The Tea Party set to rock Cranbrook

An interview with legendary Canadian rock band's Jeff Martin.

The Tea Party explode onstage at Cranbrook’s Key City Theatre on December 8. Left to right: bassist Stuart Chatwood

Ferdy Belland

“We just finished touring Australia two weeks ago, and that was just over the top,” says Jeff Martin, vocalist-guitarist for Canada’s hard-rocking psychedelic power trio The Tea Party. “Our band is playing better than ever, and the reviews were embarrassingly good. So we’ve just continued that here in Canada, and the band’s just been smoking hot.”

Said smoking heat will burn down the icy grip of winter when the Tea Party explode onstage at the Key City Theatre in Cranbrook Monday, Dec. 8.

The Tea Party (which also includes bassist Stuart Chatwood and drummer Jeff Burrows) was formed in Windsor, Ontario, in 1990, and exploded onto the Canadian rock scene with their 1993debut album “Splendor Solis” (which featured the hit singles “Save Me” and “The River”). They became one of the country’s most popular bands, releasing eight albums, gaining a national reputation as a thrilling live act, and standing apart from much of the soundalike alternative-rock of the day. Creative differences caused the Tea Party to disband in 2005, with Martin pursuing a solo career and a brief relocation to Ireland to helm the power trio The Armada. The Tea Party reunited in 2011, and the band is currently enjoying a strong resurgence of international popularity with the release of their new album “The Ocean at the End.”

“Yes, the honeymoon is still lasting for the three of us,” says Martin. “Our friendship has stayed the same, and it’s stronger than ever now. Our desire to push ourselves as artists and as a collective knows no bounds. The best is still yet to come.”

Martin explained the songwriting interplay (and esoteric numerology) at work between himself, Burrows, and Chatwood in the construction of the new album.

“The way the Tea Party’s creative process works is that it’s a bit of an occult science,” says Martin. “Well, it’s probably from my side of things, but the number 11 was what we started off with as an initial starting concept. Eleven songs. It’s very important, the matching of it all. We came up with 11 compositions, and we kept working at them until each of them became equally as great as the others. Everything we wrote made it to the final stage. It’s a complete work of art, in that way.”

Martin still finds the Tea Party’s live experience to be as magical and lightning-charged as anytime before.

“It’s a big thing to put the Tea Party together, since I live halfway around the world now from the other two guys, so undertaking the development of new audiences in the United States, or elsewhere, needs to be a sure bet. Australia is my home now. I have a house in Perth and a house in Sydney. Australia’s always had some of our largest audiences, ever since the band began, and our popularity there just keeps getting bigger.”

Martin has a reputation not only as one of the more imaginative rock songwriters to have emerged from the Canadian alternative-rock scene of the early 1990s, but also as a highly prolific songwriter and a masterful studio producer.

“Of course the Tea Party is the priority for the three of us,” says Martin, “but I also have a side project in Australia. The band’s called the Black Diamond Express, named after the famous high-speed train that runs through India. It’s myself, a singer-songwriter named Sarah McLeod, and a drummer named Mitch Kelsey. The album’s actually been completed, but we just don’t know at the moment if we’ll have time to release it next year.

“And I’m still involved with production work with other artists in my time away from the Tea Party. After I return to Australia after the Canadian tour is done, there’s a rock band from Sydney named Lepers and Crooks, with whom I’ll be producing their debut record.”

Martin says that the Tea Party is looking very forward to debuting themselves in Cranbrook, and considers every audience as worthy as the next, be the cities great or small.

“The Tea Party is such an exotic thing,” says Martin. “For a band like us to roll into the smaller centres, it’s really something that everyone can see is extraordinary and special, and that’s what we’ve been finding out, tour after tour. We love the reaction, wherever we go. Nothing changes in our intensity and our passion in our show. We will give Cranbrook everything we give Toronto or Montreal or Vancouver.”

Tickets to see The Tea Party on Monday, December 8, at Key City Theatre are $42.50, available at the theatre box office and at www.keycitytheatre.com.

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