2017, Features, Interviews — March 15, 2017 at 7:00 am

Jeff Burrows of The Tea Party


“The difference is that you have to be on point and you have to sort of relearn the songs in their intimacy and in the simplest way without any diverging off on any tangents so it’s a bit of a mind fuck if you know what I mean, you’ve gotta really stick to it *laughs* so it’s a bit of a challenge, I love it and it’s just so powerful.”

From release: Revered Canadian trio The Tea Party are coming back to Australia next month.  The band will perform their first ever Symphony shows in Australia when they take to the stage with a 48 piece Orchestra for one exclusive show, Friday April 21, 2017 at The Star Events Centre Sydney, followed by a concert at Melbourne’s Hamer Hall on Friday April 28.   The Melbourne date has now completely sold out, with fans rushing to secure tickets to this unique event, so the Sydney show is the only remaining chance to see The Tea Party in full symphonic flight!

While at home, Jeff Burrows gave us a call to talk about the amazing orchestral shows The Tea Party are set to perform in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia’s love for the band, new music, and much more…

You’ve played with an orchestra before, but some fifteen years ago, why was now the right time and what was the idea behind doing these Australian orchestra shows?
Well, I don’t know if it’s the right time but the opportunity arose and for us I think the challenge is part of the excitement and the drama of playing with an orchestra. To be honest I would do this far more often it’s very different of course from playing in The Tea Party on a normal show type of day, we’re the type of band that’s not married click tracks, we’re not married to any tracking whatsoever any background tracks or whatever, so normally we’ll be going off on a tangent here, jamming on this bit for a little longer here turning an eight minute song into an eleven minute song and so on. So with there, our friend Marc Ouellette who scored all the pieces for our forty two piece orchestra fifteen years ago he’s adding four more tracks I believe off our newer stuff. The difference is that you have to be on point and you have to sort of relearn the songs in their intimacy and in the simplest way without any diverging off on any tangents so it’s a bit of a mind fuck if you know what I mean, you’ve gotta really stick to it *laughs* so it’s a bit of a challenge, I love it and it’s just so powerful. To some people who have never seen an orchestra or just perhaps they’ve always ever been into rock music or jazz or whatnot they’re gonna be blown away by the power of a symphony orchestra.

Is it an interesting exercise reworking these songs adding in the orchestral elements?
Well it’s not hard for us, it’s interesting to hear when you’re playing your parts the parts that have been written over the top of it because sometimes there’s counterpoints, there’s polyrhythms, it’s just a different context of the song that you remember writing in your garage, or writing in a studio, or writing in a basement. It’s very strange to have it treated with such respect and you know, the end result like I said is fantastic, it’s a very cool experience.

Do you have an idea of how the shows are set to shape up?
We had sixteen songs done, scored around fifteen years ago and now the way it worked before and the way it will work now, it’s not just the hits or anything like that. We sat down with our maestro fiend, our composer Marc Ouellette he’s from Montreal, Quebec in Canada and he’s the one scoring the new material as well we went for the songs that had the most drama and the best highs and the best lows and things in the songs that leant themselves best to working between a rock band and a symphony. So there’s some lighter, some dramatic moments, there’s some very, very heavy moments, I know one of the songs that were adding is the title track off our last studio album which is ‘The Ocean At The End’ which I can’t wait to hear because it’s just such an opus, and it kind of goes off the rails here and goes on different tangents there so it’s gonna be pretty fantastic. So, if you’re asking me if I remember what the set list is, no *laughs* but it will be around twenty songs and it will be really, really good. *laughs*

I have to ask if ‘Heaven Coming Down’ will get a run… that would just sound spectacular.
Honestly, I can’t recall… it may be but honestly if you’re a fan at all you really won’t miss any particular song if it’s played or if it’s not played because it’s so different and I don’t know if you’ve seen a rock band with a symphony before but the way Marc composed the music like I said earlier with the counterpoint and polyrhythms it’s not just something that can be covered on a synthesiser with orchestra strings, these are parts, the flute part is coming in and doing its trills and the violins are doing this particular part, and then the bass and the violas come in and it’s just unreal. So we’re pretty excited about it, it’s such a challenge and when you walk out on that stage and you know the material and you know you’re gonna blow people’s minds because it’s such a great experience it’s quite humbling.

I can’t wait, I’ll be there in Sydney with bells on and I’ll try and keep the bells quiet but it’s going to be an amazing night…
*laughs* You know we could have a part for you playing bells if you just follow the sheet music *laughs*

Australia has always been a great touring market for you and thank you for doing these shows here, but what do you think it is about Australia that just loves The Tea Party so much?
I don’t know, we’ve given answers over the last twenty years, some well thought out some not well thought out, the one that I always go back to is that they, the Australians much like Canadians can really see through a lot of the bullshit, so if you’re a band that writes music and performs music and you do it well you’re gonna get the respect of the Australians. If you’re a flavour of the day or flavour of the week band from America and I’m not picking on America but let’s say they got huge in America because of some powerful marketing and promotion machine and they come to Australia and they shit the bed, they call them out on it and we’ve never gone there with aspirations of becoming the biggest band in the world, we just came to rock and we did it well, and we did it hard and I think everyone appreciates the honesty coming from the band because there’s a lot of fluff out there in a lot of genres of music whether it’s country or jazz or blues or whatever, and it’s hard to distill what’s real and not real anymore and we pride ourselves as being one of those bands that don’t require back tracks and don’t require click tracks and so on, so I think the fact that it’s an honest approach and it’s right in your face and it’s very transparent and I think they enjoy that.

