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    Posted: January 22 2009 at 19:07
The Tea Club - Interview by Jim Russell, Jan. 21 2009

"Will O' The Wisp" has this Autumnal thing to me. It reminds me of that eerie time of day when dusk is setting in and you're just starting to realize that things are changing. The lyrics to "The Moon" were actually written about the transition from Fall into Winter. The shadows are stretching and there are faces in the trees and you start feeling like Ichabod Crane. The leaves are gone and you can feel something looming."
[Dan McGowan]

When I think of Jersey, I used to think of Kevin Smith and his films (Clerks, Chasing Amy, etc.)  From now on I’ll think of The Tea Club as well.  The McGowan brothers Daniel and Patrick formed the band with their friend Kyle Minnick on drums and began a musical journey that would culminate in 2008’s spectacular “General Winter’s Secret Museum,” one of my favorite albums of the year.  They take an energy that feels punk/grunge inspired and roll it quite nicely into a dreamy, spacey progressive rock.  Thus the term space-punk.  The album is a bit of a museum featuring songs written over the past several years.  There is darkness to the moods and themes of the music but there is also joy, melody, and dare I say…fun.  Their live shows are emotional, sometimes to the point of making the crowd uncomfortable even while the band is swooning in joy. (More on that later.)  Last summer the boys were joined by a new bass player named Becky Osenenko and appear poised to take over the world.  Or at least leave us some beautiful music with which to enjoy the fall of civilization.  They all share a house working day jobs to pay the rent and work on their next opus in their free time.  The music is such a refreshing blend of their strengths: good tight vocal harmonies full of interesting nuance, solid musicianship, and songwriting which puts mood above shred.  Their lyrics have some quiet wisdoms and “trees on moonlit night” imagery that will appeal to both the young and the young at heart.  You will read about how they were seduced by their parent's prog collection including a scary 3am encounter for a small child facing down his father's Relayer album.  You will hear how a band can be inspired by the greatest progressive rock without being owned by it.  And you will get one of the early glimpses of a band that will be going places soon.

It is my honor to get to know these guys/gal a little bit, and I want to personally thank them very much not just for doing the interview, but for putting some real thought and personality into something many musicians just consider “promotion.”  What you’ll find in their words and their music is authenticity and passion, two things that are very hard to fake.  This band is a special one to me.  They take the art seriously but are not full of themselves.  They obviously are enjoying a very creative time and solid friendship, both which come through in their music.  I told them up front I wanted to have some fun with the interview and move it beyond the typical and as you will read they took the ball and ran with it unlike any band I've interviewed before.  Enjoy the read....then buy the album and crank it!!

A ProgArchives welcome to The Tea Club:  (stunningly, NOT an Italian band!)  Big smile

1. First off, have you broken up yet?  (I ask because every time I get into a promising young band they split up the following week…I’m hoping the trend won’t continue here)  

DAN: No. Everyone is still alive and in good health, nobody is pregnant, and we all still love each other.

PAT: There's only one thing that could break The Tea Club up and that's the "D" word. The word that strikes fear into the hearts of all young men and women not in the military...the "DRAFT!!!"

2. Give us a brief history of the McGowan brothers growing up.  What was your childhood like, when did you meet Kyle, what did you do for fun?  Outrageous stories acceptable.  

DAN: We had a glorious childhood. We never had any money, but we were imaginative kids. Me and Pat were both big into super heroes, and we spent a lot of our time drawing and making comic books, or creating weird costumes and making movies with our video camera. It wasn't until our teen years that things got rough. Me and Patrick were both home-schooled throughout high school. I begged my parents to take me out in the middle of 8th grade. I started to develop horrible social anxiety, and school felt like a jail sentence. But once I was out of school, I spent very little time actually studying. Me
and Pat pretty much lived in our own creative little world, continuing to make home movies and draw. It was an escape, I guess. We didn't have many friends. We felt alienated because they were sort of running the gamut of high school experiences, while we basically locked ourselves in our family apartment for the entirety of our teenage years. We never attended any proms, but we had fun. I had every single intention of being an illustrator until I was 15 or 16. That's when I discovered Sunny Day Real Estate. And that's when I realized I wanted to play in a band...

KYLE: I met Pat and Dan when I was a young teen. They were a couple years older than me. I looked up to them like my brothers. They were in a band that I loved and I was a drummer and always wanted to play drums in the band. The three of us along with my brother Justin would jam from time to time and I made sure to play just the right drum parts when we jammed together. Eventually I wore them down, and they decided to let this little kid join their band! I remember vividly the phone conversation me and Pat had when he asked me to start a band with him. It was the happiest day of my life. Ha

PAT: Dan and I met Kyle at a church we were attending. We rarely wanted to be there and when we met Kyle and his brother Justin we saw that they were freaks like us and didn't want to be there either, so we formed a strange and unhealthy bond.  We were freaks as children. Freaks. Dan and I would dress up as costumed superheroes of our own design and attack people. Kyle lived next door to a graveyard and he would set his drum set up in the backyard and play for hours. Morbid freaks. And of course we were always having the police called on us. One day they showed up and told us they were responding to calls of 'people laying on the ground'. We were making a home movie and were all dressed up in ridiculous costumes when they approached us. They must have thought we were completely insane. Apparently it's illegal to lay on the ground if you're not dead.

