They’re possibly the first and only band to exclusively sell pants as merchandise. Tantz are a sextet of unruly and frenzied instrumentalists hailing from Leeds that fuse Yiddish melodies, hip hop grooves and jazz-like virtuosity into a seamless labyrinth of high octane hyper-klezmer. With live-slots at Shambala festival, BoomTown, Knockengorroch and Kendal Calling this year, Voodoo caught up with guitarist Ben Danzig to find out more about their music, and of course, Tantz pants (because I totally want some).
“I think we each claim credit for the Tantz pants idea,” Ben recollects. “I’m convinced it’s rooted in Aran’s (clarinet) method of explaining our band name to people after gigs, ‘Tantz…it’s like pants but with a t and a z.’” And rightly so! The group recently brought their pants and treacherously quick tempos to the Brit Awards after party back in February to play alongside Brighton’s Gypsy Disco, an interactive theatre collective of fire-breathers, belly dancers and circus performers. “It was a pretty surreal gig but we met a lot of cool people, not sure about A-listers though, I’m not up to date with the pop music world so I wouldn’t have known who they were anyway!” The band also finished their debut UK tour in February too. “Nine sleepless nights fuelled by pure adrenaline and coffee, it was awesome.”
Tantz have swiftly risen as festival favourites among gypsy and balkan-beat enthusiasts and perhaps most interestingly without the bravado of an MC or vocalist. “There’s not an abundance of Yiddish speaking singers around and I don’t feel that our music is lacking because we don’t have a vocalist. Most traditional klezmer music is instrumental so we have kept it that way.”
It’s curious to see a band sticking to their traditional roots while electronically innovating and crossing genres. “That’s the handy work of our percussionist and sampler man Dwayne Kilvington; he studied music production while we were all studying jazz at Leeds College of Music.” Ben continues “Dwayne’s heavily into hip hop and DJs under the alias Wonky Logic, Matt Holborn (drums) also performs electronic music with Paper Tiger and The Matt Halsall Trio. Arran, Pete and I play a lot of gypsy and jazz fusion too.”
They have, however, remixed their album’s title track Etrog Pomander with Paper Tiger’s MC Raph Attar. Take a gander…
“I’m a Tantz fan, even got the pants man,” – MC Raph Attar.
Ben’s traditional klezmer roots lie in his Jewish home life and this background undoubtedly carries into Tantz’s music. “I grew up in a house-hold where klezmer music was being played almost constantly; my granddad was a woodwind player and there were always tapes lying around.” Ben continues “The track names on Etrog Pomader are all traditional klezmer tunes, apart from the title track which is original. An Etrog is a lemon like fruit that’s used as part of a ceremony of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot and Pomander is when you stick a load of cloves inside post Sukkot.”
“We’re taking our first trip abroad this year to Germany, but we’re especially excited to play Knockengorroch festival in Scotland again. We’ve been there for the last two years and we’ve been really well received.” The band remains humble and hardworking, “We’ve never been as busy as we are now. The gigs we do are incredibly, incredibly fun so our ultimate goal is to just keep doing what we’re doing, but to take every good opportunity presented to us, so we can do more of it!”