Canadian iconic rockers THE TEA PARTY are heading back to Australia and bringing their genre-defying career to selected intimate venues across Australia starting next week. Complex and provocative THE TEA PARTY will be showcasing a treasure trove of songs from across their incredible catalogue including the new Black River EP and for the first time ever fans will get to witness this in intimate settings across the country. Hi Fi Way spoke to Stuart Chatwood about the tour and even got a sneak preview of Blood Moon Rising which has not been heard outside of the band.
The Tea Party camp must be buzzing with another big tour of Australia about to start almost beyond a resurgence?
Yeah, we had Black River in Canada which went to number two on the rock charts and we’re on a fifty city tour now, we’re not doing the same thing in Canada as in Australia but we are playing venues of different sizes over here. We played our home town of Windsor and there’s 4,500 people there which blew us away with the reaction and that was one of our biggest shows.
In Australia this is our nineteenth tour, yep, and what we’ve tried to do this time is try to recapture some of the magic that broke the band in the first place, so we are playing some outer lying cities in Melbourne and instead of doing the Thebbie in Adelaide we’ve stepped down to a smaller club where you can feel the energy of the band on stage and vice versa we can feel the energy of the crowd. The type of evening it creates magic and memories and we are looking forward to this and slotting in some new songs from the Black River EP which will hopefully be coming out this month.
Even a couple of years ago would you have even contemplated a fifty one date tour?
It is a lot when our manager came up with the dates. Our drummer Jeff Burrows would tour for three hundred dates here if he had the choice, he loves playing and the touring doesn’t bother him in any way. Myself, I have some small children at home and I like to make my video game soundtracks and I have another project with some ambient folk music with celebrity singers like Glenn Campbell, Mavis Staples and Blind Boys of Alabama I like to work on as well. The tour has been going great, we have been getting a long great and the band is tighter than ever. When you reach our age and our age as a band this is our twenty ninth year as band you learn to careless about what people think about you, there’s no insecurities, you just go out there and rock which makes for a great show.
Are there any other special celebrations planned for twenty years of Triptych and thirty years as The Tea Party?
For our thirtieth we are trying to get to more countries than ever, we stopped going to Europe in 2001, we’re trying to light a fire under our managers to get us over to Europe for six or seven shows in 2020. We do have a lot of new music written which is in different stages of production so in addition to this EP this year there will be another EP next year.
Was that a conscious decision to go with an EP?
I’m kind of glad because after a tour like this I think there will be some new nuggets that will be written as well. This is capturing a moment in time so instead of trying to cobble together twelve songs we felt just go with seven songs then next year try and do six or seven songs. Who knows this might be an annual thing and start putting out EP’s more often and fans can feel free to cobble them together in to albums if they like. A lot of the stuff for 2020’s release was written at the same time over two or three years in Byron Bay so there will be some continuity to it somewhat which will be interesting. It is the wild west out there now with Spotify, Apple iTunes and not a lot of people buying full on CD’s, we’re somewhat adapting to the world but at the same time it gets us in to the studio more and the end result is more music for The Tea Party.
Given the band’s journey is this the happy point right now?
It came in waves, when you are a young band and your crowd sizes is growing and growing, we were lucky we got big enough that the next step would of been, like I was saying earlier there’s certain crowd sizes and once you go above one thousand people it starts to become less of an intimate concert and you lose that connection. I can’t imagine if we would have grown to arena size it would have turned in to a different band. All those bands that play arenas turn in to circus performers somewhat and we have always been about writing timeless music and putting on timeless concerts not relying on gimmicks.
We’re pretty happy with where we grew to and nowadays the joy and happiness comes from people having not forgotten The Tea Party. People appreciate us, do come out and know the history of the band, know the songs and some cities, Adelaide being one of them we’ve played a lot so we can play some obscure songs that haven’t been heard as often and will be received well.
In terms of musicianship we’re better than ever I would say, more comfortable and like I said earlier I don’t give a damn what people think. Great freedom comes with that so I would say that this would be this would be the happiest moment , maybe only the second happiest moment to when the band was in its peak second, third record growth spurt where every day was new. Back then to wake up and hear your video was number one or the record was getting played a lot here, tour dates in all these great countries was pretty exciting back then. The difference now is we’re not blaise about it, because we did become blaise somewhat and complacent after sixteen years of that then we took a six year break and got back together completely shifting our gratitude. We’re so thankful people haven’t forgotten about us. Each night now is somewhat of a celebration.
With the new music did you continue to explore and be influenced by a lot of different sounds?
We started off as a blues rock band, each time we would start to write songs it’s like let’s go back to the beginning. Black River is a sure hard hitting blues rock riff. Our first shows were full of that and in a sense it is a return to our former self and another angle we have on this new record is lyrical depth. There is a song dedicated to our sound man of twenty eight years who passed away in January which is called Blood Moon Rising. Unfortunately we did lose our manager in 2003 as well and we wrote Oceans for him. Every once in a while there is something that hits us hard emotionally as a band and we like to put it in to a song. This one has a gospel choir and more of a different tempo for us. Do you want to hear it? [OMG, outside of the band no one else has heard this].
Jeff’s voice is great and he didn’t party to much on this tour and blow it out. Typically when we start a tour he’ll be like I’m staying up until five o’clock in the morning every morning, it’s like OK dude. Luckily there has been no complaints on this tour about his voice including the band members so we’re very happy.
Beyond this tour what is next for The Tea Party?
We do have more music, we probably wrote maybe thirteen songs and we’re actually recording at the Rolling Stones Mobile Truck Recording Studio which is in Calgary, Canada. It is the same one that Smoke On The Water was recorded on it, so was Houses Of The Holy and Physical Graffiti and some of Zeppelin IV. We’re in there for just a day looking to see what we can create using that console and that might end up on our next EP as well.
Do you get awe of being in those surroundings and using that equipment?
Yeah, it is well suited to a band, we’re not plugging in drum machines, we’re actually hitting things that distort. Having the distortion softly clipped by Helios console makes a magic sound and you can really push the meters in to the red. It is going to make things sound better really.
When you have that down time do your side projects fill you with satisfaction?
The Darkest Dungeon 2 is going to start at the end of the summer for me musically. It has been a great game, over three and a half million people bought the game and a lot of people bought the sound track. As a recording artist doing the sound track I think I have a lot more to lose but i really do want to write music that is timeless for the video game as well. I’m not the greatest composer in terms of turning things around quickly so maybe a lot of video game companies shy away from working with me but I have a great relationship and lead time with Red Hook Studios who work on Darkest Dungeon. They know they have to get me stuff earlier and I think The Tea Party schedule is going to line up perfectly and I’m able to dedicate lot of time to the projects.
Are you a gamer yourself?
I used to make my own games in the late seventies and early eighties typing in basics from the magazine. I had a book about machine language which was the nerdiest thing you could imagine.
Interview By Rob Lyon
Catch The tea Party Black River Tour on the following dates. Tickets from Destroy All Lines…