3. I understand the band formed about 2003.  What kind of covers did you play early on?

KYLE: The first show we played as The Tea Club was in this abandoned warehouse on an old peach farm in the middle of nowhere. I don't think anyone was really into our music that night. They kept requesting Weezer and were talking all throughout our set. I started to hear what sounded like the guitar intro to "The Sweater Song." Sure enough, it was Pat playing the beginning of the song with a sardonic grin on his face...Dan chimed in and we ended up playing the entire song and it was a hit, predictably, considering the overabundance of Weezer t-shirts in the room. Throughout our time playing as a band, we've covered a few songs live. We very rarely cover songs, but it seems like The Beatles are a common choice. When we first got together as a band though, we were too eager to write our own songs. We didn't have any time to cover other people's songs.

DAN: Yeah, nobody in the band was all that interested in doing them. Me and Pat would occasionally end sets by singing "Across The Universe". Everyone's parents seemed to appreciate that. Ha. And we did a pretty bad-ass version of "God's Away On Business" by Tom Waits a few Halloweens ago. That was fun.

PAT: I always wanted to cover 'Knife Edge' by ELP but there's that damn keyboard solo in the middle, so we gave up. That was our method for doing covers, if it was slightly difficult we gave up

4. Becky is the newest member of the band, on bass guitar.  How did Becky and the band meet and when did she join?

BECKY: Back in 2006, I was in a couple different punk bands. I met the Tea Club through one of their older bassists, Tom Facchine, who was my activist friend. The Tea Club and my other bands played shows together and Kyle and I became friends. I watched the Tea Club practice a bunch of times and I always appreciated watching them live, but I didn't really get into them until I asked Kyle for some CD's. That's when I became obsessed! I especially liked the older songs and the 2007 Fall EP. I
was just nerdy about it - I learned how to play Castle Builder in standard tuning just for the fun of it because the challenge made me a better musician. The combination of my inspiration from the music and the fact that I knew that I could be something that would benefit the Tea Club and myself was an intense experience. But eventually the old bassist had other things happening in his life that he needed to focus on - like getting married and preparing for the birth of his child. I worked really hard at learning the songs and joined the Tea Club in July 2008. Ever since then, things have been awesome!

DAN: I still haven't heard Becky play Castle Builder in standard tuning. She refuses to play it for me. :(

PAT: We've had many bassists, but none like Becky. She has excellent timing and really gets lost in the groove. She's groovy.

5. What is the story behind the name “The Tea Club?”  

DAN: Pat, you wanna take this one buddy?

PAT: Alright. Here goes. I'm the bookworm of the band and I read a lot about a topic commonly referred to as 'conspiracy theory' (I'm convinced every prog band has its conspiracy theorist member). When I was 19 I read a book about the freemasons called 'The Alumni Equation'. It was written by William Mecknow and was published by Houghton Mifflin in 1976. I bought it at an antique store of all places called 'The Den of Antiquity' (I'm not making this up) for $5. Anyway, the book was about masonic rituals throughout its history but it focused (of course) on some of their more nefarious practices, and there was one that I found most interesting. It originated during the American revolutionary war and involved a moment during the initiation process of an 11 degree mason to a 12 degree mason. They had to drink from a cup that contained tea with supposed hallucinogenic properties. The tea was called 'Dr. Welles's tea' and was prepared by a group of young men called, you guessed it, The Tea Club. Apparently it was quite difficult to make this tea and they claimed that it contained portions of a hallucinogenic cactus. Now, obviously this is (probably) not true, but I thought it would be a great band name given the story behind it. Dan and Kyle didn't like the name at first and thought it would remind people of Boy George and the Culture Club, but I managed to convince them after a while that it was a good band name. So here we are, for better or for worse, as The Tea Club (if you think I made that all up, I wouldn't blame you).

6. The first album is fairly new but I read that you are already working on numbers for a second album.  What are the plans at the moment?  

DAN: Ugh. We have a lot of new material. A LOT. It's a little overwhelming. We did some demos last Fall with Bill Moriarity (of Man Man and Dr. Dog fame) at American Diamond Studios in Philly. They turned out well, and we were going to turn it into a little 4-song EP, but we just didn't have the money to get it mastered and pressed. I think right now we have a total of seven brand new songs that the whole band plays on, and that are finished. We've been playing them live and it seems like people are digging it.

