…the road to the album
70ies to 80ies -
The seeds of the Tea Party were sown in elementary school where Jeff Martin and Jeff Burrows struck up a lasting friendship and shared complementary musical tastes. . Both had music in their family – Burrows’ father was a drummer, whilst Martin’s stepfather was a bass player.
The two played together in The Jigsaw Affair, along with Jeff Renaud and Brad Burrows, who was soon replaced with Stuart Chatwood. A number of recordings exist from the Jigsaw Affair, including the embryonic roots of the future Tea Party song Psychopomp, as the track ‘Something More’, which you can listen here:
In high school the two met Stuart Chatwood, and together Stuart and Martin formed ‘The Stickmen’. The Stickmen went on to record a demo tape and tour frequently in Toronto in the late 80s early 90s, with Stuart on guitar and vocals and Jeff on lead guitar and additional vocals, notably on the track ‘Loverman’.
- early 90ies
everything takes shape
In early 1990 Jeff Martin and Stuart Chatwood were back in Windsor, taking a break from their Toronto jobs. During this time they met up with Jeff Burrows for a night out and some drinks at the Coach and Horses. Whilst they were there the manager enquired about Burrows and Martin’s availability to play some live music and draw in some patrons – tentatively to be titled B&M Blues – having both previously played there before. The three of them expanded on that idea and decided to form a band, simply for fun under their terms. It didn’t hurt that the money being offered was better than what they were making as The Stickmen in Toronto.
The Tea Party are founded
A few months of rehearsals and song writing followed, with Stuart making the switch from rhythm guitar and vocalist to bass player, and the first summer gigs were lined up. Tentatively billed as the “The New Stickmen”, in lieu of a name, and as a homage to The New Yardbirds, the band played such venues as “The Rivoli”, “C’est What” and “Coach and Horses”. The reception was immense, and the plans were swiftly made for more gigs and to capture the sounds on their debut recording later than year. All that remained was the name.
They found this within the pages of a well-thumbed copy of Hammer of The Gods. Some potential suggestions, though it remains to be seen whether they were serious contenders were The Crowley’s, Loch Ness, Edgewater Hotel, and The Lori Maddox’s. All of which were rejected in favour of the name given to the legendary 1969, four-hour Boston gigs of Led Zeppelin: “The Tea Party”.
Capitol Demo Tape
Following the release of their self-titled debut album, and fueled by ambition and raw talent, the group toured the Toronto and Windsor area extensively. Early examples of the ferocity of their live show have since emerged, notably the fabled April 92 Coach and Horses show, and the December 1992 Toronto show.
As can be evidenced from these recordings the band’s sound was subtly changing, evolving into something more mystical and esoteric than the earlier blues-based sounds on their Indie release. During this time new tracks were written and recorded in the studio, later emerging as ‘The Capitol Demo’.
A number of major labels refused to sign the band at this time but, ultimately, they found their home with EMI based off the strength of their live shows. Unique to this relationship was that the band was afforded total control of their sounds, and Jeff Martin was to produce – being the youngest producer with EMI Canada at that time.
recording of Splendor Solis
The band entered the studio in February 1993 at White Crow studio in Burlington, Vermont to rework tracks off both the Indie album and The Capitol Demos, plus two new tracks (A Certain Slant of Light and Raven Skies) into what would become their major label debut, Splendor Solis:
“Tea Party was a perfect match for White Crow. The studio was one of last great analog recording studios in the Northeast U.S. The band’s organic sound took full advantage of it.” – Todd R. Lockwood, Studio Owner
Release of Splendor Solis
Splendor Solis was released in Canada in June 1993 and there were four singles released – The River, A Certain Slant of Light Save Me (with videos directed by Floria Sigismondi) and In This Time (released in Australia).
The title, meaning the splendor of the sun, was taken from the 15th-Century alchemical manuscripts of the same name. The artwork by Steve Cole was also inspired by some of the works contained within the original manuscripts.
The band toured the release of Splendor Solis extensively in Canada, and also embarked upon their first international tour, covering North America, Europe and Australia.
The band was exceptionally well received in mainland Europe and Australia. In Germany, Splendor Solis was voted WOM magazine’s ‘Album of the Year’; in the UK the band were included in the prestigious Reading Festival; and Save Me proved to be the breakthrough track in Australia, leading to a long-time love affair between the two. The band began to play multiple dates in cities, sometimes as many as three nights in the same city. The Canadian leg of the Splendor Solis tour was supported by Roy Harper.
- by the end of 1994
success of Splendor Solis
Splendor Solis sold reached #20 on the Canadian album chart and platinum status in 1994 (double platinum in 2000), and earned a Juno nomination for “Best Hard Rock Album”.
The band was also nominated for “Best New Group”. Splendor Solis was also The Tea Party’s first gold selling album in Australia, where the band have enjoyed great success throughout their career.
In Germany the album was voted to the “Album of the Year” by WOM Music Magazine.