The Tea Party – Across The Ocean

The Tea Party

The Tea Party are returning to Australia for a big tour to commemorate twenty years of the infamous album The Edges Of Twilight playing it in its entirety from top to bottom. Speaking to Across The Ocean ahead of this tour Jeff Burrows reveals a nice scoop about their plans to write, rehearse and record their following up album to last years The Ocean At The End.

the-tea-party-promo

Life seems to get better and better for The Tea Party doesn’t it?

This has been pretty amazing, we’re having a riot!

Do you feel a sense of pride being able to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of The Edges Of Twilight?

You know what, we do. To be honest I was the one who brought up the idea of celebrating the twenty year concept. I had seen other bands do it and hadn’t given much thought to it previously. Once we got back together, reuniting, in 2011 testing the waters and doing a tour the bridges were mended, then we wrote and released new material. It was great and we love touring and playing together so much this album amongst all the rest, most notably in Australia, really set the tone for the band and the people of Australia who came to see us, really set that relationship up for what we have been able to do in Australia. The livelihood and the endless tours we have been able to do and enjoy in Australia truly has a blessing.

Australians realise that for us to go there is like our second home and I get excited like I do a family member every time and they say “hey Australia is calling you guys”. I’m like, I’m in! It is one of those opportunities that not many people get to do and truly solidifies that fact that you don’t want to be that person doing something that they don’t want to be doing as a career or as a job. For us it’s just what we do. For this album there is a huge sense of pride because this is what launched us and the tone for our music career and how we wanted to be perceived, not as a generic rock band, we do appreciate generic rock bands as this is not a slight on anyone, but we enjoy doing and the different types of music and instruments and we can do that.

There are not a lot of bands that can say that the moment they take that path and veer off that normal path of rock band it is unsuccessful commercially which was the complete opposite for us. That opened the doors for us to be able to do whatever the hell we wanted post that album. It made people realise something is different and made it all the easier to let us perform this record from top to bottom. It has been amazing and sometimes as a band you can fall in to the routine, which is never boring, but can be predictable. Whereas performing this album has been completely unpredictable and it should be noted that we are not playing note for note. The songs are in order off the album but we veer off in the songs, the songs have been extended, the drum bits are stronger and it is all over the map in typical Tea Party fashion.

Playing smaller venues must add to this whole Tea Party experience?

It will be a blast in Adelaide!

Do you remember 1995 quite vividly particularly when you finished recording the album and just knowing that you nailed it?

You know what? That feeling lasted for quite a while because the demo process on that album was quite extensive. We were writing a lot on the road so by the time we sat down to record, drums with two mics and guitars direct in to what not just to get an resemblance of what the songs are going to sound like when they’re slightly mixed it was like we were high. It was like these drums are going to go here, once we can afford these little percussion drums they can go here, then once we can afford these string instruments they can go here. Shockingly, we always had the nightmares about the record companies but Capitol and EMI in Canada and around the around were stoked becaue we were so prepped and ready.

We wound up in Los Angeles at a young age surrounded by LA, you only read about it back then, by the time we hit the studio we were already running and in our minds we were already successful because it just had the legs. I think we knew for some strange reason these songs would be successful. It was the strangest feeling and anyone who had heard it thought it was so weird but so cool. It was quite an exciting time and was strange being in that position. Jeff Martin is pretty quiet, I mean we’re really quiet and Jeff is the most vocal one when he is confident in our music. Whereas at the time I was more cautiously optimistic because I didn’t want to go out there chest beating but deep down it was fact and this album was something special. Commercially it proved to be so and for us it was a successful whether or not it found success or not. I’m glad it did because it did launch us and give us that opportunity to really continue to do this as a profession because it is a hard industry, it really is. There are so many great bands out there that have never been afforded that opportunity and we’re quite fortunate.

Playing this album, which has stood the test of time, do you find yourself getting nostalgic?

Absolutely, when it really hit me was when, about a year ago, we started working on the project itself. As soon as the last studio album came out we started discussing this. I started thinking to myself I don’t want to think about this right now. We’re touring The Ocean At The End and having a great time and it’s a fantastic record, blah, blah, blah. Then I was asked to find demos and Stuart being the keeper of all important things dug the DAT tapes and had them converted at the record company because no one has DAT machines anymore.

Once I got those it hit me, back in 1995 I didn’t have any children then and it takes you right back. Renting my first apartment with my young wife and we had no money and it’s the happiest time of your life but didn’t realise it. Just the places we wound up recording our demos from girlfriend’s parents basements to down the road above this old beat up restaurant where there was a storage where they let us record. It is pretty amazing when you think back what we actually done. These days it’s like we’re going to hit up our rehearsal space and make sure we have the proper monitoring system and all this bullshit. Back then it was bring in the drums, bring in the guitars and let’s do this. It was brilliant and it was uncomplicated. It shows how time has progressed and it doesn’t necessarily lead to better things just makes things more complicated.

The simplicity at the time was fantastic. In saying that and as simple as it is, as much as what is going on with that album because there is so much going on it is still very much quite simple. The way and the context Jeff used, the exotic stringed instruments and layering as opposed to the compounding of these instruments, I suppose the placements in my eyes are done so well because they don’t take away from a guitar part or the guitar part does not take away the percussion part or anything. It truly is a simple album as a finite finished product whereas there is so much craziness going on, the way it was mixed Jeff tackled that quite nicely.

