The Tea Party Finds Light In “The Ocean at the End”
Years after a crushing separation, both for the band itself and its rigorous following, The Tea Party is back, and they’re back to stay. The ninth studio offering from the Canadian rockers entitled “The Ocean at the End,” represents much growth and evolution from the band, yet, it provides the comforting feel of those lucky favourite sneakers you never want to get rid of. Back in 2005 Jeff Martin decided he wanted to break off into a solo regime, leaving the Party in shambles. Move forward to 2011, and the Party announces they are back, but not sure in what capacity. Now with this new album released, plenty of touring lined up, and fans lined up out the doors to get tickets to see their cherished 90s favourite – it’s clear the Party is never going to stop. There was a moment in time where fans, and the three men that make the Party thought they would never see this day come again, bit now they are living the dream once again. After playing a show at Hamilton Place Theatre on Tuesday, Nov. 25, the Tea Party stopped by Toronto to do some press just before doing a night’s stint at the Kool Haus, Thursday. Nov. 27. Drummer Jeff Burrows took time out of his busy schedule to speak with Martyr’s Devin Size to provide some behind-the-scenes insights on the new and improved Party.
DS: So first of all, great to see you guys back in action, but how’s it really going between the three of you now, on and off the stage?
Burrows: Well, we’ve been discussing this a bit recently – it kind of happened in two folds. When the first offers came in for us to get back together, it was essentially about the offers, some festivals wanted us, so we talked it over. Nothing came to fruition. This was at a time when our old manager was calling me and saying “why don’t you just talk to Jeff [Martin]?” I said okay, even though it was very nerve-wracking, but I did it. This came to that, and by the time we were in agreement to do a run of shows, much to our surprise – or maybe not to our surprise – musically everything was fine. It was icy when we first got in a room together, and it’s weird to even think that way now, but the first little bit was definitely weird. There was tension, everyone had their guard up, Jeff would only speak to us in a certain way – very to himself. Personally I was the one trying to mend the fence between everyone. I become the middle man in most things, but that’s fine. Things have just gradually gotten stronger and stronger. That’s the first fold.
That part really forced everyone to grow up, you know, as human beings. Respectful and responsible human beings. About a year into everything, playing shows, playing songs we already knew how to play backwards, we did a pretty big Australian tour and recorded a live album/DVD which was very successful. Then it came down to “what do we want to do?” When we started going into writing sessions it was like a blank slate, we’re bringing nothing in here but our guitars and bass, drums, and a mic, and let’s see what happens. We did, and after two sessions, one in Perth and one in Ontario, things just started really really coming together. Communication is getting much better, again looking back now it seems strange that we were so distant at one point. I’m proud to call them my brothers, my best friends. I’m almost grateful for the breakup now, for the position it’s put us in now.
DS: It’s true that when you go through these types of hardships, you grow and learn from the experience.
Burrows: Yeah, you read about it all the time and you don’t expect it to really happen. I’ve worked so hard on this and focused on it, reflected on it and dissected it, you know, given myself therapy on this! [laughs] There it is, it’s clear as day now. I finally get what everyone was talking about.
DS: Well it seems like you’ve always been the clairvoyant one – the voice of reason in the group – even from day one when the breakup first happened, don’t you think?
Burrows: [laughs] How did you know that?
DS: Oh, I don’t know, from the way you handled the fallout after Martin’s abrupt announcement back in 2005, the way you jumped to diffuse the situation.
Burrows: Yeah, that’s true, I forgot about all that. Like I said it’s hard to think about those times, doesn’t make sense now. It was very immature.DS: So let’s talk a little about the new album. You guys got together, played some live shows, that was great. But now people are aware that you’re here to stay, and now you’ve released your ninth studio album together The Ocean at the End – after all these years, how does it feel to have this out?
Burrows: Honestly, this album has been better received critically than any other album. I don’t know if it is because of our absence, but I’d like to think it’s more about the songs and the fact that we’re still not a band that tries to go out there and write radio songs. We just do what we want and however it comes out, it comes out. We’re very proud of it. The process was very organic. It was just a bunch of guys getting together in two rooms and writing and writing, filling in blanks and coming up with riffs for those blanks. In the end it was just like having this wonderful monster called “The Ocean at the End.” It’s weird, because without specifically thinking or saying that we’re going to go back and do it the way we used to, that’s exactly what happened. All of us, being back together in one room, writing together. Jeff’s big ideas really sparked creativity, it’s fantastic to be honest.
DS: It feels that way, organic as you say. People have always loved your sound because it’s pure unadulterated rock, and this album really seems to epitomize your roots rock sound.
Burrows: That’s what it’s always been for us, and it’s all us. We have no label, we funded this record ourselves. We really didn’t have management in the fold, no agreement for management had been rehashed as of yet. So it was up to us, and only us. We’re an indie band, and that’s what we always wanted to do. No one’s going to tell us how to do it, we’ve always followed that path and that’s how things have turned out so well. We’re pretty proud of the fact that it’s entirely self-produced, and we chose who we wanted to mix and master it ourselves. It was a great process. Jeff has said it many times that no one could possibly wrap their minds around exactly what the “Tea Party” is. There’s so many varied influences that come into what turns into our record.
DS: I like the title of the album too, it seems like a cool metaphor for the upstream journey you guys have taken back to where you are now, and the flood gates are wide open for you guys, much like a stream’s end at the ocean.
Burrows: It’s got a nautical theme too! I’m not sure how that happened. I know that Jeff’s studio in Perth looks out to the Indian Ocean, and that is the ocean at the end. So that was his influence for the title there. The whole nautical and metaphorical themes, [laughs] I’m really not sure what happened there.
DS: SO speaking of Australia, you guys just did a big tour there again, and now you’re back home for this leg of the tour, played Hamilton last night, that was really nostalgic for you guys, and now tomorrow night you’re playing the Kool Haus here in Toronto, how does it feel?
Burrows: It feels great, the best part is that you get to see so many people that have been a part of the band since day one, your life, your band life, for so many years. Record companies come and go, publicists come and go, writers come and go, etc. But, yeah these Canadian shows have been amazing, and we’re kicking off three straight nights tomorrow, with the Kool Haus, the Metropolis in Montreal and then off the Buffalo. And man, this Kool Haus show is turning into a real monster. Everyone has been asking to be guest-listed and it’s been awesome, and really we’re going to kick some ass tomorrow. Pretty pumped after that Hamilton show. We’re in mint shape, Jeff’s vocals are just stellar right now. Everyone’s hands and fingers are in shape and we’re ready to really bust it. If you’ve ever been on the fence about coming out to see the band, now’s the time to come out. How’s that for a sales pitch?
DS: It’s going to be awesome, but kind of sad too, considering the Kool Haus isn’t going to be around much longer, right?
Burrows: I know. I heard that we may be the last rock band that plays there too, so I’m telling you, we may burn it down.
Interview by Devin Size, Martyr Magazine