Monday, 30 July 2012

Music, Antics and World Domination

I caught up with the incredible York based folk band - Blackbeard's Tea Party, and asked them a few questions regarding performing as a group, plans for world domination and tips for those who want to busk.

+ How did you get together and form Blackbeard’s Tea Party?
The six of us were just knocking about in York with not much to do, playing in different bands for fun and busking together to earn some pocket-money. When we realised the six of us had some chemistry and were creating a bit of a following, we decided we ought to take it seriously. So, we went to a pub together and agreed we wouldn’t leave until the band had a name. When we stumbled out several hours later, we were Blackbeard’s Tea Party.

+ Did you all always aspire to be musicians, or did you have other plans?
We have always aspired to take over the world. Music is just a front.

+ What would you say is the best thing about your style of music?
Our style of music is hard to pin down. It’s a bit crazy, with elements of folk, rock, pop, world, gypsy, punk etc etc. The six of us each have very different tastes. Throw that into a pot and you get a very distinct sound. I think what sets us apart the most though is our energy and stage antics.

+ When it comes to arranging folk tunes, do you often have very different views on how something should sound or are you all roughly on the same wavelength?

We’re usually on totally different wavelengths! We spend hours and hours arguing – urm, I mean, ‘discussing’ – the tiniest section of one person’s part in a tune or song. We call these discussions “unspecified faffing time”.

But that’s all just par for the course. When the six of us are coming from such varied musical backgrounds we can’t all expect to agree all of the time. We respect each other’s musicianship enough to know that arranging has to be a democratic process. And from that compromise comes our unique sound.

+ What do you think is the most important thing to remember when you are performing live?
Enjoy yourself and give it some beans! We see so many buskers – and even bands on stage – who just look like they’re not excited to be there, or aren’t involved in what they’re playing.

+ At what kind of venues do you prefer to perform?
We’ll play anywhere! In a massive festival tent or a shed in someone’s garden. Because we have such a heavy, electric sound we go down well in the kind of venue where a mosh pit might get going. But of course, we’ve got a great following on the folk circuit, so we’re well seasoned in playing for a more restrained crowd too.

+ Can you offer any tips for busking?
Each town has different rules, so make sure you check them out beforehand – you can sometimes find them on different council’s websites. You might need a license to busk, and there may be places where busking is restricted.

Stay friendly with other buskers. Agree to share spots if there is high demand, and see if they can share tips about the best places to busk.

Bounce around and don’t be afraid to make a spectacle of yourself!

+ Do shopkeepers generally react well to your music?
Some love it, but some hate it. From time to time shopkeepers ask us to move on. But usually we stay polite, smile and charm them into changing their minds.

+ I read briefly about your encounter back in September, how you all cornered down the thief in Marks and Spencer’s, can you explain about what happened, and how (if at all) has it affected your view to the people who pass by you?
It was a sweltering summer’s day. The sun was high in the sky. There we were, innocently selling our wares, when all of a sudden a young scamp rushed past, snatched a couple of notes from our pot, and dashed off into Marks and Spencer’s.

The boys heroically ran after him bellowing cries of ‘STOP THIEF!’ while Laura held our ground, boldly playing through the drama. The boys managed to corner the vagabond in the lingerie aisle and tackled him to the ground. We managed to restrain the thief until the police made it to the scene. Ever since, we’ve been busking by day, and fighting crime by night.

We don’t worry too much about it happening again. Dave’s pretty big and scary looking, so most people don’t mess.

+ Any up-and-coming events planned?
We’ve got a really busy summer ahead of us playing 12 folk festivals, including Shrewsbury, Sidmouth and Cambridge. We’ve also got a couple ore gigs coming up in York – a free gig in the Fulford Arms on 31st August, as well as a Halloween party on 31st October where we promise a few spooky suprises. Our website has details of all our upcoming gigs.

+ Where do you think you’ll be as a group in the future?
In the next five years, we expect to have:
1. An on-stage gospel choir.
2. A pyrotechnic budget.
3. Our own TV show.
4. A seat in parliament.

Thank you to Blackbeard's Tea Party for answering my questions. If you want to find out more about Blackbeard's, here are links to their Facebook, Twitter and website.
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