THE TEA PARTY have had more than their fair share of break-ups and make-ups, but frontman Jeff Martin’s confidence in their new album and upcoming tour is higher than ever.
“It’s surreal, but we’re an achievement and an accomplishment,” he says. “I’m very proud of the three of us; that we overcame what seem now to be very petty differences, but at the time we thought to be much more than they were. The music won the battle and brought our friendship and this very important band back together. There are a lot of great rock bands out there, but there’s nothing like The Tea Party, and I think it’s good that we’re back. The mental framework of the band is better than ever, so here we are.”
The Canadian rock trio formed in 1990, but split in 2005 due to the dreaded ‘creative differences’, before reforming in 2011. Their new album The Ocean at the End is their first since 2004’s Seven Circles.
“It’s everything you want,” Martin says. “Everything that The Tea Party is capable of doing is on that record, and that’s a lot. That’s a lot of music on one record. It’s exactly what we need to be like now, you know? For ourselves and for our fans. Over the course of the years we were apart, promoters were calling our various agents with massive offers to get the band back together. The wounds were pretty deep for the three of us, then after seven years my agent called me and asked if I’d entertain the idea, and I was like ‘you know what? Yeah.’ Time had passed and I missed The Tea Party, and I missed Jeff [Burrows, drums] and Stuart [Chatwood, bass]. I was game, and if the other two were ready, so was I. And that was that. Musically, it was on fire immediately from the first rehearsal, although it was icy for the first few months as we tried to feel each other out, since we hadn’t spoken for seven years. That being said, I’ve known Jeff Burrows since I was five years old. Lots of bands say they’re like brothers or whatever, but this band truly is, as we’ve known each other that long. We just had to learn to trust and respect each other again; we’ve each grown with our own individual experiences and I think it’s now better than ever.”
Ontario-born Martin now lives in Perth, so it was an easy choice for the band to re-find their musical feet on Australian soil; the result being a 2012 live album entitled Live From Australia.
“The criteria that the three of us initially held in our minds was firstly, can we be that great rock band again and make that magic on-stage?” Martin says. “Yes, we ticked off that box with the reformation tour. Point two: can we rekindle that beautiful friendship that has to exist for us to continue? We ticked that box off. I had to also prove things to Jeff and Stuart, and also to myself – and we won’t go into it or anything – but towards the end of The Tea Party the ship lost its captain, you know? I sort of went off the rails, so I had to prove to myself, Jeff and Stuart that I could be the captain of the ship again. Then it was time to say we have to make music, but the one thing we did realise was if The Tea Party was going to come up with a new record, it has to stand up to anything we’ve done in the past; it’s got to be that good or else don’t do it at all. That’s why we took our time over a year and a half. We did four recording sessions, two writing sessions and we did them in tiny blocks of time, stepping away and coming back. It’s our statement now; it’s exactly where we’re at, so let’s go forth and conquer.”
An upcoming nine-date national tour will give fans a chance to reacquaint themselves with a band that has made Australia its honorary home in recent years.
“Australians have great taste,” Martin says. “Still to this day, there’s a great rock ‘n’ roll audience in Australia. Many of the great bands that came out of Australia had to prove themselves in the pubs; the INXSs, the Midnight Oils and all that stuff, right? They had to be a great live band to make rock ‘n’ roll fans go ‘yes’. I think that’s why Australian audiences have been so passionate about The Tea Party, because when we’re on we’re one of the best there is. Australians really appreciate the musicianship and passion that we put into it, you know? I want the band to be at its very best when we’re playing here and for it to be firing on all cylinders. It’s going to be a big campaign, about two-and-a-half years, but for music of the band, Australia is very much its home.”
When asked whether The Tea Party are back for the long haul, Martin once again answers with towering confidence.
“I’ll tell you this. I don’t know if it was an e-mail or text, but I got it from Stuart a couple of weeks ago saying he’s already booked pre-production in Vancouver for 2016. So apparently we’re making another record [laughs]. We’ll be touring Australia and making some great memories. Following that, we’ll do Canada, then take a couple of months off. After that, the world is calling. We’ve got Asia, South America, Europe; we’ve made a commitment to ourselves and this music, as well as the fans, and for us it’s the real deal. I’m looking forward to it.”
THE TEA PARTY PLAY:
MELBOURNE PALAIS THEATRE – OCT 12
SYDNEY ENMORE THEATRE – OCT 15
BRISBANE THE TIVOLI – OCT 23
THE OCEAN AT THE END IS OUT NOW.