As pop music remains irresistible for the general mass, and cadres of indie artists become increasingly unconventional, rock purists are feeling a bit parched these days. For Danny Carney, lead singer of the Los Angeles rock trio [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Roll the Tanks[/lastfm], there’s a sense that rock music has suddenly become an ancient artifact. When Roll the Tanks moved to Los [pullquote quote=”She [Ke$ha) was dressed like an Indian with some dude on a laptop and a flavor saver.” credit=”Danny Carney on giging alongside Ke$ha.”]Angeles in 2005, one of their first gigs was alongside a then unknown [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Ke$ha[/lastfm]. What postdates that night is a small signifier of the growing disparity between pop and rock music, “She was dressed like an Indian with some dude on a laptop and a flavor saver. Then like a year later she’s on SNL and we’re playing at Spaceland for the same people. Stuff like that is disheartening, but we’ve been doing this our whole life so we’re used to the failure part of it. We have that advantage in a sense. Maybe we need to get rid of our drummer and get a laptop.”
Rooted in the East coast, Roll the Tanks are fortifying a local presence with an unabashed brand of rock with remnants of 80’s/90’s punk. Having emerged through the foliage with their single “Goodnight Jimmy Lee,” a song that pays tribute to the late musician [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Jay Reatard[/lastfm], Carney and his band mates are priming themselves for a big year.
So get caught up with KROQ and Roll the Tanks in an exclusive interview covering the band’s influences, scratch and sniff CD cases, and why rock artists should be more funny.
Born in Massachussetts, Danny Carney remembers developing an early bond with the pulsating Boston street punk scene, fueling his desire to contribute with music of his own. Bands like [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]The Dropkick Murphys[/lastfm], a major force in the movement, became instruments for inspiration when Carney was just getting his musical legs beneath him. With three other musicians, including current bassist Mikey Wakeham, Carney mentioned early complications figuring themselves out, “When we started out we were kind of lost as to what the band would sound like. I’m kind of a pop guy, but a punk rock guy at heart. I like simple stuff.” Adding, “The band was originally named Tanx named after the T. Rex album, so we are also into classic rock. Roll the Tanks is actually a quote from Joe Strummer’s documentary The Future is Unwritten. So when people ask what we sound like, I’ll usually say [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]The Clash[/lastfm] meets [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]The Pixies[/lastfm].”
In 2005, the band moved to Los Angeles, opting to test their luck in a town where there isn’t much to come by. It wasn’t long before Carney discovered this for himself, “We put out a record called Suffer City and then lost two members who flew back home. So we got a new drummer Joe Sirois who also plays for [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]The Mighty Mighty Bosstones[/lastfm]. We were doing the Craigslist thing and doing auditions and it was kind of a nightmare.”
As listeners became acquainted with Suffer City, Roll the Tanks were doing their own introductions with Floridian punk rockers Against Me!, and musician/songwriter Jay Reatard. Carney remembers how much of an impact Reatard had on him in both a positive and humbling light, “He just kind of showed up out of nowhere at a time where I wasn’t that excited about new music. I was absolutely floored, because he was like my doppelgänger. You know, a similar voice, a cheeky songwriting style and a folk-british accent at times. I was in heaven because I had a new singer to love, but it was kind of intimidating too. It totally f****d with me because I thought this guy was a cooler version of what I’m trying to do.”
In 2010, Jay Reatard was found dead in his apartment at the premature age of 29. Subsequently, the devastation of Reatard’s passing inspired Danny Carney to write what would become Roll the Tank’s newest single. “Goodnight Jimmy Lee,” a track from our Locals Only playlist, was the first song Carney had ever dedicated to an individual. With emotions still running fresh in his body, Carney wrote the song in less than a day, “It was kind of a weird thing to write about, but it was something I wrote on the spot in like five minutes. We had a chance to go see him a couple of times, where I actually met him. He was just a strong figure and I think it’ll stay that way.”
“Goodnight Jimmy Lee”
In Carney’s eyes, his friends of Against Me! and artists like Jay Reatard represent the small batch of genuinely talented rock acts of recent memory. Somehow the genre has become riddled with a low-grade product, leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of those who only accept the premium stuff. Adding some fuel to a fire started by [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]The Black Keys[/lastfm] earlier this month when they called out Nickelback, Danny Carney shared a similar sentiment, “You know, s****y rock bands and s****y anything is always going to be around. It’s unfortunate that it’s fairly prominent right now. But it’s kind of exciting for us because it makes feel like there’s less competition. You know, we just made this big rock record and it’s something shocking when all we did was make a rock record you know [laughs]? So it’s disheartening on the one hand and exciting on the other.”
Even with some inner grumblings over the present state of rock n’ roll, Roll the Tanks still exercise opportunities to showcase a sense of humor. Existing online is a video of the band’s hilariously awkward introduction with a German DJ named Flula, and another where Carney gives expert advice on how not to pay your bank bills. I wondered why he felt it was important to show the lighter side of a rock artist, ”I don’t think a lot of musicians are funny. We all try to be too serious and nobody feels like they can be funny after that. Dave Grohl has always been hysterical, and I think it’s rare. You know, Mike and I saw Spinal Tap at a young age and we want people to see us be ourselves and be funny when we are offstage.”
Roll the Tanks also put some creative whimsy into their CD packaging for “Goodnight Jimmy Lee,” causing those who purchase the physical copy of the single to salivate before they even pull out the disc. Carney describes how, “We were doing band photos before we went to a market and got a birthday cake. We had the cake lady write ‘Goodnight Jimmy Lee’ on it, and it looked like a little kid’s birthday cake or something. We had our friends do the artwork and then did a scratch and sniff so it would smell like cake. That was our drummer Joe’s idea, he’s always got great ideas. It kind of added an element to the senses for anyone who wanted to buy our music.”
So has anyone called and complained of food poisoning?: “No [laughs]. But one guy was like, ‘my apartment smells so much better.’ I mean at least it didn’t smell like black licorice or something.”
Roll the Tanks second LP Broke Till Midnight is due out this Spring via Total Treble.
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