BECKY: The newer stuff (from the Fall EP and later) is, in my opinion, significantly better than the older songs. While of course I love the old songs, the newer ones are much more musical and have cleaner transitions and structure. Most of the new stuff is beautiful yet mysterious and dark, and sometimes even contains this subtle circus-like feel to it. It's hard to describe, but the best example I could give would be one of our newer songs "Simon Magus". It's dark and has a lot of open space for different instruments other than your typical band basics.

PAT: The hope is to be recording a new album by the end of this year with Tim Gilles again. He doesn't know this yet, but he'll be doing it at very little cost to us. Once he hears the music he won't be able to say no. The new material is more cohesive. It's being written as a single work. There's even a 'concept' floating around. But don't worry, it has nothing to do with melons or dogs or infinity. It may be 'conceptual' but we're doing it in our own backwards way.

7. What is the live scoop on the band?  Are you playing exclusively local right now or do you have plans for any dates in other cities?

DAN: We're taking a break from playing live for the next month or two. We're determined to finish these new songs and re-work old ones. And it's hard to do that when we have to keep rehearsing the same songs we've been playing over and over for gigs. But once we get everything together, we're gonna hopefully play around the East Coast. Definitely New York.

KYLE: Over the years, we've played a great deal of places in the Philadelphia area. More recently, we've been traveling around a little more, specifically New York. It's a lot different and more exciting in NYC than Philly. But like Dan said, we're still taking a little time off from playing shows and putting our focus into the writing process right now. The new songs are coming along very nicely.

PAT: We're looking to do a lot of festivals this year mostly on the East Coast. We're also going to be recording more of our live shows with the idea of releasing a live CD or DVD. If you attend any Tea Club shows, the more outrageous you're dressed the better your chances are of appearing in any videos.

8. The Tea Club is often described as progressive rock.  I believe I used the term space-punk or alt-prog to describe you guys.  Labels labels labels.  How do you think of yourselves or would you simply prefer “rock band?”

DAN: I do like "Space Punk". I think it fits us well. I always liked "Art Rock". But I usually just say "Progressive Rock".

PAT: It's always amusing to hear people describe our music. We've heard some pretty off the wall sh*t. The P.A. reviews have been incredible. I was unsure of how we would be welcomed into the progressive rock community, but so far it's been a honeymoon. Prog fans are an entity unto themselves. They are unique in the world of fandom and they can be a little intimidating but it's been wonderful. The prog archives reviews have been very uplifting and encouraging. If I were to describe the music I'd probably use words like "subversive", "rainy", "Tolkien", "buckets of soapy water", "willow trees", things that would make no sense to anyone but me, so I'll go with "progressive rock", although "space Punk" is definitely a favorite.

9. You mention your parents prog collection in your Bio.  What kind of music was being played while growing up?

DAN: I vividly remember waking up in the middle of the night when I was like 13 to what sounded like the Trumpet of God summoning his chosen people by rapture and thinking, "Oh my God, the world is actually ending." But no, it was just my dad out in the living room, blasting the hell out "Relayer" by Yes at 3 in the morning...

PAT: 'Yes' was definitely a regular. Lots of King Crimson. Gentle Giant (much to our mom's dismay), Beatles, ELP. I can remember one night telling my dad that I was really getting into King Crimson and he told me that if I liked this kind of music there was a whole world I could immerse myself in. We also listened to a lot of classical music. My mom ordered this anthology called 'Classical Thunder' on 2 cassettes and we would listen to Beethoven's 9th, Ride of the Valkyries, The 1812 Overture, Ave Maria, In the Hall of the Mountain King, Pachelbel, etc.. My dad loves Holst's "The Planets" and would play
that a lot. Lots of cassette tapes. We even had this strange ritual of listening to the Moonlight Sonata and Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings on nights when the moon was full. I'm serious. Freaks.

10. What bands do each of you listen to nowadays?

DAN: Peter Gabriel-Genesis. And.... yeah that's about it. I used to hate them with a passion. But when I turned 22, something just went off in my head, and it all made sense suddenly...

KYLE: We've all been listening to early Genesis religiously for the last few months. And then there's my usual musical rotation: Gentle Giant, Brian Wilson, Alice in Chains, Yes, Sunny Day Real Estate, CSNY, Wynton Marsalis, Jeff Buckley,  Mahavishnu Orchestra, Sonic Youth, and an assortment of Jazz, Classical composers, and Anarcho/Crust Punk. Bands to look out for: "Mice Parade" from Brooklyn. Layered Jazz-Trance. "French Kicks" great vocals and harmonies. Not your average rock band.

BECKY: Kyle needs to be corrected. I personally do not listen to Genesis. I like a million different things. Lately I've been listening to a lot of Sonic Youth. I like Sunny Day Real Estate, but if I listen to them too often then I start to get depressed! But my tastes are very broad. I like hardcore/anarcho/crust punk, a wide selection of grunge, riot grrrl bands, surf rock, classical piano, experimental jazz, shoe-gaze, some political hip-hop, just to name a few.

