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Flashback: Roll the Tanks / Tanks

The first time I saw Tanks they hadn’t pressed a single album yet. They didn’t have a “Roll the” in front of their name. They were just plain old Tanks from Lowell often found rocking out on weekends at the now defunct Evo’s. And they were awesome!

I distinctly recall feeling Tanks was the best band in Lowell. It’s probably no coincidence that they were the ones who found the most commercial and national success aside from the the current day PVRIS or the old school Shods (before my time).

Unlike some previous flashback write ups, I never learned much about the inner workings of the band nor their personal journeys, but only that I loved their live shows and eventually got my hands on their amazing first free demo, cleverly titled DEMOlition and their even better debut full length which soon followed.

Luckily for me, I knew they eventually reached such success that some Google searches turned up most of the info I was looking for. Still though, I decided to reach out to Danny Carney himself. We were Facebook friends after all so it wouldn’t be too difficult. He was more than happy to answer some questions for me.

When did the band form? Was it all just local people or was it from meeting at UML?

“We formed sometime during 2003. Mikey and I grew up together playing music, and Scotty and Phill grew up together playing music, and we all met in high school and became fast friends. We started the band a couple years after we all graduated. Everyone was playing in various bands but we all rehearsed/drank insane amounts of beer at the “legendary” Mt. Vernon rehearsal building in Lowell. That’s where the band was basically born. I feel like a game of basketball was involved somehow too but it’s al getting foggy at this point in my travels.”

Final lineup? 

“Danny Carney (Vocals, Guitar)
Mike Wakeham (Bass, Vocals)
Joe Sirois (Drums, Vocals)
Aaron Stuart (Guitar, Vocals)”

There were other notable members of the past though correct? Can you give me any dates on any of the membership? Wasn’t someone from another big band too at one point?

Well we ended up playing with Joe from Mighty Mighty Bosstones (2009-2014) and Aaron from Piebald (2012-2014), and during our time as a trio we had some guest guitar players at a few shows. In September of 2011 we played two shows with our buddy Ryan Spraker (Billerica Represent!). One was at The Middle East upstairs, and the other was at The Old Court in Lowell. Both shows were really fun and well attended. Spraker is a wild guitar player, he kinda just did his own thing on the songs and it worked really well, making those shows very unique and memorable for us. On March 14th, 2012 we played a SXSW show in Austin that aired on Last Call with Carson Daly. Our old pal Dave Pino (Waltham Represent!) played with us at that show. He played in the amazing bands Waltham, Damone, and these days for Andrew WK. Dave is technically the only member/quasi Tanks member to not be from the Merrimack Valley (deep trivia).”

I think I have the complete Discography, is this all correct?

DEMO-Lition 2004 (as Tanks)
Dance with Everybody Who Isn’t Dead Yet 2005 (as Tanks)
Live from WJUL 7 inch split 2006 (Gatehouse Anchor) (as Tanks)
The Girls EP 7 inch 2007 (Gatehouse Anchor) (as Tanks)
Suffer City 2008 (Intelligent Noise Records)
Untitled 21: A Juvenile Tribute To Swingin’ Utters (2010) – A compilation
Goodnight Jimmy Lee 7 inch 2012 (Sabot)
Broke Til Midnight 2014 (Epitaph)
Arrival of the Fittest 2015 (the lost record)

“You’re forgetting the bricks comp you put out!! haha” (Author’s note: this is a story for another time! Perhaps a future Flashback post)

Is any of the old “Tanks” stuff streamable? I have the CDs but can’t find any online. Any plans to ever upload it anywhere?

“A lot of our stuff is not currently streamable. I would like to change that I just need to find the time. I also have an absurd pipe dream of pressing “Dance” and “Suffer City” on vinyl some day. There’s an alternate mix of Suffer City that was mixed down to 1/4 tape. I really want to press that version. I just need to figure out a way how to only press the 96 copies that would actually sell.”

When did you actually move to CA? Why did you part ways with the other members?

“I moved to LA in May of 2005. The rest of the guys moved out in January of 2007. Scotty and Phill parted ways with the band in 2009. For all involved I’d rather not get into it all on a public level, but I will say all 6 of the core members of the band and our manager Davis all recently partied together at my wedding this past summer. It was an amazing reunion and we all remain in touch.”

It seems you were having success then just died without any explanation on social media. What gives?

“The band kinda died in its sleep, or maybe a better example is that the soul of the band gently walked into the ocean with a neutral smile, never to be seen again. There wasn’t any crazy drama or anything, and we never officially broke up, it just kinda stopped. I think our final chapter had a lot of triumph to it, but that kind of out-shined the fact that we had been running on fumes for a while. It was all very telepathic and peaceful. Getting signed to Epitaph was kinda like the end of Rocky and the end of Rocky ll combined. We “won”, but we also lost. I’m grateful that things didn’t end sour like it does for so many bands. Sadly we did have a new album 100% written that we didn’t have the chance to record. I’m not counting out the possibility of a reunion at some point, but it definitely won’t be next week.”

Any thoughts on how the journey went with the decision to move to CA? Obviously there were some major successes but it seems it eventually died out for some reason. How do you reflect on it all?

“I moved to LA to be closer to my family who live out here, and to pursue a career in Film and Television Production (which has mostly been my day job this whole time). I actually thought at the time that it meant the end of me being a musician and playing in bands, etc. But the loneliness that came with moving to a new/big city and not having a lot of friends kinda sparked an immense writing phase that kinda forced me to re-launch the band, and those crazy fuckers actually got on a plane. I’ll always miss the east coast but I love LA. I live a mile from my sister and niece, and I see them and my aunt and uncle all the time, and my Mother lived out here with us for the final 2 years of her life. I’m currently working in Stop Motion animation (a passion that started after making a stop mo music video for our song Lucy n’ Beth oddly enough). So all in all I consider the decision to be on point.”

Any pre-Evo’s days stuff about the band worth mentioning?

“Despite us all being really good friends and having a collective musical history together, we were all into really different stuff when we decided to start the band, so much so that it was kinda awkward and we almost broke up immediately. Mike and Phill were playing together in a metal band (Doppler Effect) at the time, I was basically listening to nothing but The Clash, and Scotty was into the same crazy weird shit he’s always been into. So we knew we wanted to be in a band together, but at that specific time there was a serious lack of common ground. Then one day Scotty brought a new record to practice, “Shine a Light” by Constantines. That’s where it all clicked. We were like “oh we can figure this out”, in terms of everyone contributing and liking what our material would become. I know a Springsteen inspired indie rock record doesn’t seem that crazy of an idea in 2018, but in 2003 it was like HOLY FUCKING SHIT. So that record was really the catalyst for the band getting through our growing pains, and I will always cherish it for that reason. Also, our whole first record is basically us trying to be Constantines. There, I said it.”

When was the last time you played a Lowell area show? Any future plans?

“Our last Lowell area show was actually our 2nd to last show, in October of 2014 at The Safe in Lowell. It was actually a few days before what would turn out to be our final show, opening for Weezer at Foxwoods. We didn’t realize at the time that they would be our final 2 shows, but it was an awesome and very fitting combo to end on. No future plans, but I wouldn’t count out a reunion at some point. “Back by virtually zero demand, it’s ROLL THE TANKS!!””

Thanks to Danny for answering all my questions. Luckily there’s plenty of Roll the Tanks material online so have a listen!

– Joel Gray