[INTERVIEW] Big Easy Collective, Tank And The Bangas On New Music

Our Conversation With Tank and the Bangas

In 2011, a chance encounter at a New Orleans based open mic brought together slam poet Tarriona “Tank” Ball with, then future members of her now, Bangas collective. The Big Easy crew, collectively known as Tank and the Bangas, currently consists of musical director & drummer Joshua Johnson, keyboardist Merell Burkett, keyboardist & bassist Norman Spence, saxophonist & flutist Albert Allenback, Joe Johnson on keyboard and Etienne Stoufflet on tenor saxophone, with Angelika Joseph and Kayla Jasmine providing background vocals.

We caught up with Tank and the Bangas to talk new music and much more…


Parlé Mag:
Let’s hop right into this brand new single, “Quick”. Tell me about this particular composition; how did it come to fruition?
Tank: Well, Albert created the original track and I thought it was cool, but I never thought to write to it until our drummer suggested I do so. I immediately got to work with about 50 million changes to the final product! I remember sitting alone with my bass player and I was stuck on the song, and he reminded me that I can go anywhere that I wanted with it. I literally had to remember that I have a band full of musical people and they can take the music wherever we want it to go, and that’s how (we) finished the song.


Parlé Mag:
“Quick” comes courtesy of your highly anticipated – still untitled – upcoming sophomore collection.  What specific details; i.e. title, favorite track(s), producer credit(s), cameo appearance(s), etc., can you reveal and/or divulge about the upcoming second set at this particular point in time?
Tank: I wrote a lot of the album while we were in London, so there are so many different inspirations and feelings that I have regarding the entire project. I would say that my favorite song so far is a song titled “That One Time I Got High In Amsterdam.” I’m still thinking of a new title, but I really like that one.


Parlé Mag:
How did the ten of you initially come together to form Tank and the Bangas?
Norman Spence:  Initially there were two members as the house band at an open mic called Liberation Lounge. Guitarist Amari Johnson and bassist Nation Savwoir who left the band early on. Joshua Johnson and I randomly arrived there and sat in with the band the same day. We didn’t know Tank like that at the time, but after chemistry developed we never left. I recruited Merell, Etienne, Albert, and a couple others. Tank brought in the background singers, and Josh and Jon are brothers.

Albert Allenback: Norman brought me into the band when they needed a fill-in saxophonist. I went to a gig the night before and recorded the set to learn the parts.


Parlé Mag:  
Now you all are natives of New Orleans, LA. So growing up in ‘NOLA,’ who did or do you consider to be your strongest influences?
Tank: I love PJ Morton and Sunni Patterson. These people have affected me and made me feel incredibly proud to be from such a broken beautiful place. PJ’s authentic style to himself always let me know that being yourself and having a signature sound is important. Sunni influenced me by just being alive. Her spoken words transcend culture and time. She’s so New Orleans!

Norman Spence: I grew up in Baltimore. Strongest influence had to be Gospel music, 2nd was Soul music.

Joshua Johnson: My strongest influences would be between my older brother, Joe Johnson, who plays keys, my parents and Michael Jackson. *Chuckles*

Parlé Mag:  How would you all describe and/or define the style of music that you all create and perform?
Norman Spence: Gumbo is the best description I’ve heard. We are all influenced by so many different genres and present those traces in our music.

Albert Allenback: I’d describe our music as a soundtrack for dreamers. It’s overwhelmingly positive, and is almost a guidebook to self-love.


Parlé Mag:
Where does your moniker, Tank and the Bangas originally derive from?
Norman Spence: Tank was nicknamed by her dad as a child. And the house band at the open mic was called “The Black Star Bangas.”


Parlé Mag:
What do you all feel will be the ultimate key to your longevity?
Norman Spence: Love and creativity.

Albert Allenback: We will be around for a long time because of the energy we send out at live shows. Fans won from a hit song can be fickle… fans won from a show they can’t forget are there for life.

Joshua Johnson: I believe as long as we keep God first, all of the things we expect from this amazing journey – like wisdom and longevity – will be easily attainable.


Parlé Mag:
What do you all feel you offer the music industry that we don’t already have in other performers?
Norman Spence: Truly original music and sincerity.

Albert Allenback:  I don’t think we have anything that no one else has. We just approach our music openly and humanly, unafraid to be weird kids that you laugh along with.


