With their 1991 arrival album Splendor Solis, Canadian trio The Tea Party laid out their table with a thrilling mix of weighty rock with Led Zeppelin overtones, acoustic interludes, Middle Eastern vibes and Jim Morrison-like vocals.
Having lost their way a little in the late 90s when experimenting with their sound and style, new album Blood Moon Rising sees a return to the flavoursome brew of their first couple of albums. We had a chat with guitarist/vocalist Jeff Martin over a cuppa.
It’s thirty years since your first album. What are the main differences in approach between then and now?
I think over time we’ve refined ourselves. The Edges Of Twilight, our second record, was when we put out all the bells and whistles – this is going to be our statement: a Moroccan-roll band. As we went on down the line, it became that you don’t have to make things so apparent; there can be nuances.
Would you agree that the new album sounds mostly like a return to The Tea Party of the first two albums?
I would. Some records after Edges Of Twilight – Transmission, Triptych – with me being the producer, I kind of got away from me being a guitarist. Jeff [Burrows, drums/percussion] and Stuart [Chatwood, bass/keyboards] encouraged me to play electric guitar again and write riffs.
Which track are you particularly pleased with?
Black River is one. I believe the guitar riff is one of the great guitar riffs in rock’n’roll. I’m really proud of the guitar work on that.
The cover of Led Zep’s Out On The Tiles was always going to be a good fit, but the ones of Joy Division’s Isolation and Morrisey’s Everyday Is Like Sunday might surprise a lot of Tea Party fans.
When I was a teenager, when it came to lyrics, for me it was [Joy Division’s] Ian Curtis. There’s such a beautiful darkness in what he would do. The Morrissey thing, Burrows and I went through that whole new wave thing in high school, so it was just something from our far-away past. And it worked.
What’s the key to mixing ‘exotic’ musical elements with rock and making it work?
I’ve studied theory, and when I hear music from, say, the Middle East, I understand what I’m listening to. It’s a different language, and you have to understand the language in order to be able to do that.
You disbanded in 2005. Did the music you each got involved in after the split feed new ideas into the band when you eventually reunited in 2011?
I think it did. Up until the split, everything was on my shoulders – producer, engineer, main songwriter. When we took that time off, Stuart went into composing for videogames, things like that. Jeff had his own bands, and he was at the helm of that. When we got back together I had a better support team than what I’d had.
You have a substantial catalogue of songs now. Which are some of the must-plays when you play live?
Songs like Sister Awake, The Bazaar, Temptation. If we didn’t do those three songs, there would be a riot. But it’s carte blanche for the rest of it. For Tea Party fans, we could do anything as long as it was delivered with integrity.