The Tea Party – Across The Ocean

The Tea Party

The Tea Party are back in a big way with their first album in ten years titled The Ocean At The End. If that wasn’t enough they are kicking off their world tour in their “second home” Australia. Jeff Burrows talks to Across The Ocean about making the album, getting older and reforming this great band that he loves.


Congratulations on the album, it must be a good feeling having finished your first album in ten years?

It was like a little two step process, I was super excited that we reformed and were able to start playing again then the doubts were amongst us as to whether we could actually write together again and once we were able to do that I was pretty happy about that.

The last tour of Australia in 2012 was a special moment and at that moment did you think it was only going to be a reunion tour?

We weren’t quite sure but we were able to find the magic to play together still and that was nice but we didn’t know if we would be able to write together because that’s a different animal right? It’s no easy thing to do for anyone I don’t think, maybe Paul McCartney! It is a difficult thing to do and write with people and come up with some good ideas, I was quite happy about it.

Being older, wiser and having the benefit of time when you look back are you surprised why The Tea Party broke up?

I’m not surprised things fell apart but I’m ashamed to say that it took us so long to mend the separation and the bridge that had been broken. It seems like the older you get and the more you analyse things you realise that life is just too short and if you have people in your life that you love and something in your life that you love you should be embracing that and celebrating that as opposed to harbouring ill will and living life miserably. We don’t have to have fans, we don’t have to have tours and so on. This would be just as good for me if at least all I got out of it was friendships that were solid because life is so short. I kept having these existential moments when we were apart thinking about what am I doing, where am I going, what is meant to be and what is going to become of what the band once was. It was a very weird time, it truly was.

It must be a huge buzz knowing how much love there is for The Tea Party in Australia?

Yeah, we’re celebrating it, we’re shocked by the reaction here even more so now we’re shocked by the reaction with the album coming out later in Europe. Management are starting to talk about dates there and even reviews from country we’ve never played in like the Czech Republic and Spain. It’s bizarre to me! I’m just loving it and no one is taking anything for granted. This is our second home so this is the place where we are kicking it all off. We’re getting ready for rehearsals and it will be fabulous, I’m pretty excited.

There must be less pressure knowing that you can just rock up and play and the fans will dig it?

Don’t say that! There’s a tonne of pressure but you’ve got to turn that pressure in to positive energy. There’s always pressure and I don’t think anybody puts as much pressure on us than ourselves. It’s just the three of us and it’s not just your basic three chord rock so there is a little bit of pressure that way and I’m one of the few that rehearse for rehearsals. I’m primed and ready to go but we still to develop that music telepathy that you need on stage when you’re acting out and doing it like a finely tuned machine.

How was the whole process of being creative again and did it feel strange after not having done this in such a long time?

It was different but we thought about exactly what we wanted and how we wanted to get there. The best and easiest way for us to do that to go back to the way we used to do it in the very early ages of the band. It was literally a bass guitar, electric guitar and some drums in a room and we just started playing. It wasn’t like I’m going to sit at home and come up with a really nifty idea on my keyboard and overproduce it at home and do some demos before I brought it to the band. It was some very cool ideas brought in by everyone and just hashed it out that way. First half was done in Byron Bay and the second bit done in our home town which was nice as well.

Did it take a long time to get to that point?

No, once we were in the room the creative juices started flowing. Not everything was out of the ball park and ready to go on the album or anything but it was good to have something to work on and come back to it the next day and go “no’ that’s not where we’re headed, let’s leave that alone and move on to something else. It was really nice and a great way to get back in to it by going back full circle in to the most simplest way we could possibly do it. It worked out wonderfully.

Do you think you were harder on yourselves in terms of the music that you were writing and recording?

It’s a strange thing you know, you’re aware of what’s going on because of age and a little bit of wisdom you’re more aware of the industry and all of that BS. When you’re younger you don’t give a shit, this is what I’m doing. I love this, bam, bam, bam and you’re just going for it, not like we were trying to accomplish anything other than what we were aiming for this time but you start thinking should we record drums to tape as it’s going to take that much longer and we could do it quickly here and so on. We wanted that warmth and we knew many of the labels would be releasing it on vinyl and we knew many of the fans would want that audiophile experience. I think you’re always constantly questioning yourself to your reach the point where you put your hands in the air and say fuck it let’s do it the way we want to do it and if it comes out well we should be happy with the end result. If someone else likes it even better!

Vinyl! Are you surprised by the resurgence in vinyl?

I think everything is cyclical and it isn’t on the verge on becoming quite popular yet. We’re selling thousands of copies on vinyl in Europe with this record. It has something to do with the fact that people are so inundated with everything from their personal hand held devices to their iPods to the laptop to this and what not it’s about instant accessibility. My phone is literally buzzing with messages and emails during this interview with things I have to deal with but I think people are learning to turn off the world around them. There is something really cool about the process of taking out an album and placing it on to that machine, looking at the liner notes and seeing what’s written and having to lift up that needle – it’s a process! There’s something very romantic about being a part of that process rather than turning it on and it being instantly in your ears from your device, there’s nothing special about that. There’s more to it, I think people are starting to realise that there are certain things in life, music is so religious to so many people, it’s something that should be cared for and nurtured, be a part of ceremony. I don’t want to get to crazy about it but I think people are starting to take the time to treat themselves properly and treat their ears with respect and give themselves an experience as opposed to just loading them up with crappy ear phones on a hand held device.

Was there recording sessions quite productive and are there plans for the leftovers to make an EP or some other release?

Some may make another release, there was one song Black Roses which was an acoustic song which we had from thirteen years ago that ended up fitting perfectly. It’s one of my favourite songs on this record and there were some that didn’t quite fit, work out or we couldn’t get to a bridge or just be able to come out of this part. We have all of those still and we have kept all of those. Stuart has files going back to 1989, hilarious.

Will be a tough job of working out the set list and seeing how the new and old fit together?

That’s where we’re at right now, literally! We want to put in four or five new songs from this record but we realise a lot of the staples from the catalogue mean a lot to a lot of people whether you’re fifty five years old now and meant a lot when you were thirty five or thirty five and the song meant a lot to you in high school. We realise that as we have our favourite bands we like to go and see and want to hear certain songs. It’s a balancing act but we’ll make it very entertaining because we need to be entertained.

Taking The Superjesus on tour makes for an awesome double bill doesn’t it?

What are your thoughts on that as I haven’t heard what people have to say about them? I know people love The Superjesus but I don’t know about them and us together… [Awesome Adelaide band, they’re experiencing their own resurgence and Jeff and Sarah have great on stage chemistry]. Yeah? I can’t wait to see them.

Rob Lyon

Rob Lyon

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rob Lyon has been writing about all things music for well over ten years in Adelaide clocking up more live shows each year seeing the best going round.

Whether it is rummaging through vinyl at record stores such as Clarity and Title finding hidden gems to scouring the internet to find that album by the next big thing or chasing bands to get that elusive autograph and photo his passion is music all the way.
Rob Lyon

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