Festivals are a rite of passage for many. Whether you’re going for the headliners or for the glitter, these weekends are sure to be unforgettable. Sometimes, though, you come across an act that you’d never heard of before. An act that will unexpectedly make your weekend and change your playlist forever.
During Summer 2018, in CaravanSerai – an intimate tent tucked away from the hysteria of Bestival’s mainstage – the audience was introduced to a band who would do exactly that. Tankus The Henge took a room full of strangers and transformed them into the best of friends with just one set. The skill, the energy, the passion, and their unique sound made the group impossible to forget.
In the middle of their hectic European tour, Artefact met with Jaz Delorean, Tankus’ energetic and charismatic frontman, on a boat docked in Bristol, to find out more about the band introduced as “The greatest in the world.”
First and foremost, Tankus The Henge – where did the name come from?
“Scrabble and LSD. We kind of made it happen. We were thinking of interesting words that felt impressive but didn’t actually mean anything. It’s in the long tradition of British bands with gibberish names – you know, especially from the 60s and 70s.”
Is that where you get your musical inspiration from?
“We’re really inspired by the British invasion – and it goes back to the ‘30s.”
And how old is Tankus?
“Tankus has always existed, we’re just using it. It’s an idea.”
So it’s going on forever?
“Forever. It’s like a beast – an invisible beast, floating into our heads and clawing back. It’s always there.”
Did you always want to go into music?
“No, I wanted to fly the Concorde and then it crashed so I couldn’t do that.”
“We are trying to do something that we want to do. You should be true to yourself, even if you get naysayers along the way telling you, you’re doing the wrong thing.”
“I wanted to be, I really did, I wanted to fly the Concorde and then I thought, well, I’d better be a rock musician instead.”
Obviously the band has a really unique sound, I don’t think I’ve ever heard music like it before – how did you create your own sound?
“The best part of being a musician is listening to what’s come before, and putting it in a big melting pot and making your own version. It’s a constant struggle to think of doing something original, especially in any sort of art, so, you just, essentially, regurgitate something that you like in your own way.”
It’s really refreshing to hear a completely different sound.
“Yeah, there always has been throwaway pop music. I love good pop music, I’m a massive fan of good pop music.”
“At the moment I’m listening to Riff Cohen who’s an Israeli pop singer. There’s a tune called Marrakech, which is such a banging tune.”
One of your most popular songs is Smiling Makes the Day go Quicker. Whilst the tempo is upbeat, the lyrics are quite dark. Is there a particular kind of message that you try to get out through the songs that you write?
“Thanks for listening to the lyrics, I’m flattered that you listened to them, a lot of people don’t and it just goes over their heads. That song in particular, if you’re smiling, if you’re telling yourself you’ve got to smile to get yourself through the day, you’re doing the wrong thing. You don’t need to go around with a smile plastered on your face if it’s fake. You need to be happy and content with what you’re doing, and, you don’t need to smile, that’s fine! It would be quite unnerving for everyone to go around with a smile on their face all the time.”Quite terrifying.
“Exactly. You’ve got to be doing the right thing with your life. Everybody has their own personal journey that they’re on. So with that song, that’s what it means. It can be taken at face value – as a kind of joyful, ‘smiling makes the day go quicker’ – but of course it doesn’t. Do we want our days to go quicker? No, we don’t! We only get a certain amount!”
You were introduced at Bestival as the ‘The best band in the world that we might not know yet’, what really stands out during your performances is audience participation. You got everyone holding hands and interacting with complete strangers. How important is that to you?
“It’s very important, because, we want people to go away feeling like, they’ve experienced something unique. Especially if you just stumbled upon it – that’s the best kind of experience because you didn’t know what was going to happen. I’ve been to gigs like that. I remember the first time I saw The Flaming Lips, it was like going to another planet. And, of course, we love it when people make friends at Tankus The Henge gigs.
A lot of people, especially in this country might sing at school, and it can be a bit tiresome sometimes. But if you’re at a gig and everyone’s covered in sweat and you’ve got your arms around each other and you’re singing? You can’t really beat that feeling.”
Your shows have such an inclusive atmosphere. Anyone from any age could go, and they’d enjoy it. A lot of music can feel age-based, but yours doesn’t. How do you pull this off?
“That’s a good question. It’s always been a bit of a mystery, to be honest, but we go on with it. Why shouldn’t everyone be able to come to the same gig? We’re all walking this planet together, we should all be able to go out and go to a rock and roll gig together. I don’t think music should be age based. We grew up listening to music from the ‘60s, that’s way before any of us were born.
We were born in the ‘80s! We were listening to stuff from ‘30s New Orleans jazz to Elvis Presley and King Crimson. The magic of music is that it’s there for us to dive into, whenever it came from. We’re just trying to do that now. Music is for everybody, it transcends borders, age, and class. None of these things should be a thing anyway. Music is the thing that will save us eventually.”
“There are people out there now married with kids that met at a Tankus gig.”
Something that really strikes you at a Tankus concert is the multitasking you guys do – there’s so much going on. How do you manage it?
“Well we play a lot, and it’s never perfect. But we rejoice in that. In life, you know, if it was the same thing every day, it wouldn’t be as cool. A gig is like that as well, and we do try and play correctly, but it’s just practice! We play 130 concerts a year, and when you start doing something that often, you get better at it. Whatever you do, whatever you choose to do, do it more than anything else and then, you’ll be alright.