Well in seeing you a few times I’m still amazed how that sound comes out of a three piece on stage so whatever it is you’re doing, just keep doing it…
*laughs* There are secrets I can’t tell you *laughs*

You’re also out on tour celebrating the twentieth anniversary of ‘Transmission’ at the moment, what’s it been like getting out and celebrating it by playing the whole album?
You know what? It’s been a very cool experience, at first I was very nervous because the more I listened to the record of which I hadn’t listened to in twenty years the more I thought to myself how did this album become so successful, it’s so out there, it’s almost progressive, there’s some really dark moments on this record and I think to myself this is the furthest thing from being a pop rock record, and the way it was received just goes to show you the mindset in the mid to late nineties where people’s heads were at, they wanted something different they didn’t want the cookie cutter verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, double chorus, out kinda thing and we certainly gave them that, I don’t know… we were the black sheep then and we’re rekindling our black sheepness now and having a good time doing it. We’ve only got a couple of shows under our belt so it’s still exciting, talk to me after thirty shows *laughs* and maybe I’ll have a different answer.

I do have to ask about new music as we had The Ocean At The End back in 2014, is there any chance of a new album on the horizon?
We’ve got material, we’re just finishing up a lot of it most of it was done in Australia at Jeff’s place, we’re just at a crossroads now where we decide do we need to do albums anymore? Is it better off we release three songs per year for the next five or six years just so we’re always releasing new material and then we have another excuse to go tour. I don’t know, something I think songs just kind of get pushed aside because they’re not given the proper amount of attention on an album, and we don’t get together for two to three months at a time to write a cohesive record and eclectic as all of our albums have been even the songs on each album can be eclectic from one another and these songs some of them make sense together, some of them do not make sense together so I don’t know if it should be an album. So this is where we’re at right now, we’re just gonna see what happens and see the reception of the tours and see where we go from there.

So let’s look back in being a part of The Tea Party for over twenty years it’s easy to say what’s changed in that time but what would you say is the one thing that’s stayed the same in your time together?
Again another thing that’s probably overused and over said, the musical telepathy between the three of us, after we had our break up we were apart for five or six years, the moment we got back together and we were still on pins and needles and it wasn’t all cosy at the time, as soon as we started playing everything started clicking immediately and it was really bizarre because things like that aren’t supposed to happen because when you have a sour taste in your mouth because he said this and you said that and so on, then the moment you start playing something it just all makes sense it’s kinda weird and that’s been like that literally since we’ve been kids, like twelve or thirteen years old we’ve been able to do that among the three of us. So that’s gonna be the constant forever, that mortal coil that ties us together, but it seems to get stronger and it seems to be getting easier and we know where everybody seems to be going, even with the new songs, there’s the ‘I knew you were going to play that part, I knew you were going to go there, that’s great, let’s keep doing that’. I know that gets overstated fairly often the musical telepathy thing but it’s a fact in this band, it’s only ever been the three of us and it will only ever be the three of us.

The one thing I’ve always loved about The Tea Party is that in my opinion there in no one else that sounds like you guys, not even close, after all this time what do you think it is that makes you guys stand out the way you do?
I don’t know… I think the fact that we’ve never catered to a particular style is probably the reason, because we came out and to quote Jeff Martin, we came out when every band was trying to smell like teen spirit and we had nothing to do with it. I had utmost respect for those bands, still do, especially the likes of Soundgarden and Alice In Chains and so on and so forth, we’ve always done our own thing and it’s a bit shocking because like you sad there’s nothing really out there that sounds like us and even our friends in Canadian bands they’ve been broken up and then tried doing reunions and it lasts for a couple of months and then it’s done. We’re truly the only band around in our country I think outside of Rush that is, even Rush is a different drummer *laughs* so we’re really one of the true bands that have only ever been us, and we’re pretty grateful for it even after the breakup it’s gotten stronger. I think when you touched on the fact when you said it sounds like nothing else, that’s the answer because it’s always the success, we’ve got fans intelligent enough to grow with the band and not be so narrow minded as to expect the same thing over and over again because that’s the death of an artist I think.

Lastly let’s look ahead to the future, finish this sentence for me, by the end of 2017 The Tea Party want to…
Release new music…

And? *laughs*
*laughs* and come back to Australia…


Friday 21 April, 2017, Star Events Centre, Sydney
with a 48 piece orchestra
Tickets through Ticketek.  Ph 132849 or www.ticketek.com.au

Friday 28 April, 2017, Hamer Hall, Arts Centre Melbourne
with Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Presented by TEG Live



Essential Information

From: Toronto, Canada

Band members: Jeff Martin – Vocals / Guitars,  Jeff Burrows – Drums / Percussion, Stuart Chatwood – Bass / Keyboards

Website: http://www.teaparty.com

Latest Release: The Ocean At The End (Out Now – Sony Music Australia)



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