INTERVIEW: TANKENGINE | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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“This isn’t our first rodeo. We’ve been to so many rodeos that we’ve got a stamped card.” TANKENGINE vocalist and guitarist Adam Hiles is discussing the band’s rather interesting backstory. The trio aren’t new kids on the block when it comes to this local music scene lark – in fact, you might have heard of Hiles’ and bassist and vocalist Ross Harley’s former band, Yourcodenameis:milo.

“TANKENGINE is fairly scrappy, scratchy, difficult, underdog, outsider music. If you’re familiar with Milo then hearing TANKENGINE will be like ‘oh yeah that makes sense’.” Since Milo’s indefinite hiatus in 2007, Hiles and Harley were part of two of Newcastle’s finest, sadly now-defunct indie pop bands, Mammal Club and Tomahawks For Targets, while drummer Ivan Diaz was part of rap fusion group Lingua Vulgaris. For a band with such a colourful history and musical pedigree (both Hiles and Harley can name drop Steve Albini as someone they’ve worked with), you’d expect some pretty accomplished new music. No pressure guys.

We’re very aware that we’re three middle class, middle aged white dudes and we’ve really got to earn our right to be heard in a saturated market

Thankfully, TANKENGINE don’t disappoint, and their debut EP features five slices of uncompromising, exhilarating noise rock with chugging riffs and slightly demented vocals. It’s abrasive, but in an irresistible, scratching an itch way. They describe themselves as ‘brutalist art-rock’, though originally the trio had a different vision for the band. “I think that as a band we make music that has big, slab like features, deliberate and harsh corners. It’s kind of not pretty but wasn’t meant to be, it’s functional. Although to begin with we were just supposed to be three people doing a Neu!/Salvatore impression (a brilliant Neu! inspired Norwegian band on Racing Junior Records), pure motorik repetition and nothing else,” explains Hiles. “Gradually the old impulses kicked back in and there was a riff, then another, then vocals, then a sense that we all felt this was bigger and deeper than we’d expected to be and we’d woken something powerful and it wouldn’t go back to sleep; that we wanted to do this again, that we had to do this again.”

Speaking to Hiles, one thing that is apparent above all is just how seriously they take the band. There’s a powerful sense of self-awareness and a no bullshit attitude that sets them out as the type of band that we genuinely need. It may not be their first rodeo, but they are no less focused or driven. Though they’ve got the musical pedigree, there’s no sense of self-entitlement here: TANKENGINE are working damn hard to be the best they can be.  

“We’re very aware that we’re three middle class, middle aged white dudes and we’ve really got to earn our right to be heard in a saturated market. We’ve got to be saying something else, something no one else is saying, saying it clearly and well and in a form that works. We can be as righteous as we like but if it is not well expressed as a song we’re entitled to nothing. I want to be proud of what I put out, which means being tight, drilled, meaning it, and delivering.”

TANKENGINE release their debut EP via Sapien Records, and a limited edition cassette on Cruel Nature Records, on 17th May.

 

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