PAT: I'm the most selective of the band (some might say close-minded...probably true). I've been listening to a lot of classical music lately. Debussy, Schubert, Liszt, Wagner, definitely a fan of the 'Romantics'. It takes effort to listen to classical, especially with some of the more popular tunes, it's tough to rid your mind of pork commercials or Mickey Mouse.  It's an ongoing process and it requires the most commitment out of all other music, which can be rewarding but usually drives me crazy. Opera is something I'll save for my 40's. Then there's the old friends: King Crimson, Yes, Gentle Giant, Flaming Lips, Genesis, French Kicks, Sunny Day Real Estate, Tom Waits, Trail of Dead. I enjoy some of the 90's grunge/alt whatever you want to call it: Soundgarden, Nirvana, Morphine, Alice in Chains, Silverchair, Tad, etc. I have a stomach for Dixieland jazz like Satchmo, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Art Tatum. I like Miles Davis and the jazz fusion of the 60's and 70's but that's more Kyle's domain. I don't follow much of what's going on these days. Kind of boring...

11. Let’s talk about “General Winter’s Secret Museum.”  It’s just a fabulous full length debut.  Tell us a bit about the albums themes lyrically as well as about the musical goals you were shooting for.  

DAN: Well, it took a while to come together. When we went in to record demos with Tim, he basically said, "I wanna hear every song you've ever written." So we just dumped it all out onto the table and said, "Here." He picked out the songs that he felt were the strongest. Some of them were old. "The Moon" goes back to about 8 years ago. And then "Will O'The Wisp" was written right before we started doing the album. So the theme of the album, or what sort of "story" it would tell, started to fall into place once all the songs were done being mixed.

PAT: We wanted the themes lyrically to be a little more down to earth than what is commonly associated with 'prog'.  Although there is some escapism, a lot of it is about fear and doubt. There's a sense of longing. Longing for life to be different. That things didn't have to be the way they are. There's a lot of sadness in the lyrics. Musically we wanted each song to be its own little world. Its own little journey. Mood was also very important. The mood changes a lot in our music and we wanted those changes to be drastic. Tim had the worst of it, I think. Not only did he have to put up with a bunch of nerds questioning his every move but he had to mix the record in a way where it would all make sense. We put a lot into that record. There are a lot of little things here and there and we did it on purpose. Tim said he wanted it to be like an onion where you keep pulling back layer after layer and I think we did it. Tim put as much of his heart and soul into this as we did.

12. How did Tim Gilles get involved and will he be producing your next album as well?

KYLE: We became a trio in early 2006. We were becoming better musicians and wrote several new songs that showcased our talent a little more than previous songs. We recorded these new songs on a 4 track and independently released an EP called "Clouded Gloomy Beloved". Among these songs on the EP was "Big Al" which caught the attention of producer Tim Gilles, through myspace.

DAN: We talked to Tim recently and a second album was brought up. He said he would be interested. We learned a lot from Tim, and I think back on recording "General Winter" with a lot of fondness. We would all love to work with Tim again. We'll just have to see what this coming year brings, I think.

PAT: There will be a second Tea Club record and it will be produced by Tim Gilles.

13. The opening of “Werewolves” sounds a bit like AC/DC’s “She’s got balls.”  Closet Angus fans or pure coincedence?

DAN: I'm pretty sure Pat secretly loves AC/DC.

BECKY: Though I had no part in writing "Werewolves," I absolutely abhor that song and AC/DC. No way in hell, dude!


PAT: I will neither confirm nor deny the allegation of Pat being a closet AC/DC fan. There are worse bands to be closet fans of (like Guns and Roses or Kiss), but I will say this, construction workers would get a lot less work done were it not for the likes of AC/DC (ask Kyle about that), so I see them as providing a community service.

14. So what’s the story with “Big Al?”  (A song about an older acquaintance always telling them about his punk rock glory days, to the apparent chagrin of the band.)  True story?  Who is Al and tell us what his sage-speak was about.

DAN: Al's a real dude. I think that Big Al is the only song we've ever written that is directly about one particular person, so I won't go in to details. But there was one instance in which he called us out as a band and gave us a lot of unrealistic and very cliched sh*t about what it means to be in a band. We got pretty pissed about it. It's sort of an angry song isn't it?

BECKY: I met Al once. He had way too many band magnets on his fridge NOT to be a douche.

DAN: I actually ran into Big Al a couple years ago at a lame party. It was uncomfortable.

PAT: Big Al is "one of those guys" and everybody knows "one of those guys". I wrote most of those lyrics and while we used that situation for inspiration it's also a little about me because I've always been afraid of becoming "one of those guys".  Tim thinks it's about him. We even toyed with the idea of changing the words to Big Tim, but it was too hard to sing.  "Throw me a catchphrase Big TIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIImmm!" Not quite the same.