Parlé Mag:
Have you all encountered any problems in getting to this point in your career?
Norman Spence: Several problems… family, fake friends, life in general, etc. But I’m learning to count it all joy; keep loving and living.

Albert Allenback: Problems? No. Plenty of disasters though. *Smiles*


Parlé Mag:
What do you all want people to get from your music?
Tank: I want people to know that there is hope in the heart of good music. I need everyone to feel good and see themselves in it. Every possible feeling if possible! Hype, emotional, thought provoking, silly, daring, lame! All of the feelys! I believe in every piece of me that our music touches every part of you.

Norman Spence:  We want them to experience the God we know, and feel that vibe we feel when we heard the music that inspires us.

Albert Allenback: I want people to feel like kids, if only for a song.

Joshua Johnson: I would hope when people listen to the music, that they find the part of them that they sometimes forget exists. I would hope we bring out the best in people with the music we create.


Parlé Mag:
On a more serious note, are you all happy with the current state of music? And, even more specifically, where exactly do you all “fit in” when it comes to today’s current/trending sound-scape?
Norman Spence: The content that’s allowed on public radio is quite disturbing. It has a focus on drugs, infidelity, and loving money. I got kids, so I’m definitely worried. I am happy that the world is open to the music we create.

Albert Allenback: Music is the best it has ever been. It has been democratized because of the Internet, and there are so many people making music that we get the literal best of the best rising to the top. Saturation is good for listeners. We fit right in because we love new things. Will 808’s and Sprinkler Hats sound dated in 10 years? Probably. But all of us music makers create in the time we live in.


Parlé Mag:
Do you all have any other outside/additional aspirations, maybe even completely away from entertainment?
Norman Spence: Yeah, a few. Finding was to give back to the less fortunate, maybe providing rental opportunities for people.

Albert Allenback: I have this dream of hiking in every national park.


Parlé Mag:
What has been your greatest achievement(s) so far? I’m pretty sure winning NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest ranks pretty high on that list…
Tank: Well most definitely! I never thought we could win something so huge! Its definitely on the top moments. That list goes on. Afropunk, winning Nationals at a poetry slam and being on Jimmy Fallon with Norah Jones, makes me feel pretty proud. Almost nothing compares to such personal fulfillment on this journey.

Norman Spence: Making the connections and the impact that we did in the U.K. was big, but NPR is probably it right now! *laughing*

Albert Allenback: Yeah, Tiny Desk was pretty big. I lost 40 pounds two years ago and have kept it off for the first time in my life, so that might be my biggest achievement.


Parlé Mag:  
If you all could collaborate with any one artist, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Tank:  Oh my, that’s hard…welp, let me get out the phone book. *Giggles* It would be Anderson .Paak, Smino, Mali Music, Bruno Mars, Tweet and Ingrid Michaelson.

Norman Spence: I have been a fan of D’Angelo for years. That would be a cool collab.

Albert Allenback:  I would love to have felt the vibes in the room when Miles Davis recorded, any period.


Parlé Mag:
If you all could play any venue in the world, which one would you choose and why?
Norman Spence: Glastonbury Fest has been on my radar forever… I know it’s coming.


Parlé Mag:
One track of yours that you think defines you all and why?
Norman Spence: “Rhythm of Life.” It’s all bout learning, living and connecting. That’s us.

Parlé Mag: Lastly, 2013 saw the release of the group’s auspicious debut, Thinktank. When can we, the masses, expect its proper follow-up?
Norman Spence: We are pushing for September this year. You can expect more good music, and a different view on what we can do.

Joshua Johnson:  We are working on our sophomore project now, and we are hoping for it to be a delight to the ears and a rise to the occasion.


Parlé Mag:
Any “closing” thought(s) for our readers?
Norman Spence: We love you guys! Thanks for your support. Don’t stop believing in you or the God that created you.

Stay Connected with Tank and the Bangas on Social Media:
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram


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Todd Davis

Veteran music journalist and indie publicist Todd Davis, who hails from the San Francisco Bay Area, and has contributed to a variety of national, regional, online, weekly and daily media outlets; including The Source, XXL & Billboard, to name a few, is happy to report that he has recently joined the Parlé Magazine family. Looking forward to many great things to come...

Todd Davis has 105 posts and counting. See all posts by Todd Davis


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