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Albert Allenback is more than just Tank & The Bangas goofy flute guy

Albert Allenback, well known as the tall, lovable, goofy flute and saxophone player in New Orleans’ beloved Tank and the Bangas, is up to some serious stuff these days. 

by Sabrina Stone
January 19, 2021

Albert Allenback, well known as the tall, lovable, goofy flute and saxophone player in New Orleans’ beloved Tank and the Bangas, is up to some serious stuff these days. 

Over the winter holidays, Albert released his first instrumental solo single under the moniker Alb the Builder. Earlier in 2020, his duo project, SaxKixAve, in partnership with rapper extraordinaire Alfred Banks, came out with an EP, a line of merch, a bunch of videos and teasers for what’s to come. With Tank and the Bangas, Albert recorded the EP Friend Goals, dove into dozens of writing sessions and intimate performances and built up an archive of songs that will end up on a full-length release, sometime in 2021. Albert has also dipped his hand into producing several acts, this past year, and with the cache of artists in his corner, this could be the start of whatever he dreams it to be.

For a writer/producer/multi-instrumentalist currently hitting his stride, I expect a level of self-seriousness, maybe even pretension bubbling up, but Albert jumps on the Zoom call with such open-hearted exuberance, the interview quickly feels like more of a conversation with a favorite friend, or a playdate, than a job.

You’ve been touring for over half a decade. What did it feel like to be on hiatus?
“It was super weird at first. I didn’t know that jasmine bloomed multiple times in the Spring. I learned that this year because I was in one place for long enough to notice. By the time I got out of college I was touring, so I didn’t get the chance to learn a lot of this stuff. I’ve become a much better cook. I’ve picked up different hobbies. I’ve found art that I love and learned how to appreciate it. It’s weird to not be touring but it was really, really necessary and it couldn’t have come at a better time for Tank and the Bangas.”  

You haven’t exactly taken a break, though.
“With everybody locked inside, I made so much music. 2020 was ridiculous. I did two songs for a band here in New Orleans called Thelia. Alfred and I put out the SaxKixAve EP and a single and we have songs ready to go. Tank and the Bangas put out an EP. Tank, Josh, Norm and I, we all saw each other because we did a bunch of livestreams, recordings, interviews, we did more on social media than we’ve ever done before as a unit. The downtime wasn’t really downtime but it was time at home to focus on different aspects of this life and make an immense amount of music.”

 

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A post shared by SaxKixAve (@saxkixave)

And you didn’t even mention your solo project.
“Alb the Builder! Yes. I have so much music that I’ve been too scared and too busy to put out. The real challenge right now is working my mind around putting the finishing polish on pieces. I have a few album ideas, possibly a Bob Ross theme. I don’t know what the deal is with sampling Bob Ross, it’s not old enough to be public domain… I also might put out singles instead. I muse about how every artists’ stuff is collected on the internet. The Spotify artist page pulls together songs and kinda makes it an album already.”  

Will the songs be all instrumental?
“I play a lot of instruments on all of them but the next track I’m going to put out is with me singing. It will be the first ever! There’s some Tank and the Bangas stuff where I’m singing backing tracks but this is the only thing where I’ll be singing not as a joke, which is a weird wall to take down.”

One of my excuses for not putting out music before was that I didn’t want to have an entirely instrumental beat project. That can be cool but I love expressing ideas in words and giving the time for reflection that instrumental music provides, so I want to do both of those things. Before I started using my own voice I always thought I had to get one of my friends to help me but now there can be a really nice mix of instrumentals, Albert vocals, and other people’s vocals. [Other people being] Alfred, Thelia, LeTrainiump, Pell– these are just people that I know and love and work with already.” 

How did you suddenly discover that you could sing?
“I’ve had the most vocal practice making songs for my girlfriend, Cally. She really got me to explore this other instrument ‘cause she was like, ‘You have a nice voice’ and I was like, ‘No. There’s no way I can sing’ and then I played one of the songs I made for her for Tank and Tank was like, ‘Who’s this singing? That’s a nice tone’ and I was like, ‘Woah. That’s me!’ That gave me so much confidence.” 

