Windsor rockers The Tea Party were a veritable force on the Canadian music scene throughout the ’90s and into the new millennium. Drawing comparisons to ’70s icons Led Zeppelin and The Doors, and well-loved for their heavy mix of prog rock, Indian and Middle Eastern influences, the band spawned eight albums and several hits: Save Me, Sister Awake and Heaven Coming Down. In 2005, the industry and fans alike were shocked when Jeff Martin (singer-songwriter, guitarist), Stuart Chatwood (bass, keyboards) and Jeff Burrows (drums, percussion) abruptly parted ways. However, this past summer, persistent promoters and an undiminished passion for music prompted the band to reunite for a string of shows. Now focused on a slow-but-steady regrouping, Stuart Chatwood revisits the trio’s unceremonious split, and shares his cautious optimism.
Why did The Tea Party disband in 2005?
Hmmm, (laughs) we’ve never agreed how to address it with the public… It happened abruptly…we just kind of grew apart and developed different priorities. We weren’t the same band we started off as, and the music was being compromised – and that led to us drifting apart. There was also a period with Jeff where he wanted to do a solo record, so there was more emphasis on him to just call it quits and move on.
How was the music compromised?
I can only speak for myself but I don’t think we were putting in the same effort that we once did. Our other priorities had gotten in the way. What’s nice about reforming now is that – on the live front anyway – we’re a better band than ever. We let the politics subside and we’re letting the music do the talking now.
What led up to your reunion concerts this summer?
A lot of people were disappointed that we had broken up. Every summer, people would ask if we were back together because they wanted to put a special show on. In January, there were a few interesting offers that came in and our agent contacted us individually about playing again. We thought there was no reason not to.
Had it been awhile since you’d talked?
Jeff Burrows and myself are great friends and kept in touch but we hadn’t communicated with Jeff Martin for five or six years; we weren’t in each other’s lives.
Have you made plans to record yet?
We want to get back to making serious records someday – there’s an incredible amount of passion and an incredible level of quality to bring to it. Not engaging each other is not the way to do that, so the first step for us is to do something [like playing live] where there’s no pressure on us; we can get to know each other again and rebuild what we had between us.
Being on stage together is different than being in the studio?
It’s different because you put aside all the politics on stage; you just go on and enjoy the energy and the vibe of the audience. With recording, you’re in each other’s faces for months on end and you have to be very intuitive and know each other inside and out to make the best record. That’s going to take us awhile.
Your fans must be thrilled you’re playing again.
Yeah, I was prepared for it. I don’t know…just being around it all the time I guess you take it for granted.
Do you have insecurities, like: ‘What’s our place out there after all this time?’
Definitely; I think it’s natural and that every band, whether they’re new or reuniting, has fears. Even the Rolling Stones must wonder, ‘Are all those people going to show up again this year?’ Some of our shows sold out early so that put those fears to rest.
Jeff Martin was quoted as saying, ‘We are The Tea Party and we’re here to stay. And we’re never going away again.’ That’s pretty confident.
I think that he said ‘Uh, right guys?’ at the end of it but the crowd didn’t hear it (laughs). I think he was just excited that things are going so well that why would we stop this? We’re artists at heart and inevitably we’ll be in the studio after we slowly work on becoming a band again.
The Tea Party are currently on the road with their No Politics…Just Rock And Roll tour, with stops in Calgary, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal. For a complete list of cities and dates, visit www.teaparty.com.