Tank & the Bangas

Tank & The Bangas Hero

Describe your music in three words.

Albert: Tank. And. Bangas. (laughs)
Norman: Inspirational, exciting…

Tank: (finishing Norman’s sentence)…spiritual!

What’s is your earliest musical memory, the memory that made you feel that “I want to do music” moment?

Albert: Sade’s “Smooth Operator” video. Boom.

Tank: The way Stevie Wonder made me feel when I first heard him.

Norman: This group that was at the first church I went to, called the Gentlemen’s Song, didn’t play instruments but they sang in Boyz II Men style harmony, and we used to think we were the band. We’d stack the Sunday school chairs up behind the keyboards and I would try to play like I was their band. Now, I have a real keyboard – look at me now! (Laughs).

Artist-specific question about latest musical project, album, single, etc. How has your music developed or changed through the years?

Albert: Sade’s “Smooth Operator” video. Boom.

Tank: The way Stevie Wonder made me feel when I first heard him

Norman: Inspirational, exciting…

Allen Toussaint once stated, “Music is everything to me short of breathing. Music also has a role to life you up-not to be escapist but to take you out of misery.” With that said, how has music gotten you through hard times in your life?

Tank: It’s been so therapeutic, and is therapeutic. When you go somewhere to be alone and put on a really good song, especially to help you get through what you’re going through, that’s when you realize, “Oh this is why this song exists.” Put on Donny (Hathaway) if you wanna feel sad, Stevie (Wonder) if you want to feel joy, gospel if you want to just feel thankful… there’s just a song for any mood.

Albert: I’ve had times in my life where the only time I felt happy, could really see things the way they actually are has been on stage playing music with other people, sharing energy and maybe getting some stuff from people who are seeing things in an unencumbered way. You’re just sharing.

Norman: It’s super cool how music can reach places that other avenues can’t. You can go through life thinking, “I gotta be strong,” but music, depending on the song, can bring the weak out of you, depending on where your head is…

Tank: … and make you okay with it, and you crying, like (sings) “I’m not the only one...”

Norman: Yeah, and you get ugly cry on…

Tank: …and it gives meaning to your feelings, words and sounds to your feelings.

Josh: It literally comes from not knowing how to express it any other way. Even you (points to Tank), you can’t get your feelings out any other way than music, and sometimes it sounds poetic, sometimes it’s a song, and when the right people are around, they catch that and make it bigger… like with our music.

What is your creative process in writing as a band?

Albert: We try to steal from lesser known artists

-Entire band breaks out in laughter-

Josh: Let’s make sure the readers know that is a lie! That is a LIE! (laughs) But really, we get inspiration from everything to a train on the tracks to that water dripping down the window. We make sure to press record on something immediately to save that inspiration and come back to expound on it in practices. There’s no one way we really write, though, it’s just being fluid and collaborative

When you hear the phrase “Music for the Mind,” what does it mean to you on first impression?

Tank: Healing.

Norman: All music, good and bad, is for the mind. Some of it shouldn’t be, but it influences you, good and bad.

Tank: You gotta watch what you’re listening to, it can impact how you treat yourself and others. You’re listening to gospel, feeling kind and generous to people, and then you’re listening to angry fight music feeling like the world is against you. You feed your mind with music, it’s mental food.

Josh: “Music for the Mind” is a way of saying music is the soundtrack of life, to me.

In addition to music as a cathartic measure, are there other resources or coping mechanisms, so-to-say, that you use to care for your mental health?

Josh: Prayer. When it feels like a wall is about to be hit, prayer has helped me get through that. Meditation, too.

Tank: I write down the feelings the moment I feel them, even if it’s the most bizarre stuff. I might go back to it later and laugh, or think “Dang, I still feel this, what’s going on?,” or I get in the studio and it becomes a song. I’m very glad I document my feelings and pay attention to them when I’m documenting.

Albert: Something that is extremely helpful for me when I’m experiencing depressive episodes and anxiety episodes is to rewrite the stories that I tell myself. To forcibly, through meditation, chanting, whatever means I can use to recognize patterns, look at the thoughts I’m having and understand that the thoughts are not me. So, I’m standing on some other ground that is not the depressive thoughts, the anxious thoughts, because I can look at it and let it pass. Recognizing and rewiring the mind is a Herculean task because the circuits that have betrayed you are the ones you’re trying to fix… but when you realize what’s happening, it’s like looking in a mirror and telling yourself the truth.

Josh: Man, the other thing is, what helps with depression is allowing yourself to feel those feelings. We were born inclined to feel pain and sadness, among other feelings, but somehow believe that we should not have to feel these emotions, or that we aren’t normal by feeling sadness, pain, anger, all that. Giving ourselves permission to feel the darkness helps to keep that darkness moving, moving toward happiness, lightness, and joy. Not every day is going to be wonderful, but not every day has to feel like a burden, either.

With the end of our interview near, I’d like to ask a final question - what is one song you’d put on your own mental health music playlist? Your “Music for the Mind?”

Tank: Stevie Wonder’s “Love’s In Need of Love Today.”

Albert: John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme, Part 1: Acknowledgement.”

Norman: Kirk Franklin’s “Smile.”

Josh: I think about so many songs, but my mind goes to spiritual music, worship music. But if I picked one, it’d be, “It’s Gonna Rain” by Rev. Milton Brunson & the Thompson Community Singers.

Tank: But you know which one really needs to be on that playlist, (sings) “Take it from me, someday we’ll all be free.” (“Someday We’ll All Be Free,” by Donny Hathaway).

Tank & The Bangas are an invigorating New Orleans-based band fusing funk, soul, hip-hop, rock, and spoken word into a genre unique to their identity. The band is fronted by Tarriona “Tank” Ball and consists of Albert Allenback (alto saxophone, flute), Merell Burkett (keyboards), Anjelika “Jelly” Joseph (background vocals), Joe Johnson (keyboards), Joshua Johnson (drums), Jonathan Johnson (bass), and Norman Spence (bass, synth keys), and features other musicians on a revolving basis. The group has risen to international acclaim since winning NPR’s “Tiny Desk” Contest in 2017 and can be seen regularly on tour around the world. You can listen to the band and find more about them at:

Official Website: http://www.tankandthebangas.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TankAndTheBangas/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tankandthebangas/
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/5cAtakaadWHJLxmGKrKcX7

All photos by Jose Cotto for the Brett Thomas Doussan (BTD) Foundation.