follow trends. There’s this revival of 80s sounds, so maybe it’s because we’re in the right place at the right time, but electro-pop is definitely where we’re happiest.

It also helps that the eighties are having a huge revival right now…

Keren: I loved seeing how The Weeknd’s evolved; Save Your Tears and this whole album was awesome.

Sara: Yeah, this album sounds so 80s but brings it up to date. Now, when we’re in the studio, the tools we have on hand mean things aren’t as long as they were in the 80s. The technology is there, so it will always sound more current. We used to sit down, turn knobs, and now things take two seconds. Back then, things took so long.

Listen to Bananarama’s new single Masquerade below:

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You must be so excited to finally perform these songs live again?

Keren: We have festivals where we will play some of the new tracks from the album as well as the hits, but we also have a few gigs in Lafayette in London to perform more new material. Maybe even the whole album. We did that with our last album In Stereo, and there’s nothing more exciting than singing new music. I love it.

You are celebrating your 40th anniversary this year. What do you think has been your biggest obstacle over the years?

Sara: We were sometimes shunned or not taken seriously because we were women, but that says a lot about society in the 80s. We were as serious as any band, but some people considered us like little pop girls. When I look back, it makes me quite angry. You must respect people regardless of gender.

Keren: In the 80s, music was not inclusive as an industry. We had to fight twice as hard for everything, but back then we focused and did what we could do. We always stood for what we wanted to do, but we have more knowledge now and can be in full control. We don’t rely on anyone else.

And here you are, again, 40 years later and stronger than ever…

Keren: We are very lucky to still be here, to be able to release things and to be successful. It is a very difficult business. It’s a tough industry. We feel very grateful, very lucky.

Sara: Keren and I were teenagers when we started. We had the opportunity to record and sing and, not that we thought it was a joke, but we just thought ‘let’s go!’ We did more songs, they were hits, and after a few years we started to take it more seriously. We didn’t expect it to last 40 years.

Keren: When I was 26, I remember reading a review that said “they are 30 now, one of them is having a baby and they should retire”. That was the attitude towards women back then. You had a small window of opportunity. On the contrary, we have always fought against it to prove people wrong. It was our attitude. We are creative people who want to make music, why should we stop at 30 or 40?

Banarama’s new single Masquerade is out now via In Synk. Masquerade the album is released on July 22.

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