Red - EP (5/25/18)

“Is our humanity damned? / How did it get this way? / The fact of being a woman makes me feel unsafe and I want out,” Nashville-based musician Amanda Bantug sings about halfway through her new EP, Red, stringing the words together in a way that seems impossibly catchy, given the weight of their subject matter. Bantug’s ability to distill such profound messages and pair them with soaring, dream-pop melodies is a cornerstone of what makes her writing so fresh and exciting. And it’s something you can find all over the six stunning cuts she chose for Red.

Born and raised in the suburbs of Atlanta, Bantug was drawn to music instantly, stealing time on her older brother’s drum kit at age four, learning guitar by age eight, picking up double bass as a preteen. Through pivoting to focus on songwriting in high school, she eventually ended up in Nashville, where she found her own musical community and began to allow herself the creative freedom and confidence to write and release songs under the Bantug moniker.

Her debut EP, Blue, was released in the spring of 2017 to local and national acclaim, topping Nashville Scene’s year-end list of favorite local EPs and being lauded as “expertly crafted pop” by The Line of Best Fit. The EP has since racked up over 600,000 plays on Spotify and SoundCloud combined, a feat for any independent artist, and has led Bantug to score coveted opening slots on shows with Liza Anne, Hovvdy, Men I Trust, and Daniella Mason, to name a few.

Red takes up where Blue left off and runs with it. Lead single “Our Apartment” was the first song written for the collection, a sweetly sexy ode to the anticipation one feels waiting for their partner to come home. “Do You See Me” can be seen as a sister song to one of Blue’s standout tracks, “Wine Beeline,” both of which explore the twisted convergence of parties and alcohol and small talk by bringing them to a boiling point.

Ruminating on themes of intimacy, paranoia, loneliness, and frustration, each word and each note of Red work together to reflect a different shade of the color itself, at times fiery and jarring, at other times romantic and ethereal. By choosing to co-produce with fellow Nashville-based musician Grayson Proctor, and by tracking most of the instruments in her own bedroom, Bantug ensured that Red would land as a fully-realized and handcrafted artistic statement. Spoiler alert: it really does.