Interview & words: Lou Walters
Image: courtesy Jo Corbett Publicity
“…No, there is no room for failure at all. That’s just not the way The Tea Party works, so if we do something we put our wills behind it and our integrity, which has always been the case. It does not fail. It just can’t,” says Tea Party front man Jeff Martin, fiercely and defiantly down the line to me.
I like it. Being an avid Tea Head and finally rejoicing at a solid and impressive Tea Party album The Ocean At The End after 10 years, I smile down the phone, nodding my head.
Resilient and unique, The Tea Party’s career began in 1990 in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Jeff Martin had a thirst for getting his ear drums wrapped around any Indian or Middle Eastern music he could find traipsing across the Detroit River by boat to purchase any LP’s he couldn’t pronounce the names of. Fascinated by the Eastern tunings and rhythms, but with a love of classic rock bands such as The Beatles and Led Zeppelin, who successfully fused the East and The West whilst being solid rocking, Martin shared the music with his band mates in 1991, and the inspiration and writing magic began, affectionately dubbed ‘Moroccan-Roll’ by the media. After 7 studio albums, selling 1.6 million records worldwide, The Edges of Twilight is certified double platinum in Canada and platinum in Australia, a fascinating career abruptly ended in 2005.
Here we are, present day after setting differences, countless other less-successful bands and solo careers, the band absolutely shines on this record.
“…Nothing could compare to the feeling, to the elation of the three of us coming back together again and being able to make the incredible music that is The Tea Party’s music. I can’t really speak for Jeff and Stuart because that’s their tale to tell, but personally my journey in those 7 years was to find the joy of making music again for all the right reasons. Not for the wrong reasons, for the right reasons. Once I found that again and I found my strength and my focus and my will again, then and only then was I prepared to step back into the collective known as The Tea Party and to really be able to bring everything that I am and everything that I have and my abilities to bring it back into the fold. That being said, here we are, the ocean at the end.”
The Tea Party sound comfortable, clever, interesting, all knowing; they’ve even forged past nostalgia. There are fresh songs with classic throwbacks and the album has an undoubtable force about it, a presence. The intricacies, the content, the rhythms, the poetry, the melodies are all created to enlighten the clever individual with a penchant for the dark-side and/or interesting Eastern tunings.
The 8:38 epic title track is moody, progressive, ambient and one of Jeff’s favorites. “I would say that one of my proudest moments on the records would probably be The Ocean at the End the song and the guitar work on that. It’s something that I just really wanted to get my Dad off my back…”You’re one of the best rock guitarists in the world and you don’t play any guitar solos?” he kept saying. I was just like, “Okay, dad I’ll show you.”
The striking, insightful and very personal album artwork was painted in oil paint by a personal friend of the band for over 12 years, Alessandro Bavaria. “Let’s just say that he shares many of the esoteric pursuits and passions that I do. I just feel very blessed that Alessandro’s a part of what we do and he really gets the spiritual behind what The Tea Party’s music is.”
Tea Party fans are a devoted, amorous, (and very patient!) bunch, with Australia consistently being the band’s largest fan base during the 24 year journey, even more than their homeland of Canada. “For the new fans I’d just say welcome. It’s a very special thing. This music that this band makes and the concerts and whatnot, it’s certainly not going to stop for a very long time now. For those that have yet to discover The Tea Party, it’s quite simple. It’s just that if you want rock and roll music that actually moves you, moves your soul, period, then you come to us”, Jeff concludes. And I concur.