If things had gone according to plan, Tea Party fans in Canada would have flocked to the Saints and Sinners Tour, which would also feature The Headstones, Ian Thornley, and Moist. Yeah, that’s not gonna happen.
When the tour was announced on Facebook Live earlier this year (I was the host for that), I spent some time with an extremely jetlagged Jeff Martin–he’s just landed from Australia–who told me that there was new music coming from the band later in 2020.
This, however, is not the music he was talking about. Let me explain.
According to Stuart Chatwood, the idea of doing some classic covers began last October when the band performed a MusicHeals.ca charity event in Vancouver. Morrissey had been in town the night before and knowing that the organizer of the event was a huge Mozzer fan, the Tea Party put together an acoustic set featuring his music. The crowd reaction was amazing.
People loved the covers so much that when Stuart’s wife suggested that they issue some of these songs and donate the proceeds to charity. The new Tea Party EP was put on hold so some of these songs could be recorded.
Fast-forward to March as the world was being shut down by the coronavirus. Jeff Martin called Stuart from Australia. “How’s your isolation coming along, my friend?”
Whoa. That immediately led to the Joy Division song. I quote from Stuart who’s still in his basement lockdown in Vancouver.
“Alarm bells went off. What a great song to hear during these times and what a great song for us to cover. Most of the Joy Division catalogue has idiosyncratic intrinsic qualities to it that make covering the material impossible as the spark and the unique context of late 1970s England would be lacking.
“I grew up in Lancashire, England, in the 1970s not far from Macclesfield outside Manchester so I had an infinity and had followed the Factory records story including some heroes of mine like Peter Hook, Bernard Summer, and Tony Wilson as soon as I discovered the existence of the movement. For us, it was Perry Thompson, a former Toronto resident and our Grade 10 art teacher in Windsor, who had brought the knowledge of lesser-known obscure post-punk outfits to our attention.
“At the time I would travel home the UK every summer so I knew of Blue Monday, but I didn’t know the back story and the greatness and tragedy of Joy Division, whose singer Ian Curtis ended his tormented life on the eve of their first tour of the Americas. I was fortunate enough to hang out with Peter Hook backstage at a few of the shows we shared together at the Big Day Out in Australia. He is full of stories and is a gregarious friendly individual.
“One story is how the track “Isolation” was semi-finished and somewhat thrown together towards the end of the Closer sessions. As a listener, you can hear this when listened comparatively to the other tracks. I felt this gave us an opportunity to approach the cover.
“It’s a bit difficult with Jeff Martin living in a jungle in Australia, Jeff Burrows in Windsor, and myself being in Vancouver but it all came together quickly.
“Jeff Martin sent a guitar and a vocal to Jeff Burrows and myself and the drums were cut in Windsor at SLR Studios with Marty Bak, the hardest working guy in show-business in the area. Jeff Martin and I added our parts. Jeff Martin mixed it and I did a quick mastering and then we set it loose.
“It was a blast to rediscover our roots. The song was fun and full of energy. In high school we were post-punk disciples. I followed Paul Weller and The Jam into a mod moment, Jeff Burrows followed Talk Talk and Jeff Martin followed Robert Smith. We met in the middle with Ian McCulloch and his band Echo and the Bunnymen followed closely by the Psychedelic Furs and the Clash.
“Director Bill Blair, a friend of the band’s from Australia who specializes in epic drone footage hounded us to help out. We shared the fact that we’d be doing everything for free while raising money for Conquer COVID-19and the Canadian Mental Health Association and he was onboard. [Note that this past Monday (May 18) was the 40th anniversary of the death of JD singer Ian Curtis. Depressed, ravaged by drugs and guilt, he hanged himself in his kitchen, just hours before the band was supposed to leave on their first North American tour.]
“The result is this amazing video featuring people in Isolation with their only accompaniment, their phone. It features footage from Sydney, Byron Bay, Berlin, Vancouver, Windsor amongst other locations. We’re extremely happy to share it with you now.
“Look for a second track to drop any given Sunday from now…hint, hint.”