15. “Castle Builder” is a devastating track with lyrics like “there is no revolution if we’re all too frightened to look each other in the eye.”  What revolution does the TC believe we need?

DAN: Hmm. This is tough. I don't want to go on and on about "society" and sound like an idiot, but we are a selfish race, we humans. You really see it whenever there's a lot of people that don't know each other in a public place. Go to the grocery store. Get on a train and go to the city. You can feel that coldness. We're all out for ourselves. If I don't know you, then get out of my way. It's difficult to explain, but we all feel it, and it's really bizarre. You just get where you need to go and try not to make eye contact. And then we all go home and hide in our houses. It's surreal if you think about a neighborhood of homes. All these houses really close together, and inside are all these people trying to hide from each other and block the rest of the world out. They can just sort of watch TV in surround sound and go on the computer and completely
ignore everything. It's like the lyric in the song, "All day we stare at the lights." I don't think it's healthy, and I don't think it should be normal. But I don't know. It's hard to say what kind of revolution we need. People need to stop playing so much World Of Warcraft, I guess. And Halo.

PAT: Castle Builder is very much Dan's song. He wrote all of the lyrics (except for the very end, which he helped me write) and was the song I believe he had the clearest vision for. I think the lyrics are beautiful and are saying something real. To me that song is about honesty. An honest willingness to "look each other in the eye". People will laugh at you now if you find money on the street and turn it in to be claimed. Or worse, they'll think there's actually something wrong with you. To be an honest man is to be mocked. But what would the world be like if honesty was held as sacred? That's what the song says to me. The 'revolution' has to be a change of the way the people of this planet view each other. That's nothing new, but it's not telling you what the revolution will be, it's showing you the only way it can ever start.

16. I personally find the last three tracks on the album to be very strong and compelling.  I’m wondering if you could briefly walk us through the themes and significance of the last three tracks, what they mean to you, what they are about.

DAN: I think there's a theme of death, honestly. "Will O' The Wisp" has this Autumnal thing to me. It reminds me of that eerie time of day when dusk is setting in and you're just starting to realize that things are changing. The lyrics to "The Moon" were actually written about the transition from Fall into Winter. The shadows are stretching and there are faces in the trees and you start feeling like Ichabod Crane. The leaves are gone and you can feel something looming. And "IceClock" is that inevitable end. You're realizing that some things are broken and can't be fixed. It's a bit melancholy, but there's a
release as well. Accepting life and death, and hoping to God that everything will make sense in the end.

PAT: The lyrics to "Will 'O' the Wisp" are about regret. Waking up one day and thinking "What the hell have I been doing the past 2 years?" and seeing all the things you missed that you'll never be able to get back. The vocals break and the music becomes hypnotic and almost reflective. Then the vocals come back and you're seeing a new world emerging and the past is "melting away", like what Dan said, things are changing. Then "The Moon" begins and it's like you've landed in an unfamiliar place. Dan wrote all the lyrics to "The Moon" and they have many hidden and symbolic meanings but the main
idea is that you're witnessing the end of something that was both frightening and wonderful. "I watch now, the sky as it darkens grey...waved 'good night' to the branches like knives..." That sets the stage for Ice Clock" which is about death or passing through to a final place quietly like clouds passing over your house "in the middle of the night".
The final section is, as Dan said, acceptance and hope that you did the right thing "and avenge these memories". Those last 3 songs can definitely be viewed as the final act of the record even down to the lyric booklet which has the lyrics to "IceClock" set to a picture of closing curtains. The lyrics to the last 3 are special to me because they tell our feelings on life as young men through references of distant and personal childhood memories. One of the (few) advantages of having brothers in a band I guess.

17. What is the writing process like?  Do you guys write songs as a band?  Or do you bring in individual ideas already completed and then learn those and modify them as a unit?  

DAN: It usually starts off with some chords that Patrick or I come up with on an acoustic guitar. Then after that, we play it live with the band and just go bananas. The lyrics usually come last. "Will O' The Wisp", "The Clincher", "Purple Chukz"... They were like that. But it's different for different songs. "Big Al" started off as a keyboard riff that we later played on guitar. The middle part was written around a drum beat Kyle came up with. And the end part was a lot of improvising that slowly and unconsciously became structured.

PAT: It's a bumblef**k (for lack of a better term). We'll use riffs or chord changes from songs written on different instruments from years ago, or write something on the spot. Recently Dan and I have come to the band with material written in a more complete form, but that tends to stunt the input of the other players which in turn can lead to the songs being boring and one-dimensional. It can make things easier but it isn't the way we want to write music. It's a lot more fun for everybody to have that period of throwing ideas around.

