Back in 1997, The Tea Party released what was to become one of their most memorable albums – Transmission.
This year, they are marking the project’s 20th anniversary with a nation-wide tour where the band will perform the record in its entirety, and of course round out the show with a string of their hits.
They land at the Memorial Centre on March 23rd.
Transmission reached number three on the Canadian charts, earned double platinum status in Canada and received a 1998 Juno Award nomination for ‘Blockbuster Rock Album of the Year’.
Meanwhile, on the current tour, the band is being joined by special guests The Road Heavy in a handful of markets, and each show of the #TX20 tour will also culminate, “With a set of greatest hits certain to deliver the energy and drive that The Tea Party have been known to bring since 1990.
And so far, so good.
“Honestly, we are blown away. It’s the best tour we’ve had in years,” said drummer/percussionist Jeff Burrows during a recent interview. Rounding out the band are guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Martin and Stuart Chatwood (bass, keyboards, mandolin, and harmonium).
“Everything is selling out, and the reviews have been exceptional. So far as playing the show, it’s fantastic because we are doing a lot of songs that we’ve never played ‘live’ before, or songs that we haven’t played in 19 to 20 years.”
Another part of the show features about an hour of other material from over years – hits and misses – added Burrows with a laugh. “So its all a great package – I guess you could say as far as an evening’s entertainment is concerned,” he added.
“I love touring – I miss my family of course – but to me it’s what separates the boys from the men and the girls from the women. You can either do it really well ‘live’ or you can’t. We’ve always prided ourselves on the fact that we can pull it off live. It may not sound note-for-note, cut-for-cut kind of thing, but we interpret our songs the way we feel they should be going.”
What’s also great for fans is they will hear, of course, every cut from Transmission.
Often, a band won’t perform every single song from a given project as some are comparatively complex in structure. They were hard enough to create in the studio let alone recreate in a live setting.
But Burrows said the guys have found performing those very songs that have been left off previous set lists to be a particular joy.
And of course, connecting with fans – and making some new ones – is always something of a gift as well.
“We’re getting people who are now around 37 who are bringing their 17-year-olds,” he said. “And they first saw us when they were 17 kind of thing,” he added. “It’s pretty interesting.”
As to what these gifted men come up with via their collaborations as The Tea Party, the magic is largely created through the intricate mix of instruments and genres.
The trio’s sound beautifully melds rock with elements of Middle Eastern, Celtic and Mediterranean music, and it’s this kind of mesmerizing material that helped vault their 1993 disc, Splendor Solis, to sell more than one million copies in Canada.
These days, it’s just fun looking back to those earlier days via their tremendous catalogue of tunes.
“Even my own kids, when they saw the show, said, ‘Dad, there are a lot of young people here’,” he added with a laugh. “But really, our audiences have always been like 18 to 80. I remember when we were young thinking, wow, there are some 50-year-old dudes out there!
“It blew my mind, but I love it because that is what music is about – it’s like a restaurant or a good club – it shouldn’t have age limits.”
Burrows was in a number of bands growing up, and that’s basically how he eventually met up with the other guys. Something just clicked, and the trio almost instantly were onto something extremely unique.
“First of all you have to have the right people with you,” he explained of the basics of making it all work. “If you’re going to be a dysfunctional family on a bus and there is nowhere to run, it’s no fun.
“It has to be a family. We all enjoy many different things in life, too. We all have families, we all enjoy traveling, we all enjoy playing and writing,” he said, mentioning the other creative pursuits the guys all take time to explore aside from The Tea Party.
“I think the trap that many bands fall into is that this is all they are, it’s and all they become. And even family members then only ask about that because that’s what you’ve become synonymous with. You’re part and parcel of a band.
“But you have to remember that you shouldn’t be defined by being a member of a band. You should be defined by yourself and what you do beyond that, and what you contribute to society. And how people see you and how you treat others.
“Being well-rounded is what I think keeps the fire burning,” he said. “I embrace it all now and it’s a great mindset to be in.”
For tickets, check out www.blackknightinn.ca.