In tumultuous times, music can seem familiar, like the embrace of an old friend. In good times, listening to the right music can feel like embarking on a road trip with that old friend, complete with a sense of freedom and some playful banter. Whichever the situation, the music of indie band Playful Banter is bound to lift the spirit and feel empowering.
Based in Morris County, New Jersey, Playful Banter is the moniker of singer-songwriter duo Alexis von Aulock and Kimberly Sanchez. Describing their style as a “road mix” of folk, bluegrass, rock, reggae, and coffeehouse, they’ve performed for a variety of venues, including the Green Mountain Bluegrass & Roots Festival, Morristown OnStage, the Middle Valley Community Center’s “Music in the Valley” series and Schiff Nature Preserve’s “Music in the Woods” series.
In 2019, I attended one of Playful Banter’s concerts at the Middle Valley Community Center. Completely unfamiliar with their music, I wasn’t sure what to expect — but by the end of the night, I felt rejuvenated after a truly spiritual experience.
In the small, intimate room with powerful acoustics, the two grounded women filled the space with heavenly harmonies and heartfelt songwriting. With soul and depth similar to artists like Hozier and Joseph (and the same humble beginnings as the latter), Playful Banter took the audience on a powerful journey; we laughed together, cried together, and danced together through the night. When the lights turned on at the end of the performance, I felt like a changed woman.
That experience is at the core of Playful Banter. While 2020 brought immense global change, with the world on COVID-lockdown and the cry for racial justice growing louder nationwide, Alexis and Kim underwent their own transformations. Asking themselves, “how do we take back our power in a time of feeling powerless?” they turned to the earth and found their answers in gardening and foraging, meditating and songwriting. Their music instills a sense of power in those who listen to it, too.
Wise beyond their years, Playful Banter embodies the message that it’s important to shed your fears and step out of what’s comfortable and familiar in order to grow and become who you’re meant to be. Though only in their 20s, Alexis and Kim are old souls who recognize what most fail to learn until much later, if they ever learn it at all: life is what you make it, and you have the freedom to live it how you want — even if you have to break traditional molds to achieve your dreams.
It was an immense pleasure to speak to Playful Banter and to hear their story. Watch/listen to the full interview below to hear more about their recent transformations, how they navigated the year through harvesting mushrooms, to witness the birth of a potential new song, and, of course, for some playful banter.