Tank & the Bangas
w/ Maggie Koerner, Alfred Banks
Tues. March 12
1977 Maybank Hwy.
You may have heard of this little thing called NPR and its Tiny Desk Concert series. Each year, NPR holds a contest asking musical acts to film their own Tiny Desk shows. Enter Tank and the Bangas, the 2017 contest winner. They graced Charleston stages first in 2017 with the Tiny Desk Tour at the Lagunitas' Taproom (R.I.P.), and again in 2018 at Monster Music for Record Store Day and the High Water Festival. Now, they're coming back in the best of ways, with new music, new merch, and a new Charleston date. Pianist and bassist Norman Spence tells us all about it.
City Paper: I know that you guys are about to go on tour again, and with the band gaining so much popularity, has your tour schedule bulked up?
Norman Spence: Big time. NPR did that for sure.
CP: What can we expect from you guys on this tour that's different from your past tours so far?
NS: Well according to some people, they say each show is always a variation of the same songs. We naturally do that, but this time we've intentionally put together a new show with some of the newer songs from the album that's coming out, and that should be exciting. We're releasing a lot of new music this year. We just released Live Vibes digitally and we have another little live situation on the backburner that we're going to put out before we actually put out the album. We're going to bring new merch and new music, so this should be an exciting tour.
CP: I know that having a group, especially with more than three people, is a really collaborative effort, so how does your writing process go when you guys are working on a song? What's the vibe?
NS: There's definitely a vibe and it starts in different ways. Sometimes we can be in rehearsal and something cool will happen and we'll just groove for a second and that might turn into a song. A lot of times an idea will be presented. Tank might send out a voice recording and we go in separately. If you feel inspired, you present what you have. It's very organic, I'll say that! It just flows, however the song comes, and we just develop and develop and present.
CP: It felt really organic when you guys were making music together at Monster Music last year — it feels like magic stirring. It was beautiful; I cried a couple of times.
NS: A couple of times?! That's wild to me! It always trips me out — I think it's because I have never had music from our band have that effect on me, so to see that reaction in these adults, even grown men sometimes, that's when it really hits home. It's like wait, this is special. We're affecting people on a level where our hands can't even reach. It's different, but I appreciate you enjoying it.
CP: It's that organic feeling, especially being from the South we don't get a lot of representation of our culture in music like that. Southern states have their own culture, and with the band being based in Louisiana [Spence is from Baltimore; sax and flute player Albert Allenback is from Montgomery, Ala.], it feels very familiar. The culture in New Orleans and the culture in Charleston is so different but so similar, it's like sister cities. We feel that energy.
NS: You know, thinking about it, I have some friends and they do have a lot of similarities on the spiritual, cultural side. I can see a lot of the African culture in both places. We've been looking forward to coming back to Charleston, and when we come back I definitely want to look deeper into those similarities. We never got to explore a lot, but I want to look into the sister cities.
CP: What do you guys have in the works that you're really excited about people seeing?
NS: I'm really excited about people just hearing the new album. I think there's some really important stuff on there — it's just good. I know we put out [2018's] "Spaceships" and nice things as singles, and I can't really say that those are an accurate representation of the album. They're cool joints, but the album is dope. It's going to be felt. That's the mission. I think that's the whole mission of soul music as a whole — if you don't feel it, it ain't really soul.
CP: Amen to that. Give me three words to describe this album.
NS: I'll say ... Damn Good Music. Unless you want three separate words?
CP: Nope, that works! [laughs]