With an acclaimed new record, The Ocean At The End, now on store shelves and a cross-country tour slated to wrap up on December 10 in Vancouver, Canadian rock band The Tea Party is back in a very big way. Things didn’t always look so rosy, however.
The Ocean At The End is the first new music we have heard from The Tea Party since 2004’s Seven Circles. Some believe it is litle short of a miracle that the group reconvened after an especially nasty split in October 2005 when Tea Party vocalist/guitarist Jeff Martin suddenly announced he was embarking on a solo career.
This was news to his bandmates, bassist Stuart Chatwood and drummer Jeff Burrows who, in light of Martin’s announcement, took to the band’s forum on their official website to state they were “sincerely sorry for the way this was handled.” Chatwood told readers that as far as they were concerned, the group was simply taking a break of an undetermined length.
Inevitably, the trio went onto a host of other musical ventures: Martin released a solo record in 2006 before moving on to become part of groups including The Armada and Jeff Martin 777. Burrows spent his time away from The Tea Party on air at a Windsor, Ont. radio station while also playing drums for Crash Karma. Chatwood remained in music albeit in a very different format, composing the music for various video game soundtracks.
Dubbing the seven years they spent apart a hiatus, Tea Party vocalist-guitarist Jeff Martin admits that he, Chatwood and Burrows weren’t quite sure where things were headed when they first got back together in 2011 to undertake a series of live shows.
“When we decided to get back together, in matters of importance, it was ‘Can the three of us get back on that stage and be that band again?’ When we undertook the Reformation Tour in Australia in 2012, we established that we were still that great rock and roll band. The music still had all of the power and the majesty,” Martin says.
While the band could have easily gone on stage and put on an “act” where the three of them appeared to get along but not actually speak with one another otherwise, Martin insists that reconnecting as friends was equally if not more important than being able to play music again.
“We began spending time together and slowly, the ice started to melt between the three of us. Stuart and Jeff saw they could trust me to captain the ship again.
“Even more importantly however, we discovered the brotherly love that had helped make the band so special to begin with. Jeff [Burrows] and I have known each other from the time we were five and six years old. We had our first band together when I was 10 and he was 11 years old and met Stuart in the first year of high school. That is how far back the bond between us goes.
Although hindsight is everything, Martin admits that towards the “end” of the band in 2005, he had lost sight of precisely what made The Tea Party such a unique entity.
“Looking back upon the differences that we didn’t think could be reconciled when we first split, they seemed completely irrelevant when we got back together. At that time though, I had lost sight of the strengths that lie within the band as after [1997’s] Transmission, I felt as though a lot of the responsibility of the band was on my shoulders. I had tunnel vision when it came to producing our records. But after seven years of being apart and taking into account what Stuart and Jeff did as artists and as musicians, we came back to the group with an absolute equality between the three of us. It’s been great,” Martin says.
Given the rousing success of the live shows undertaken in 2011 and 2012, it was somewhat of a no-brainer that The Tea Party would head back into the studio to cut a new album.
Having been at the helm of each of the Tea Party’s records, Martin says that his band mates made a simple request of him when it came to the making of The Ocean At The End.
“Being the producer, I have always had carte blanche to do anything I needed to do with our records, sometimes much to the dismay of Stuart and Jeff,” Martin says. “With this album, they asked if I could concentrate on playing guitar which, looking back on our previous two records, I can see that I wasn’t concentrating on it as much as I could have been.
“It was invigorating to really get back to playing guitar on this album. There is a solo on the title track that marks my first major guitar solo since [1995’s] The Edges Of Twilight. The process of making this album really sparked a whole new enthusiasm to play more guitar in general.”
Martin’s newfound enthusiasm isn’t limited to his rediscovery of the guitar, however. Saying the group is in the midst of what is perhaps one of the most fulfilling eras of its career, he marvels at the fact that people are still interested in seeing the band live.
“I’ve been told that the kind of music that The Tea Party makes isn’t necessarily being made by anyone else and so once we left the scene, there was no other band that picked up that torch,” says Martin.
“What I find especially interesting is how our music is reaching a whole different generation this time around. If you were to look out at the first 20 rows of our recent show in Sydney, Australia, it was packed with 19 and 20 year olds. It just goes to show that it doesn’t matter what age you are. If you are into rock and roll and want the grandeur and the pomp with your music, we are the band that is going to deliver.”
What: The Tea Party
When: Friday, Nov. 21, 8 p.m.
Where: Casino New Brunswick, 21 Casino Dr., Moncton
Tickets start at $24.99. Advance tickets are available at the Casino Gift Shop, by phone at 1-866-943-8849 and online at casinonb.ca