Was it a tough job going through all the tapes working out what to put on the bonus disc?

There was a lot but not as much as we actually did, we did so many acoustic performances. I don’t know how you are but do you remember the days of the in-stores where you’d show up at the record shop and play an acoustic set and album signings. Those are the things that are firmly etched in my mind and I still have photos of us in Australia, New Zealand Germany. Germany, especially, I don’t how many times we wound up at The World Of Music in every city no matter what. Those are the types of recordings I wish we had a little more of. Surprisingly, they are out there but finding the time to get them together was a bit of a task.

What we wound up with here and what we put on that second disc was kind of different, the demos themselves, a lot of them were so close to the actual recording meant we couldn’t put it on as it almost sounds the same which lead us to think why the hell we went to Los Angeles to spend all that money. When you’re a kid you go wherever the record company tells us to. If they want to send us LA, ok!

Is it hard letting go of demos in to the public domain?

After twenty years I’m not bothered by it at all, I like the subtle nuances, the mistakes, the off times, the speeding up and so on. I’ve got no problem here, at this point I don’t think so. I think we have come full circle. The next writing session is a short one immediately in Australia once this tour is done back at Jeff’s place on the east coast and then we’re off and meet in Buffalo, Niagara Falls for New Year’s. Maybe there will be a couple of shows after that. We have a massive writing session in Australia in February and we are not going in to studio for the next album, I think I can say this now, we are going to be writing, rehearsing and recording all at the same time in Cairns.

When we heard those demos, we are at the point now between Jeff and Stuart behind the board recording and mixing, we might bring in our mixing friends to mix the record to have a new set of ears, we are literally going from ground zero to one hundred percent in this space at Jeff’s place. It is going to be fantastic. In essence, listening to the demos from Edges Of Twilight has been of a huge service instead of flying back and forth because Jeff lives there wasting precious time, we want to get out and tour and be able to do what we love to do, our recording process even though we loved the final product took so long. It got to be a drag, Jesus Christ, when can we release this fucking thing! Now, we’re thinking fuck it, we’re going in and keep doing it until it is done. We’re pretty jazzed about some of the ideas.

Can you promise you won’t do this drip feed bullshit that some bands do by releasing a song at a time?

No, it will be one cohesive unit. I don’t think anyone has been told that so you have a breaking story.

What is the background to the song on the bonus disc called Time?

Time is released on something already, well I think it was, my memory goes! That is Roy Harper, an amazing folk artist from the UK who toured with us on our first album. Jeff and Roy have become very good friends, Jeff was working with Roy when he was living in Ireland and was working on one of Roy’s solo records and they came up with that song. It was great to have Roy Harper as part of that song. Roy was visiting a friend in Los Angeles when we were recording and he popped in to the studio for a few days and said let’s record this song.

It was Pink Floyd-ish in the fact that he sang Half A Cigar, was like hey yeah man! It was pretty amazing, he’s such a crazy out there pure artist. One of those guys who will say and do the most off the wall things, which is not unusual to see him do it and doesn’t throw you for a loop for a second. He is so honest and loveable crazy, off the wall, love him, he is a true artist. He was best friends with Keith Moon, John Bon, so cool.

What do you think remastering brought out in the re-release?

Mastering, that process it can change the entire concept of a record, it really can. Although the nuances are subtle in the mastering process compared to the mixing process to the final product of an album when it’s mixed before it is mastered, what it essentially does is smooth out these and brings down those. This process opened it up a little bit more and made it a little more accessible for modern technology and bumped up certain bits that Jeff wanted bumped up and brought down certain other bits. It is just another way to interpret it, but mastering itself just gives it a little more breath when you’re able to remaster something from twenty years ago. It makes it fresh again.

Are some songs harder to pick up again having not played them in a while?

Some songs we have never played live so some of them were crazy and some were less. Fire In The Head we have always done it, The Bazaar is always in there as well, Correspondences was really nice to come back to and we haven’t done that in a while, Silence I don’t think we have ever done and that is a lot of fun. That’s like an old country romp and we have a good time doing that and the crowd gets right in to it with the hand clapping and so on. It certainly wasn’t difficult, we had smiles from ear to ear doing it, we don’t really play it note for note, we do our best to incorporate, the elements were in there. Jeff does a pretty amazing job whipping out the hurdy gurdy and the various stringed instruments and so on, there’s pauses in the middle of some songs for Jeff to change instruments three time, that’s part of our show. We’re not apologising for it or denying it, it has to happen. If you want to hear the hurdy gurdy and stringed instruments you have to wait for Jeff to finishes it, takes it off and Kenny passes him a guitar to get in to the meat of the song.

The audiences have been flabbergasted as we are especially the hardcore fans who can’t believe we’re playing this album. I mean, it is pretty great to hear some of the reactions of some of the fans and friend after the shows. As far as the rehearsals, we rehearsed two and a half days and that’s one thing Jeff doesn’t like to do is over rehearse. Sometimes I wonder why the hell we’re in this room, the shows are going to get better and better as we go along. We’ve done all of Canada and Australia is in for a treat because it is finely tuned. It’s organised chaos, it’s good!

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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