You’ve got a really distinctive style of performing, mainly because I’d imagine It’s hard to have a sense of humor while you’re playing an instrument that goes in your mouth.
“Absolutely!! That’s been the struggle of my whole life. I admire people who play an instrument with their hands ‘cause then they can sing or talk or make a funny face. All you can do on flute or saxophone is, like, eyebrow stuff. Once I realized that, I was like, ‘We have to take this to other areas of the body. We have to move it around.’ Tank actually sent me to a dance coach at some point. Teeny [Etienne Stoufflet] and I were supposed to be learning stuff that we could do in unison, so we actually practiced while doing the moves.” 

 

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A post shared by THELIA (@thelia)

Who are some Louisiana-based flutists you admire?
“Dr. Sarah Schettler who plays with the Louisiana Philharmonic: I took my first flute lessons ever with her, in college. I was new with the Bangas and realized I had to hold it down on a few instruments, so she taught me the good fundamentals that I could take to the gig and be solid on the flute. Then, when I met Cally, she really hooked up my flute playing. Our first time really together in-person was basically a six-hour flute lesson. She’s been playing since the 6th grade, so her whole face is adapted to it.” 

What about saxophone players?
“Ed Peterson at UNO, he is one of the greatest tenor sax players in the world. He actually channels that thing. He takes that part that connects us all and plays that. Rogerick Paulin is amazing. He plays a lot with Delfeayo [Marsalis]. There’s so many saxophone peers that I admire. Ricardo Pascal. You hear these guys and it’s just unreal how good they are. I’ll leave it at those three because they’re the first ones that came to my mind but you know how it is, for sax, in New Orleans, how can you list them? There’s all these luminaries.” 

And how about all-time favorite players?
“Ellis Marsalis. Unbeknownst to me, I was listening to him in elementary school, when I found, on iTunes, this compilation jazz album. It was clearly just a repackage but there was some real shit on there and he was on there with Wynton too. He’s a touchstone. 

George Porter and The Meters. The Meters invented funk, depending on who you ask, and funk was sampled and flipped around to become hip hop. I think what The Meters did is tragically, criminally underrated because a lot of people don’t know them. Depending on how big a statement you want to make, you can say that what they played directly led to the evolution of hip hop. I’ll stand by that. A history of music with Alb the Builder: he got a lot of stuff wrong but at least he was enthusiastic!”

 

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A post shared by Albert (@albthebuilder)

I meant to ask earlier, how did the name “Alb The Builder” come to be?
“Cally. Cally’s responsible for all this, if you can tell. [She named me] Alb the Builder when I built this studio. I learned how to use a drill and to measure and to soundproof. I never thought I would be that guy, ‘cause my dad always tried to teach me that stuff and it didn’t stick. He’s proud of me for music. He’d be proud of me if I wrapped sage for a living and sold it on Etsy but now he really loves being able to talk to me about hardware stores and home improvement projects. Less literally, Alb the Builder is really about building relationships, building music, building a better, more peaceful world, where people feel heard. You can build all kinds of things. That’s what Alb the Builder is.”

 

Sabrina Stone is a NYC born, New Orleans based musician and writer. She’s written for OffBeat Magazine, I’m Music Magazine, Hear.by, Hello Giggles, Quarterlette, Femsplain, The NY Observer’s Scooter, and Huffington Post. She's headlined Bowery Presents' The Mercury Lounge (NYC) and The Toff in Town (Melbourne, AUS), she's played 30+ gigs at "NYC's Oldest Rock Club," The Bitter End, and has three albums out on Spotify, with a fourth on the way. That newest album sold 200+ physical copies in its first week at Peaches Records. email: sabrinastonedoesstuff[at]gmail.com instagram: @sabrinastonemusic facebook: @sabrinastonemusic twitter: @sabrina_s_music

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