Tank And The Bangas
New Orleans, LA, USA
Tank and the Bangas are a Grammy-nominated, New Orleans-based R&B band capable of shifting from classic soul and funk to hip-hop, reggae, and rock. They're fronted by Tarriona Ball (aka Tank), a singer and poet who can wail like Patti LaBelle, scold like Millie Jackson, and soliloquize like Jill Scott. Established with their highly energized live show and a handful of independent releases beginning with Think Tank (2013), they won NPR's Tiny Desk Contest in 2017, leading to a major-label contract with Verve that has yielded the albums Green Balloon (2019) and Red Balloon (2022), and the intermediary Friend Goals EP.
The band took shape in 2011 after meeting at an open-mike showcase in their native New Orleans. The lineup that year featured Ball, musical director and drummer Joshua Johnson, and bassist and keyboardist Norman Spence. Within a couple years, it expanded to include keyboardists Merell Burkett and Joe Johnson, and background singer Anjelika "Jelly" Joseph, among other associates. Think Tank, the band's double-length studio debut, was released independently in 2013 with material containing flashy crowd pleasers such as "Boxes and Squares," multiple displays of Ball's athletic poeticism, and nods to Deniece Williams ("Oh Heart") and Minnie Riperton ("Ripperton Love" [sic]). It was followed by live recordings of hometown gigs, including The Big Bang Theory: Live at Gasa Gasa in 2014 -- by which point flutist/saxophonist Albert Allenback had come onboard -- and subsequent documentations of their regular performances at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Joe Johnson left the band in 2016.
In 2017, the band reached a new audience when they prevailed over 6,000 fellow aspiring acts to win NPR's third Tiny Desk Contest. The vote, conducted by a panel of musicians and experts, was unanimous. Tank and the Bangas signed with major-label Verve and made their major-label debut with Live Vibes in 2018. Live Vibes 2 followed in 2019, as did Green Balloon, a studio LP boasting production from Mark Batson, Jack Splash, and Zaytoven, and additional keyboards on a handful of cuts from Robert Glasper. Despite all the big names, the band's individuality shone through, and they earned a Best New Artist nomination at the 2020 Grammy Awards.
After a series of intermediary singles started with an update of Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "What the World Needs Now Is Love" (with fellow New Orleans native PJ Morton among the nine featured artists), Tank and the Bangas released the collaborations-themed Friend Goals EP in November 2020. That would be the group's last studio session with Merell Burkett. Teaming with Big Freedia, they alternated between featured and headlining roles respectively on the singles "Betty Bussit" and "Big" in 2021. The following May, they released their third album, Red Balloon. A powerful mix of observational and celebratory material, it was produced mostly by the band themselves, but they made room for contributions from Lalah Hathaway, Questlove, Georgia Anne Muldrow, and Trombone Shorty.