The undisputed local kings of western swing and ragtime hokum (and everything in between) Rob Heron & The Tea Pad Orchestra have become somewhat of a template for hard work, determination and providing proof that, unless you’ve found yourself on Simon Cowell’s rostrum of artists, there is no magic pill for success in the music industry without resilience and self-belief.
“Our approach has always been to try and keep to a tight schedule where we look to release a new album every two years, tour it as much as we can, and do as much of the artistic work as possible” confirms Rob “we also run the record label Tea Pad Recordings which we find is a good way to control what we release and when it’s released. We like to run things our way.”
Maintaining creative control has certainly been core to the heart of new album ‘Soul of my city’ which moves the band into new artistic spheres both in terms of sound and visuals. “I’m never keen to give the sound of the band a label” continues Rob “we’re sort of a blend of swing, country blues and ragtime, but with this album I wanted us to be a little more experimental and take influence of the stranger sounding bands I play when I DJ”.
Evidenced by recent single “Like a Cuckoo”, with the Orchestra being perhaps their most poppy and catchy to date, the Tea’s are clearly pushing their sound into new atmospheres. “It’s an interesting track that one” admits Rob “I was a bit nervous to release it, but it’s turned out to be my favourite track on the album and the feedback we’ve had has been positive. We just wanted to try something a bit different and as a band we try to have a finger in a number of genres rather than a whole hand in one”.
Conceptually based around Ouseburn ‘Soul of my city’ is an attempt, in part, to start a discussion about the gentrification of parts of Newcastle. “Gentrification is a funny word” admits Rob “we prefer the word rebuilding and whilst it’s been heart-warming to see the rebuilding of the Ouseburn area over the past few years, the high rental costs and some of the purpose built student accommodation blocks are starting to endanger the local economy and artistic scene. We need everyone to see the value art provides to a local culture, and for everyone to contribute to the artistic scene, whether that’s starting up a band, coming to check out bands or even going to check out a film at the Star and Shadow. Student accommodation with purpose built video halls are not designed to support the local community”.
Building on his own beliefs, the Tea Pads have been careful to ensure that the video for future single “There’s a hole where my pocket used to be” has been fully recorded in the local area. “We were out in the streets of Heaton filming a Clint Eastwood style spaghetti western video for the new track. I can’t wait for the video to be released as it’s not just humorous but it’s also a good indication of how we want to involved in the community.”
Hard working and determined the Tea Pad’s continue to prove Russell Simmons belief that hard work, dedication and faith will get you anything.
“Soul of my city” is released 1st Feb through Tea Pad Records. An album release party will be held at The Cluny on the same night.