Tank and the Bangas Are True Innovators Of Imaginative Creativity
Thousands upon thousands of entries flooded the insanely popular NPR contest for its Tiny Desk series. Yet, when the judges convened to award a unanimous winner to grace its office space, New Orleans’ own Tank and the Bangas walked away with the distinction. Who knew that that one performance would usher in a wave of recognition that catapulted them into “must-see TV” status. Fronted by the boisterous, yet shy, powerfully energetic, wonderfully positive force known as Tarriona “Tank” Ball, this group of progressive music makers have creatively flipped genres and sounds making them one to see live and in living color.
In fact, it was that NPR live performance that totally wowed us and convinced the team at Okayplayer that you all had to learn more about this budding superstar group. Beyond comparison, Tank and the Bangas are wholly an original entity. Clever wordplay over slick type, hybrid hip-hop, funk, soul grooves that take you to another place mentally and emotionally — Tank and the Bangas are #BlackExcellence, #BlackGirlMagic and Sly and The Family Stone rolled up into one beautiful collective. This is in no small part due to Tank’s success as a slam poet, plus the ingenious imagination of Merell Burkett (keyboard), Albert Allenbeck (alto sax, flute), Joe Johnson (keyboard), Anjelika “Jelly” Joseph and Kayla Buggaga (background vocals), Norman Spence (bass, synth keys), Jonathan Johnson (keyboard) and Etienne Stoufflet (tenor sax).
Since their Tiny Desk Concert appearance, the band has been steady leaving concertgoers with smoked boots and exasperated lungs, selling out shows in Ohio well in advance, plus making new fans at events such as Bonnaroo and New York City’s legendary Blue Note club. Despite all this applause from us here in the peanut gallery, Tank and the Bangas have not forgotten their roots. With music fueled by their Crescent City experiences, Tank and the Bangas’ music is rich with exuberance, joy, honesty and true passion for the art, making them one of our most cherished new sounds in the industry. We here @Okayplayer are super-excited to share Tank and the Bangas with you all, as this week’s First Look Friday subjects.
We sat down with Tarriona “Tank” Ball, Albert Allenbeck and Merell Burkett about their personal and professional influences, obstacles overcome and premiere the official video for their song, “Quick,” which you can watch underneath. Enjoy!
Okayplayer: To music snobs the world over, you all are making an impact. What is it that those in music game are seeing and hearing that the rest of the world has yet to discover?
Tarriona Tank Ball: I believe its something that the world needs. A combination of all the music you love with some elements of music that you didn’t know you did. I hope we’re waking some people up with a hot bowl of grits!
Albet: People who pay attention to music appreciate the complexity of our approach, changing something every eight bars and whatnot.
OKP: For those who have a passion for music, they honed their skills and practiced their craft. Who are your most cherished influences in music and why?
Merell Burkett: First, I would have to say my uncle Kelvin Harrison has been one of the most influential people in my life musically. He’s the one person that consistently pushed me to use my gift in music. When I was a kid he would play melodies and have me follow him on the piano. I also listened to lots of Oscar Peterson and Miles Davis. They also influenced me.
TTB: [For me] it has to be Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, Missy [Elliott], FUN., Jhené Aiko, Ingrid Michaelson—and the list goes on to forever.
A: An influence [that] I hold near and dear is Joshua Redman for his ears, taste and his sense of drama. Also, Roy Hargrove, Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, Kirk Whalum and The Roots.
OKP: Can you all talk about how your life was while developing as an artist? How did you react to your first bits of press?
A: I’m only 23-years-old, but [I] have long been afflicted by a desire to narrate my own story and choose what happens next. It doesn’t work that way though, does it? Getting written about [in the press] is a cool feeling and scratches the “what will they say?” itch because… well, they said it.
MB: I guess my life while developing as an artist was a bit typical. I studied some in college and gigged in different styles of music. I never thought I would end up in a band that gets this kind of attention. It was always a dream that seemed unrealistic. Therefore, my first reaction to this kind of attention was shocking.
TTB: My development as an artist started when my cousin gave me a poem to perform at my grandparents’ 50th anniversary. I forgot the entire thing but I performed my ass off until I was done. I was 11. My development began there. Everything has been going up. I’m excited and scared. I know everything someone has to say won’t be positive, but the ones that are… well, that’s something to relish in.
OKP: With incidents involving people of color, police and racist occurring almost on a daily basis around the globe — how can Tank and the Bangas’ music help to relieve the trauma that is being experienced by the masses?