Blackbeard’s Tea Party
They are one of the most hardworking festival and ceilidh bands on the folk music circuit. Shire Folk caught up with them to find out how they manage to find time to have full-time jobs and eat so much cheesecake!
SF: We first came across Blackbeard’s Tea Party Busking in York in 2009. Tell us how it all started?
BTP: It was a happy accident. We were all confronted with a pretty dire jobs market when we graduated from York Uni back in 2009, so started a scratch band busking and playing private functions for a bit of pocket money. As our reputation grew, so did demand for gigs, and we decided to take it a bit more seriously, recording an EP and giving ourselves a name. It’s not unknown for people to snigger when they hear the name ‘Blackbeard’s Tea Party’, but previous incarnations of the band were called ‘Magic P and the Innuendos’ and ‘Admiral Wallops and the Punch Ladles’, so we count ourselves lucky.
SF: You seem to be in demand for nearly every festival and ceilidh in the UK. How do you fit all this in with jobs, etc.?
BTP: People are often surprised to hear that most of the band work 9 to 5, on top of all the touring, private functions, busking, writing, recording and practising!! But no one ever played folk music with the intention of making millions, so needs must. Honestly, there’s no alchemy involved – we’re simply hardworking and 100% committed to the band. Having supportive bosses, flexible hours, several cans of energy drink and a willingness to drive through the night are all key factors in making this band function. It can be tough sometimes, and I could whinge that every holiday I get from my job is spent ‘working’ for the band. But when that work means messing about with your mates in Spain, Malaysia and Glastonbury Festival it’s difficult to complain. One great thing about the day jobs is that they help to keep us grounded – after singing to 20,000 at Fairport’s Cropredy Convention on a Saturday, there’s nothing quite like an inbox brimming with mundane emails the following Monday to bring you back down to earth.
SF: How do you source the material for your albums?
BTP: We have such a wide range of fans – from 7-year-olds to 70-year-olds, hardcore folkies to complete metalheads – so we try to find diverse material to reflect this. We’re currently working on new music, and it’s a real mixed bag. Stuart is writing original songs for the first time, often inspired by existing folk songs or folk stories. As with previous albums, Laura and Tim are composing original tunes. Many of our fans get a real kick out of hearing us rework folk standards, so we’re keeping a few of these in the mix too, like You Noble Diggers All or The Hangman’s Reel. Staying part of the ‘grass-roots’ folk scene is important to us. We’re frequent session-goers and avid folk listeners, so we collect songs and tunes like magpies.
SF: From your website we all know you love cheesecake, but what else do you like to eat when on tour?
BTP: We never really anticipated that the ‘we love cheesecake’ thing would be as popular as it has been. But so many fans really latch onto it, and we love them for it! People are always arriving at our gigs with gifts of cheesecake for us. It’s very kind, though I’m not sure it’s doing our waistlines any good. For our first headline tour, our rider was made up of pork pies, scotch eggs, crisps and energy drinks. By the end, we all looked and felt dreadful. There’s more fruit and veg on the menu now (cucumber with hot sauce is a particular favourite) but I don’t think we could ever be described as healthy eaters. We’re food obsessive, and actually have a Tumblr page where we post a photo of every pre-gig meal.
SF: So what next for Blackbeard’s? A new album, even more festivals or just more cheesecake?
BTP: All three. We’re in the studio working on a new album which we plan to release later this year, supported by a UK tour (so watch this space!). We already have a whole host of festivals lined up for the summer – we’re particularly excited to be returning to the Costa del Folk festival in Spain, and making our first appearance at Towersey. And yes, I imagine cheesecake will be a prominent feature of 2015!