Talking To...Blackbeard's Tea Party

Blackbeard's Tea Party

Blackbeard's Tea Party is a folk/rock band that is firmly taking its place in the modern folk scene. Perfect for concerts, ceilidh music and just to rock out too on your headphones they have become a genre favourite for many people.
I first saw them doing ceilidhs for the Shrewsbury Folk Festival in 2012 and have since eagrly awaited tour dates. They have now arrived with their Autum tour starting in October, check out the full list of dates on their website and listed below.
I will be attending their gig in Manchester on the 2nd November, but first I decided to get a little pre-review interview with them!

1. I'm sure you get this question a lot, but it is still a good place to start, where did the name Blackbeard's Tea Party come from?
We formed back in 2009 from the remnants of other bands and we needed a new name. Lacking inspiration, we decided to enter a pub, apply a few beers to the problem and not leave until we had come up with the best band name in the world. Unfortunately that didn't happen, but we did come up with "Blackbeard's Tea Party".
After turning down some really quite awful suggestions (including "Horse" from a certain electric guitarist) we decided we liked the notion of Blackbeard, famed for his pillage, killing and general pirate-y behaviour, doing something mundane like having some guests round for some quintessentially English hot beverages and cake. We fashioned the graphic of Blackbeard with the pot, cup and saucer and the name stuck.

Blackbeard's Tea Party

2. Your music tends to be a folk/rock merge with most songs being traditional folk songs, do you have a particular methodology of finding your music or is it more of a hasty decision when something particularly stands out?
Stuart (lead singer) is a keen session singer with a vast knowledge of folk songs old & new. He is always sourcing new songs & lyrics and piecing together his own ditties. In general, he will present the lyrics and melody to the band in practice and we'll collectively start playing around with ideas for parts and arrangements. It's here that everybody brings their individual influences (Percussionists Dave and Yom: "We've got this great idea for a bit where we're all playing in different time signatures…") and the track starts to sound like Blackbeard. Sometimes you immediately get the sense that a song is a keeper and there is a flurried period where the backbone of the piece gets put in place very quickly, whereas other times it takes a good few sessions of heated discussion, petty name calling and gradual musical refinement to get a piece to where we want it to be. In either case we then boil down to the real hard work of adding some synchronised dance moves!
For the instrumental side of things, Laura (fiddle) and Tim (bass) are both excellent at spotting a tune that we could rip apart and put back together again in additional to writing some fantastic and unique tunes for the band. Recently, we have collaborated with our good friend and writer Pip Jopling, who has provided us with a few stunning pieces. He wrote 'Polka against the Clock' to get us out of a pickle - we had 10 minutes to come up with one final polka for festival season. Pip came through the door, we set him the challenge, and 6 minutes later he returned with this brilliant piece! Our arrangement is 7 minutes long, meaning it takes longer to play than it did to write!

3. Blackbeard's Tea Party consists of younger musicians, do you think that folk is starting to die out amongst younger circles (both musicians and audiences) or does merging it with a more rock style save it?
Looking at the crowds at festivals, it seems that the continuation of folk music is safe in the younger generation. There seem to be a good new crop of younger people properly getting into folk music, be it taking up the melodeon, joining rapper teams or dancing in ceilidhs. We are all relatively young (although some of us are looking older and older) and we regularly see younger bands than ourselves playing great shows. We feel that folk is having a bit of a revival, and the younger generation are really embracing it.
Merging folk with a rock style doesn't necessarily attract a younger crowd, but it may make it more accessible to people who aren't familiar with typically folky music. For a rock fan, for example, seeing/hearing an electric guitar gives them a common reference point and something they can relate to, which may entice them into watching/listening to a band that they may not have otherwise.

Blackbeard's Tea Party

4. I saw you at Shrewsbury Folk festival last year, do you find yourselves traveling around a lot for festivals and if so do you find it has a hard impact on your lives?
Yes, travel is a massive part of being a musician. We travel around the UK every summer playing at different festivals every week, and we tour the country in the autumn and around Easter time, playing our own shows. Around all this we play weddings, parties and ceilidhs wherever we can fit them in. We've recently started to get offers for overseas festivals and will be playing abroad for the first time for the Costa del Folk festival in Spain next March.
While the travel is essential, it can be very gruelling sometimes. We'll often find ourselves attending multiple festivals across one weekend and they always seem to be as spread out as they can be! A lot of times we finish one show, jump from the stage to the car (through the sunroof if we're feeling particularly daring) and head straight off to another show. It can be very draining, but as soon you get on stage your body forgets the sleepiness, the service station food, and the hole in your tent and it becomes so very worth it.

5. What do you enjoy the most about touring?
We get to visit a different place every day, see a new venue, meet a lot of new people and fans, and get to play a (hopefully brilliant) gig. What's not to love! I suppose if we had to pick one thing, it would be that it's a good excuse to have a bit of a party and eat some pizza every night!

6. Cheesecake?
And normal cake. And flapjack. And muffins and pizzas and meats and cheeses and piggy and falafels and bread and cucumber and lemons and almost every other food.
But not stroganoff. NEVER stroganoff.
And finally

7. Where can we next see you live?
We're heading out on the road once again in October and November for our Autumn Tour. You can catch us at 13 dates around the country:

  • 29th Oct - BRISTOL, Mr Wolfs
  • 30th Oct - BRIGHTON, Latest MusicBar
  • 31st Oct - LONDON, Surya (Kings Cross) - Special Halloween Date!
  • 1st Nov - BIRMINGHAM, The Rainbow
  • 2nd Nov - MANCHESTER, Sound Control
  • 7th Nov - MATLOCK, The Fishpond
  • 8th Nov - HULL, The New Adelphi
  • 10th Nov - PRESTON, 53 Degrees
  • 22nd Nov - CHESTER, Telford's Warehouse
  • 23rd Nov - SHEFFIELD, Shakespeares
  • 24th Nov - ULEY, Prema Arts Centre
  • 28th Nov - LEICESTER, The Musician
  • 29th Nov - YORK, The Duchess

Full details and tickets are available at http://www.blackbeardsteaparty.com

Paul Rawcliffe
Pics Neil King

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