A producer, songwriter, and a founding member of the alternative pop band Caveboy, Isabelle Banos is based in Montreal, Canada. Her passion for empowerment through education has led her to become a contributor for LANDR’s YouTube, as well as a regular volunteer for the Montreal chapter of Rock Camp For Girls. In April 2021, she opened her own inclusive studio space, Chez Ballsy. Here, she chats with Lisa Machac of Omni Sound Project about producing during a pandemic and opening her own studio.

How did you get into producing and engineering?

It all began in the classic tween era in the early 2000s. Shell necklaces. The Adidas shoes with the baby blue stripes. I was, spoiler alert, a super awkward teen! [laughter] I felt like the oddball of the family. I found my dad’s old classical guitar in our house one day. I was having some fun with it, hitting the strings incorrectly, strumming along, and making a horrible sound. I started playing one note at a time and figuring it out. I started jamming along on this old, dusty guitar as often as I could, until I started to make some chords and play some melodies. That slowly turned into playing covers, and then that turned into trying to write little original songs. This was going into 13 or 14, until my dad said, “Oh, this is maybe something that you like to do.” He was supportive. He got me some lessons, and then he upgraded me to an electric guitar, which was the most emotional Christmas ever. We all cried. Then that turned into getting an amp, a little microphone, and starting a teenage home practice corner in my bedroom, learning covers of The Strokes and The Hives and all of these indie rock bands of the early 2000s.

What guitar did you get?

I got a Godin guitar. They’re local guitars that are made here in Quebec in Canada. My dad had his musical friend go shopping with him, and he got me this hot pink guitar, because I had pink streaks in my hair. It was horrible and fantastic at the same time! I was into Sum 41 at the time. They were huge in Canada. Then Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated” came out, and that changed my life. I swear, the next day I went to school wearing a tie and wristbands, and I learned how to put eyeliner on incorrectly. That was like, “Role model alert!” A young woman playing this kind of music that, so far, had mainly been for the boys.

When did you come out of your teenage artist corner and start playing with other people?

That’s the next phase of it. I was having a hard time connecting with anyone who was into the same thing that I was. I went to a very “vanilla” high school, and people were following the same trends. I was like, “Where are the underground weirdos at?” I eventually found my people in college. We had this thing called CEGEP here, which is unique to Quebec. It’s a two year [program] between high school and university. It’s $100 a semester, and you get to prepare for university, try out all kinds of classes, and try out a major you might be interested in. In CEGEP, I met the current drummer of my band, Caveboy, Lana Cooney. She had drumsticks poking out of her backpack, and I was like, “Hi?”

“You aren’t wearing the Avril Lavigne wristbands, but you do have drumsticks.”

Yeah, exactly. We became quick friends. I finally felt like I’d found my people. She had her drums set up in her parent’s garage and we got to jamming. The original project that we had was that Lana had to put together a band to play a few covers for her sister’s Bat Mitzvah. It was taking place at a go-cart rally. We put a little band together, played some covers, and that was my first band experience. We had three other members. I was singing backup; we also had a singer, a bass player, and a keyboard player. We’d jam in the garage and practice our covers. We had so much fun with it. It was such a great gig! The 12-year-olds loved it. We decided to continue to jam together and try writing original songs. From there it turned into different formations of the band, but always Lana and I, until our current formation of Caveboy, which also includes [singer/guitarist] Mint Simon. The whole time this has been happening, I had a part-time sales job. I hated it. I decided to quit and do a side hustle of anything that was related to music. I was...

The rest of this article is only available with a Basic or Premium subscription, or by purchasing back issue #153. For an upcoming year's free subscription, and our current issue on PDF...

Or Learn More