(this interview originally appeared in Narc magazine)
Sharp dressed and sophisticated, Rob Heron & The Teapad Orchestra one of Newcastle’s finest bands. With their debut album out next month, Lee Fisher caught up with Rob for a chat.
Taking their name from an album of swing songs about reefer and their musical lead from a bewildering but coherent range of old-time influences, The Teapad Orchestra have parlayed a love for everything from gypsy jazz to western swing, Cajun and bluegrass into a distinctive sound that makes debut album Money Isn’t Everything an absolute gem.
“The style of music we play now is the result of an obsession that I have pursued now for over 3 years, in early 20th century music of all varieties, mostly American.”, Rob explains, while “Tom’s always been a huge bluegrass/old-time fan, Ben is the man for gypsy jazz, Colin plays scottish traditional music but has blossomed into the best Western Swing accordion player in the North!, Rob and Dave play allsorts but fit in perfectly, as they are just brilliant musicians.”
Rob explains that the album really came into focus in March after a successful tour with Pokey LaFarge. “The huge buzz from that spurred us into organising an album. We recorded it all in about 3 days at Blank Studios in Newcastle and did it all live in the room, and got some of our friends to play too”. From the title on, two things dominate the songs’ subject matter. “I wanted there to be a theme of money and drink in our album, as these are things that affect me and my friends – lack of money and too much booze. Being over-political, over-analytical of politics, and heavily biased bores me though….so I only ever do so with tongue in cheek, which I hope comes across in our music!” Hence the inclusion of Bank Failure, recorded in 1931 but “so relevant today, I couldnt not record it!” Also on the album is the crowd favourite The Great Fire Of Byker, about last year’s scrap yard conflagration.
If the band (and studying for a degree in Folk & Traditonal Music) wasn’t enough, Rob also runs Teapad Presents, a promoter based at the Cumberland but spreading its net wider all the time. “There are big plans for 2013, including a mega Mardi Gras party, and a sampler CD of all the local talents. We sometimes venture into other venues, but the Cumberland is the hub.”
I couldn’t let Rob go without asking about his dress sense (you’ll have seen him about town, spats in place and hat at a jaunty angle). I wondered if he ever slunk about in sportswear.
“When i started playing music from the 1920s/30s I came to the conclusion that one can’t just put on a stage persona, then walk to the shops the next day in 21st century clothing. I enjoy dressing smartly, and it makes me feel like i’m living the music I play, not just putting on a show.” Although adamant he hasn’t worn a hoody in years, he admits “I sometimes wear jeans. Period jeans mind.”
Rob Heron & The Teapad Orchestra release Money Isn’t Everything on October 19 th , with a free launch party at The Cumberland Arms. More details at http://www.teapadorchestra.co.uk
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