The arrival of the venerable Canadian exotic rock trio’s highly anticipated new studio album, The Ocean At The End, marks the official end of the 10-year vacuum of fresh The Tea Party original material. “The Black Sea,” a stellar track from the 11-song-deep effort and the electrifying tandem of Jeff Martin (vocals, guitars, producer, songwriter); Stuart Chatwood (bass, keyboards) and Jeff Burrows (drums, percussion), completes the band’s cycle of resurrection, some of the first new music we’ve heard from them since 2004’s Seven Circles and the first project since the double-disc Live From Australia: The Reformation Tour 2012.
“The three of us probably never thought we’d be sitting here right now,” admits Martin, whose booming baritone, emotionally candid and mystical songwriting and string-bending guitar prowess has served as the creative catalyst for eight platinum and gold studio albums, one EP, one greatest hits collection, a live disc and over 2 million in global album sales.
“It’s a testament to the strength of the music that we’ve created in the past and a testament to the friendship that exists between the three of us. We had to do a lot of soul-searching, but now the bond between the three of us is stronger.”
It’s what Jeff Burrows calls, simply, “a rebirth.”
“This album is selfishly taking back what is collectively ours,” says Burrows. “For me, this record means taking back everything – my family and my music with my brothers, and what we are going to give people around the world when they hear it.”
Chatwood adds: “For me, it’s the beginning of a new chapter in the band’s career. This is a gateway record. It’s an improvement on what we’ve done in the past and a catalyst to a new direction as we mature as songwriters.”
Produced and engineered by Martin, mixed by Grammy-award-winning David Bottrill (Rush, Muse, Peter Gabriel, Tool) and recorded largely at Toronto’s Revolution Recording, The Ocean at the End contains some of the most streamlined music in The Tea Party’s career.
“It’s a rock n’ roll record,” declares Martin, one whose genesis began last year in Byron Bay, Australia and eventually migrated to the trio’s original home base of Windsor, Ontario. “We started the writing process in Australia in Byron Bay, and songs like ‘Brazil’ and the ‘Cass Corridor,’ ‘Submission’ and ‘The Water’s On Fire’ came out of that session,” he continues. “But where things got really exciting for us was when we jammed in Windsor: songs like ‘The 11th Hour’ and ‘The Line Of Control’ came out and it was really rock n’ roll. We were having fun and not over-thinking it anymore. The water had passed under the bridge, and we’re three friends now. What do you guys want to do? ‘Rock!” ‘Okay, let’s go!”
“We grew up right next to Detroit and the influence of that city infects our music more than any other extraneous influence,” states Chatwood.
“We don’t really take ourselves so seriously anymore,” says Martin. “There are no insecurities. We’re making music for ourselves and we’re having fun. It’s the whole point of it all.”
This easygoing attitude is a result of the new respect and appreciation of each other that The Tea Party principals felt while separated. “The time apart gave us such a richer experience to bring to the table when it came to songwriting, because we’ve gone, done other projects and grown up as individuals,” says Chatwood. “The quality of this record speaks for itself.”
Percussionist Burrows concurs. “Individually, we came back with more confidence in ourselves,” Burrows explains. “We’re more mature and self-reliant.”
As much as they’re self-reliant on The Ocean At The End, a couple of guest stars also grace the album: For the percussively driven “Brazil,” Aline Morales knocks out some polyrhythms, while the title track relies on flute from one of rock’s seminal figures, Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson.
Now that the album is complete, the interaction begins. Only this time, it’s different: three brothers reunited, finding new musical purpose and ultimately, enjoying the ride and each other’s company. “It’s all of us equally in it together, which is why The Ocean At The End stands quite possibly might be the strongest thing we’ve done.” Say Martin. “Now it’s time to go out and tour Australia, Canada, South American and Europe, and go to places we haven’t gone before. We’ve laid all this kerosene in different parts of the world through our music – now it’s time to go to those parts and light the match.”