Left to Right, Mike Wakeham, Joe Sirois, Dan Carney and Aaron Stuart
By Nick Tsui
What’s the difference between a musician and a mutual fund? Only one will eventually mature and make money! A few nights ago, I had the chance to speak over the phone with Danny Carney of Roll the Tanks. Roll the Tanks are currently based in Los Angeles but were bred in Lowell. Danny and Mike Wakeham grew up in the Mill City, honing their music skills together before heading across the country. After recruiting members from Massachusetts-based bands Piebald and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, they’re scheduled to release an album in February titled Broke Til Midnight. Talking to Danny was like calling an old friend and before we started, he jokingly asked me to “make him sound good.” Truthfully, I didn’t have to.
Q: Roll the Tanks is an interesting name for a band. How did you come up with that title?
I’m a huge fan of the band T. Rex that released an album called Tanx and I’ve got a tattoo on my wrist that says ‘Tanks,’ the band’s original name. For legal reasons, we couldn’t be called ‘Tanx’ or ‘Tanks,’ so we had to somehow add onto that. Watching a documentary on Joe Strummer [of The Clash] called The Future Is Unwritten, before they play Clampdown he says “we want you to roll the tanks” and I knew that was it.
Q: Who are some of your influences aside from The Clash and T. Rex?
Mike and I started with punk stuff; Lookout! Records bands like Screeching Weasel, Fifteen, Crimpshrine, Pinhead Gunpowder, Operation Ivy, and Rancid. Then there were the late punk bands of the 90’s: Showcase Showdown, Pinkerton Thugs, and The Trouble. There’s also the Pixies, Stiff Little Fingers, Futureheads, and of course the big bands of the 90’s like Green Day and Nirvana.
Q: On the band’s Facebook page under the ‘artists we also like’ section, it only says Cheap Trick. Have you ever considered being a Cheap Trick cover band?
I’d do it in a heartbeat! They’re a great and really underrated band. I like how they’re not super serious but can still do whatever they want. It would probably be the only time I could play a doubleneck guitar and not be an asshole. I’ve been on a Cheap Trick kick for the last two years; they’re a kickass and humorous band.
Q: Your last show was in front of a sold out audience of 1,200 at the House of Blues in San Diego with the legendary Aquabats. Your next show will be at Majors Pub in Lowell. How do you compare these events?
The shows we play in Massachusetts I would say are our best ones. We’re really excited about coming back to Lowell for Folk Fest. In 2009 we played a show during Folk Fest outside Majors for a bunch of people. It’s something to look forward to more than the ‘San Diego’ type show. I’d rather play to 500 maniacs from Lowell and could care less about VIP lists or backstage fruit baskets.
Q: Many years ago, Lowell had one of the best Punk scenes in the country. Do you remember bands like Five*0*Five and Private Army or playing at old venues like The Sugar Shack?
I was actually in both of those bands! Mikey and I started playing music together when we were 11. A bunch of other people started to get involved in punk and then there were all these bands. I played guitar and Mike played bass in Five*0*Five. I also played bass in Private Army. We used to play all the old venues and basements: Lowell Fighter’s Club, St. Theresa’s Church, The Sugar Shack, Elks Lodge, Dracut Civic Club, and we practically lived at WJUL (UMass Lowell’s radio station now named WUML).
Q: How long have you guys been a band?
Well we’ve been playing off and on since 2003 or 2004. There really is no start date; we’d do some things then stop and pick it up again later. When the scene fizzled, everyone kinda went their own ways and ventured into other genres. It’s funny how the dust settles; you retain certain things. Everything comes around but it’s not like we’re reaching back to our roots so much as it’s an accumulative thing.
Q: Broke Til Midnight is about opening a tab and not being able to pay it until after midnight. Do you consider this release a concept album?
You definitely could consider it as a concept album, but we didn’t intend on that. It’s really just more tongue-in-cheek and laughing at the fact we’re at a bar waiting for our work checks to clear in order to pay our tabs. But there’s a lot on the album; it’s got political, it’s got love songs, it’s got everyday life and it’s something everyone can relate to. I guess you can consider the first and last track as bookends to one another. The album actually took two years to make between line-up changes, label troubles, all the writing steps, and new members.
Q: Who is in the lineup of Roll the Tanks now?
It’s me on vocals and guitar, Mikey (Wakeham) on bass, Joe Sirois (The Mighty Mighty Bosstones) on drums and Aaron Stuart (Piebald) on guitar.
Q: Why did you choose to move out to L.A., one of the toughest places to make it?
This band has never been part of a scene. It’s really no man’s land out here. We’re just going for a broad build and wanted to change things up a bit. We’re going for the nomadic outlook on things. Things out here have been alright though, almost like an abundance of hell and awesome luck. No complaints and no regrets.
Q: What have been some of your greatest highlights and successes as a band?
Still being a band is probably our proudest accomplishment. Writing, recording, and performing music that we love is all we’ve ever really cared about. But then of course there’s great bonus gravy. Being on The Carson Daly Show was a cool moment. I don’t think we ever thought we’d end up on TV. To be pushing 30 and still struggling at the thing you’ve always done can be hard. Occasionally it’s nice to have these moments where we don’t feel like total (screw)ups [laughs]. And It’s been great opening up for bands like NOFX, Against Me, The Bosstones, The Toadies, Swingin Utters, Street Dogs, and we love being able to play all kinds of shows and to different audiences.