BECKY: As far as I know, there is no preferred formula for creating Tea Club songs. Some songs came out really good because the band worked together on coming up with every measure. Others, like "Out of the Oceans" or "Diamondized" were either Dan or Pat's song in their entirety. When I think about it, I'm very conflicted about what I think works best! While I personally prefer to create songs as a band, "Diamondized" and "Out of the Oceans" are two of my most favorite Tea Club songs.

18. Describe the live show for those of us who have never seen a gig.  Does the band do any progressive rock covers?  Is there long improvisation or mostly song-based set lists?

DAN: I used to constantly try to get us to cover "Long Distance Runaround".

KYLE: Yeah we would always talk about playing King Crimson or Yes covers, specifically from the albums "Red" and "Fragile" but we never got around to it. Those songs are pretty difficult to learn and we'd end up accidentally writing a new song in the middle of learning King Crimson riffs most likely.

PAT: We used to do a lot of improvising live, but have backed off from that recently. I think we saw too many half-assed jam bands and feared becoming like that. Listening to The Mars Volta improvise for 2 and a half hours is a sobering experience. We've been focusing more on the dynamics of the songs and emphasizing or even exaggerating the moods. We want our shows to be enjoyable to people both stoned and not stoned. We also really get into it when we play. Guitars have been broken, drum sets have been jumped into, stage props have been destroyed. I think it's always interesting to watch a band, who's really into their music and is really playing well, teeter on the edge of completely losing it. As far as covers go, they are rarely played. Mostly due to laziness and impatience.

19. What kinds of instruments do you guys use live?

DAN: We have to bring WAY too many guitars with us when we play. We use a lot of alternate tunings, and they're all very different from each other, so tuning in the middle of the set would take too much time. It's a pain in the goddamn ass. Right now, I have a sweet Les Paul. I used to have an Epiphone until I broke it. We were playing a show, and it wasn't sounding very good... We got a little crazy and I threw it on the ground. I miss Eppy. I have a Parker too. I saw Adrian Belew with one and I was like, yeah, I NEED one of those. Mine is pretty "low-end" as far as Parkers go, but I love it. Oh and my friend Willie just gave me his Big Muff. It rules.

BECKY: Since I'm quite small, the bass that Dan and Pat already own is way too heavy for me to stand up and play. Also, my tiny fingers were not able to function very well on a jazz bass. Right now, we are working on paying off this really cool bass. I'm not one to be concerned with brands and models and such, but Kyle and I found a used Fender Jaguar in perfect condition. It's red, and gorgeous! I'd even go so far as to say that it's down right sexy.

PAT: Kyle has a drum set. That's pretty much all I know about it. Some of the pieces are expensive, other pieces were trash-picked. Duct tape is usually involved, but you'd never know it to hear him play. I play a 1981 Gibson Victory MVX. It's somewhat rare and was Gibson's answer to the Strat. It's a first series and was the 13th Gibson Victory ever made. I also have a Fender Strat 12 string. It was made in Japan but it sounds beautiful. I'm using an old Line-6 flextone XL combo amp. It sounds better than a lot of the newer Line-6 amps but I'm looking to get a vox AC-30 this year.

20. Something that I always wonder about is how indie bands deal with the balance of a music career versus full time education and/or days jobs.  Do the Tea Club members intend to devote the next several years to going for the music “big time” or are you all involved in traditional career paths as well?

DAN: Ha. We have thrown all of our eggs in one basket. We all recently moved into a house together, so we have jobs to make money just to keep the house and support the band. It's not so bad. It used to be a lot worse.

KYLE: Yep. We all live together like one big, happy (and poor) family! Music is the most important thing to us. We all work to pay the rent, record, play shows, mail out CDs and stuff like that. I work during the day for a civil engineering company as an inspector and at night I play music. I have no plans of going to college and am content with making just enough money to pay my bills, buy food, and play music. I live paycheck to paycheck but I'd rather have it this way than to pick a career and not have time to play music. One day we all hope that the music will be self-sustainable. That would be great but when it comes down to it, we've always played music for ourselves most importantly. Nothing will stop us from writing music even if we can't make a living off of it.

PAT: I see this as my career. I've accrued a variety of experiences that you could get nowhere else than by playing your own music in a band. When I'm old, I'll have stories to tell. I may not have much of a 'nest egg' but I'll have had an interesting life. Why give up playing music just because you can't make any money from it? If that's what makes you give up then you probably got into music for the wrong reasons in the first place. I'm filled with what seems like a limitless optimism for this band. And like what Kyle said, there shouldn't be anything to stop us from making music. At least we've been productive. We have something to show for the time we've spent on this planet. Something to leave behind.