If you do one thing, for 10,000 hours, then you’ll be able to do that as a career, in theory. So I don’t know whether we are at 10,000 hours but we’re not there yet. Probably well on the way, though.”
Tankus perform at a lot of festivals. What are the highlights of being at festivals?
“Well, I’ve always loved going to festivals. I love going in and camping and staying the whole time, having a great party and then going home, bedraggled at the end. But we can’t do that anymore because we have three or four [festivals] every weekend. So we roll in, we do the gig, and if there’s a load of our friends there we might stay and have a party, but we’re usually on the way to the next one in a matter of hours. So, we’re enjoying festivals in a different way now.”
Do you a particular festival moment that sticks out to you?
“I played a festival in Florida, which is quite a right-wing state. It was the second time this festival had happened, and there were a lot of young people there that were excited. But they were also the sort of people that have been totally sidelined by society. Like, there were goths there, the LGBTQ+ community, there were people who just wanted to be individuals, and have been told their whole lives that’s not the right thing to do. And suddenly, they’re all together, it’s alright to be you, and you’re not on your own.
We’re starting to see an international network of liberalism spreading out across the globe. People are talking to each other and we’ve got the internet, you know, it might be a downer sometimes, but we can talk to people around the world, about how we can work together and beat negativity. So, that’s one of my favourite things about playing at festivals. It’s a space that you can be yourself, and everyone loves you for it. Then, you go out into the world on Monday, and think, ‘why can’t the world be like this?’”
“None of us are perfect, we should rejoice in our imperfections. It’s what makes us unique.”
Festivals are definitely an eccentric space where you can just be you.
“It is, and we are an eccentric species. For too long we’ve been put in a box and told that greys and browns are the right colours to wear. When you look at the rest of nature, it’s a mile-strong of colour. Why shouldn’t we be like that as well? We’ve made some progress in the last 150 years or so – some bad, some good. But let’s take it back to being more colourful, more primal, and just enjoy being alive!”
So you’ve toured a lot of Europe. Where would be your dream place to play?
“We’d love to play in Asia because it just looks mental. Our guitarist was in Japan and said it was like going to a different planet. I’ve been around India three times and I’d love to take this band to India, so, yeah, we’d like to take it over to Asia. Obviously, America is there, and, music is such a central part of American life, and we probably will go there. We’ve been before, we’ve played in Tennessee and Louisiana, but at the moment, Europe is where we’re at. We feel very strongly that we’re European.”
“On the surface a festival is, is a hedonistic party, which is, what it’s supposed to be.”
You’re known for your relentless touring schedules. How do you cope with it?
“Sometimes I don’t. Drink plenty of water and try and get as much sleep as possible. It’s a hard-core schedule, especially when we’re out on the continent. We’ll often play a two-hour long show and then we’ll drive for eight hours each day, so it’s intense. Having a good diet is really important – and try to do yoga in the morning.”
“Yeah! It’s a whole other world to explore. Try it, you might like it.”
What would be the best show you’ve ever played – if you can name one?
“This summer, my favourite show was our show at Boomtown, because it was epic. And it came out the blue as really triumphant. We got to collaborate with a band who are our friends from New Orleans, so it was a real good moment. I can’t name the greatest show we’ve ever done, because we try and make them all the greatest show we’ve ever done.”
Do you have a favourite song that you like to perform?
“At the moment, ‘The only thing that passes here is time’ is my personal favourite song to perform live. But there’s some songs off the new album which I love playing, like ‘Things were better before.’ I didn’t use to like playing that song because it needed a video to go with it, but now it’s a current favourite.”
“Every day that you live should be the greatest day you’ve ever lived.”
Your new album was released on November 29; what was the inspiration behind it?
“Uh, kind of being on the run. It feels like you’re on the run with a band. Travelling is the biggest thing we do and, the title is taken from a live version of a very old song.”
The album’s got quite a long name, hasn’t it?
“I Crave Affection Baby But Not When I Drive. Yeah, it’s a bit tongue and cheek; a bit like, ‘what does that mean?’ But this record – it’s a collection of songs we’ve been writing for the last three years. When you tour as much as we do it’s hard to find the time to record.
Some of it is definitely [inspired by] being disassociated with the modern world. Like, being plugged in all the time and the government telling us what they think we should be doing. But, it is hopeful. It’s a hopeful album.”
Do you have a favourite song on the new album?
“At the moment. It changes because when you make an album, you listen to it over and over again, and the favourite song changes. At the moment, it’s called Slipping and Sliding which is about driving over the Alps in a car full of drum kit and nearly driving off the edge because it was so icy.”
Finally, what’s next for Tankus The Henge?
“We’ll continue what we’ve been doing, but bigger, and in more places. Capturing the hearts of people that want to be a part of this. We want people to feel like they can belong to this idea, and come and hang out and see their friends. A lot of the fans talk to each other online, which is really cool, it’s good to be part of.”
Thanks to Tankus The Henge for the chat, and you can see their latest music video on YouTube:
You can also listen to their new album, I Crave Affection Baby But Not When I Drive, on Spotify.
Feature image by sarahrosekendall via Instagram.