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Last week, I was able to have a chat with 2x Grammy nominee Tarriona “Tank,” Ball, the lead singer of the dynamic New Orleans band, “Tank and the Bangas.”
Tank stands maybe a few inches about five feet, but she manages to easily be the most visible lifeforce in any room she occupies; she is half demi-goddess/half hairstyle. Tank’s voice is a rollercoaster, with super soft anticipatory sounds mixed with high-flying elation. It is indicative that her music is just as much style as it is substance.
Tank took time from a rare day off for her to chat, where she gave me a tour of her new home, which she was proud to have been able to purchase as an artist, with the same glee as a woman showing off her dress with pockets.
Tank started her career doing poetry, a member of the winning National Poetry Slam team, Team SNO (Slam New Orleans), Tank is no stranger to the stage and how to command it. I first met Tank on a sticky afternoon in Tampa, Florida in 2012, where she and her poetry team easily handed us our feelings. Her poem about Disney princesses was by far the most memorable of the moment, which makes sense that she cites Disney and Peabo Bryson, who famously contributed hit songs to the Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast soundtracks, as early influences. I asked Tank a few questions including about her Blue Note Residency in New York City where stars like Macy Gray, Big Freedia, Nora Jones and many more showed up or performed, and her only response to stars who she is a fan of, being fans of hers as “crazy.”
Tank was universally loved and respected in the poetry world, an underground community that is very much just as niche as it is popular, for having talent as well as grace, before she took on even bigger stages. When asked about the leap from poetry to singing, she was quick to inform me that the poetry hasn’t gone away at all. She still very much does both, “there isn’t a show that there’s not a poem, especially since most of my songs were poems, that I just happened to turn into melody.”
The winners of 2017 NPR’s Tiny Desk concert, Tank acknowledged things changed for the band with the visibility, and with over 13 million views from their performance, it’s easy to understand how it did. “I do believe, in my opinion that we changed the culture of Tiny Desk, I feel like a lot of Black people weren’t on there, even poets.” She adds that it came with “way more touring, way more visibility, just being some of your favorite celebrities’ favorite group, more opportunities.”
Even though Tank has rocked huge festivals like Glastonbury, Bonnaroo and Coachella, just to name a few, and of course her group’s second Grammy nomination, she doesn’t consider that she’s made it yet. “I still don’t feel it’s on a certain type of level.” Tank remains unadulteratedly humble, with her definition of “making it,” being able to buy her own house and sustain her own living.
She sits in that home still unsure of how much the world loves her, and how much she is in fact, making it…she continues, “I still gotta keep going, I still gotta keep climbing, maybe….maybe I’ll…. when I do my song with Kendrick Lamar and Stevie Wonder.” Kendrick Lamar and Stevie Wonder are not her only two faves. While she specifically mentioned working with them, she would also love to meet Angela Bassett, Lauryn Hill, and Janet (who doesn’t need a last name), which anyone could easily understand why.
Having the Obamas as fans of your work, or them putting you on their famed summer playlist doesn’t hurt either. When she met Michelle Obama, for the second time, a few weeks ago on the “Today,” show, Tank held on tightly to the former first lady’s hand, as a student would to their absolute favorite teacher.
The first time she met Michelle Obama was a bit different.
She recalls being ushered into the basement of the Library of Congress because a special guest wanted to meet them, and to her surprise, her kidding remark of “is it Obama?,” was actually spot on, well one of the Obamas, for sure. The funniest thing she mentioned about the meeting was that when it came to Michelle, “she smelt rich,” and sang her praises about how happy she was to see her again, mentioning that Michelle’s favorite song by the group is “Human,” a song that is just as much poem as it is melody. When it came to other moments of awe, she relays, “I was really star-struck by the poet…. that was on Girlfriends.” For a moment, our poet brains forgot and quickly remembered Saul Williams, she adds, “I was really happy to be in Jill Scott’s presence,” whom she also spoke of warmly, but when it comes to people she wants to work with, “it’s really all about Stevie and Kendrick!”
Angela Bassett, Lauryn Hill and Janet are also people whom she would love to meet. When it comes to what’s next for her and what her greatest achievement so far has been, she smoothly and reassuringly replies “Just taking care of myself and live off the gift, [to] manage well.”
Tank and the Bangas were nominated for the Best New Artist category for the Grammy’s in 2020, Billie Eilish took the award, but Tank and the Bangas has set their sights on another nomination, the 2023 Grammy for Best Progressive R&B album for their album “Red Balloon.” Their latest album is a departure from the sound from the previous one, “Green Balloon,” and when asked about the sound being different, she considers the space she was in, as it was recorded at Earth, Wind, and Fire’s studio.
When it comes to how her latest Grammy nomination differs from the first she gleefully responds, “It’s different, it feels so good, it makes me feel so happy…. this time is for the album, for the work, that’s important that means that my peers have listened and agree that it is top tier, which it is, it’s a beautiful album.”
If you know what I know, then you know that Tank’s star will continue to rise, a mélange of light and what feels like home, Tank and The Bangas is only poised to gain more fans wherever the group goes. With a few more shows left before the end is out, here is to 2023 that will bring them that very much-deserved Grammy, more tour dates, and more accolades to come.