BECKY: I honestly cannot imagine being paid to play shows. Maybe it's cynical, but I do not think that there are enough sincere people in the world who would take the time and money to see us. When we play, I feel like we have a tendency to show people something that they don't want to deal with. It's very personal and has the potential to make others uncomfortable.  Either that or they don't understand why our stage presence is so enthused and emotional. But that is probably because we have been frequenting bars to play shows, and I know if I went out to get drunk, I certainly wouldn't want to see a band like us! Maybe people don't think that we are having fun. Ha, it's so ironic! Pat and Dan sing sad lyrics and yet we are having a good time. Sometimes I even get embarrassed when Dan, Pat, or Kyle mention how happy I look when I'm on stage. Music is a funny thing for us, really. But I understand how confused people must be when they watch our personalities and don't know us as people. We have to be careful what we say because we are all extremely sarcastic, but of course strangers don't understand our sense of humor! It must be really strange - four people playing their little hearts out for no one AT ALL but themselves and each other, sharing both very very sad and very happy emotions without saying anything but the words to a song. We're not your average "music lovers." The Tea Club shares something very intimate and therapeutic. Definitely not a band you would ask to play at a party! Unless of course it was a tea party.

DAN: Yeah, we just got out of the "we need gigs, so let’s play bars" thing. It left us with a bitter taste in our mouths.  We would often be playing these songs that mean the world to us for people who either just could not care less, or no one at all. I'm sure anyone who's ever been in a band can relate to that. We've had those lows together, but it was a bonding experience. We're choosing the shows that we play a lot more carefully now. Our music is not for everyone, it took us years to realize it. We have had experiences that are a little too much like that movie "Airheads". Ha. But I'm glad that we went
through them now. It's like Back To The Future 2. It showed us the grim and possible future. I'm sure there will be more shows like that. We could fall flat on our faces. As Wayne Coyne once said, "The universe will have its way." But we're going to do everything we possibly can, dammit.

21. Does the future success of The Tea Club require that the band be signed by a label?  Can the band be successful in your eyes going the Indie route of self-releases and promotion?  

DAN: We're finally in a position where we can focus all of our efforts into promoting The Tea Club. If we don't get signed the way we're going now, then we have to accept the fact that the music industry has changed and it just wasn't meant to be.  But I don't think we CAN stop writing music. And as long as we are all still making new and exciting sounds together, then we'll be successful.

KYLE: I really believe there is a big enough audience that would be into our music for us to get signed to a decent label.  Our band has always struggled very much doing everything on our own, the indie way. Money has always been tight. None of us went to college except for Becky. She went for a year and is taking a break. The rest of us dropped out of school. Becoming a successful unsigned indie band requires a good amount of money, resources, and the right connections.

PAT: Yes sir! And rich mommies and daddies! It's possible to go the indie route. We're definitely young enough, but I'd rather find a good label. It hasn't been until recently that we finally got our act together and in that short period of time a lot has happened. I think the year 2009 will bring something substantial to The Tea Club.

22. Do you fear having to make compromises should the band be offered a record deal?

DAN: I don't know, I think it's easy for a younger band to sit there and say, sh*t, we'll do whatever we want no matter what! But I've seen bands that I love go back on everything that made them unique to become more "commercial". It's so disappointing and it doesn't make any sense to you. But if you really think about it, they have all these industry people around them all of the time, and their opinion HAS to rub off on them. And they're probably very manipulative. So yes, deep down it is a fear of mine because we haven't experienced it yet and there's no way of telling how it would affect us. But we don't play the kind of music that is only cool to play when you're in your twenties. And I really do believe that our vision is strong enough that we would retain it for the entirety of our careers.

KYLE: If we got signed, I can imagine a producer trying to tell us how to change parts of our songs. But honestly, I think our music is very original and I think that would just confuse an outsider trying to change our music. I think they'd quickly learn to leave the writing up to us. If a label doesn't like our sound, then they can find another band. We write the music we want to hear and want to write.

PAT: I don't think anyone is going to hear The Tea Club and think: "With a little work this band could be the next Nickelback!" so I can't picture any producer or what-have-you trying to get us to cut a 10 minute song down to 3 minutes and change the lyrics to be about ex-girlfriends. I don't think we'll ever get the opportunity to sell out, if that makes any sense. Plus, I don't see any producers being involved with this band other than Tim Gilles and he's proven his integrity time and time again.

23. As mentioned in my review I love the artwork you guys did for the lyric booklet.  It provides more insight into the band and the music, a more personal experience.  Will you do this again on future releases?

BECKY: I'm dying to contribute something miniscule for the next album!

DAN: I remember looking at the album artwork for "How It Feels To Be Something On" by Sunny Day Real Estate, and it added so much to the experience. It was equally important to the music. It made it complete. At the same time, I think sh*tty album art can actually ruin music. If the art is lame, I won't want to like the band. We all love to draw, so I want the members of this band to always be heavily involved in the packaging. And I really look forward to Kendra DeSimone contributing art again too. She painted the cover of "General Winter's Secret Museum" and I love it. It's all about the mood.

PAT: We've received a lot of positive feedback concerning the artwork. It seems to work, so I have no intention of changing that. If anything the second record will probably have much more of our own art. I'd like to work with Jonathan Concepcion from the band Antimatterfox again. He designed the layout for "General Winter..." and made some key suggestions.

24. Give me a couple of “desert island” album picks from each band member.

DAN: "Return Of The Frog Queen" by Jeremy Enigk. It's the perfect blend of guitar music and orchestral instruments. The recording quality is so earthy and natural. Every song on that album is beautiful. And I'm gonna throw in "Mule Variations" by Tom Waits. I'll be able to listen to Tom Waits for the rest of my life. He's a master of creating worlds with his albums that you want to revisit over and over. And he's such a likable character. A lot of this album is so insane that it's tongue-in-cheek, but then he can be completely sincere and reduce you to tears. It takes a very strong personality to successfully pull that off, I think.

KYLE: I agree with Dan's two picks. Two very strong albums. I'd have to add King Crimson's "Lizard" and Genesis' "Nursery Cryme" as well.

PAT: If Kyle is bringing 'Lizard' than I'll bring 'Islands'! Also in there would be 'The Soft Bulletin' by The Flaming Lips, 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' by Yes, Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies (all of them preferably), The White Album, and if Becky doesn't bring 'In Utero' I will.

25. Are there any other musicians you’d like to name that the band might wish to collaborate with in the future?

DAN: K.K. Slider from Animal Crossing.

KYLE: We'd all like Tim Gilles to be more involved in the Producer role on the second album, hopefully adding some tasteful keyboard layers in the mixes among some other complimentary instruments.

PAT: Steven Drozd, Itzhak Perlman, Josh Grobin (so I can pull that fake ass wig off his head and prove it to the world), and Rick Rubin, maybe?

26. My friend Mike’s required question: What is the last CD you listened to?

DAN: "Intergalactic Boogie Express" by The League of Crafty Guitarists. This has the probably the coolest rendition of Bach's Prelude that I've ever heard.

KYLE: Babes in Toyland "Fontanelle."

PAT: "LP2" Sunny Day Real Estate.

Becky: "Sonic Nurse" by Sonic Youth and I also recently got into the self-titled Dresden Dolls album.

27. Final thoughts, social commentaries, or personal manifestos you’d like to share with the ProgArchives readership?  


KYLE: Yeah, I have a personal manifesto I'd like to talk about. I'd really appreciate if Dan would stop getting 80's Phil Collins stuck in my head. Not that there's anything wrong with that. That sh*t will just not leave my EFFING brain!

DAN: "It takes control... and slow-ly tears...YOU a-part!"

BECKY: Sorry for being corny.

PAT: I want to set something straight, contrary to popular belief, Spider Man 3 WAS a terrible movie, the Fast and the Furious franchise is NOT dead and Kurt Vonnegut jr IS actually dead. And on a serious note I want to thank everybody on prog archives for being awesome, but I think 'Beat' deserves a slightly higher rating than 2.85. A 3 maybe? But seriously, you guys are great and thank you so much for your support!!!(3.20???....)

[Interview by Jim Russell, Jan 21 2009]

Thank you so much Becky, Dan, Kyle, and Pat! 

StarAnd readers, please get out there and buy this album.  Support some REAL music.  You can get it for only $9.99 CD or less as a download, click right here:

StarOr the download here:

Edited by Finnforest - January 25 2009 at 13:44
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 22 2009 at 19:18
Hey, quit stealing my obligatory final question!

Good one Jim! I'm unfortunately right out the door right now, but I'll be sure to give a more thorough read when I get back in. This is a band that I've been quite interested in since their inclusion. Clap
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 22 2009 at 23:26
"Apparently it's illegal to lay on the ground if your not dead" is the best line ever.LOL  These guys are hilarious and smart.Ok that's a good combination for a band isn't it? Oh yeah they have to know how to play and they do that well. I've been on their MySpace page.  Fantastic interview JimClap  I'd love to hang around with those guys for a day. Gonna order their cd soon.
"The wind is slowly tearing her apart"

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 23 2009 at 14:55
Great! Clap
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 23 2009 at 15:46
hahaha... Kyle you are the man Clap

26. My friend Mike’s required question: What is the last CD you listened to?

KYLE: Babes in Toyland "Fontanelle.

Thumbs Up Killer album

great inteview Jim ClapClap They sounded like a trip ..and a breeze to interview.  
I find your lack of Bassoon disturbing.....
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 23 2009 at 16:27
I wouldn't even need to know jack about them to enjoy that interview.  Great job Jim, and welcome to the neighborhood, Tea ClubBig smileClap  You guys have a good sound, I hear some potential for widespread appeal, just keep hammering away and playing, recording.  Some people will attest that I'm tough on new "prog" bands, but I dug the myspace tracks...but maybe that's just it, the band doesn't have a typical "prog" sound.
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