The Tea Party were a Canadian rock band with blues, progressive rock, Indian and Middle Eastern influences, dubbed "Moroccan roll" by the media. Active throughout the 1990s and half of the 2000s, The Tea Party released eight albums on EMI Music Canada, selling 1.6 million records worldwide, and achieving a #1 Canadian single "Heaven Coming Down" in 1999.
The Tea Party toured Canada on twenty-one occasions and Australia on twelve, where they headlined a show in 2002 to an audience of 5,800 at the Hordern Pavilion, Sydney. In November 2002, The Tea Party toured Canada with symphony orchestras reinterpreting a decade's worth of shared songwriting. Their career together ended abruptly in 2005 due to creative differences.
The Tea Party was formed in 1990 by Jeff Martin, Stuart Chatwood and Jeff Burrows after a marathon jam session at the Cherry Beach Rehearsal Studios in Toronto. Each member had previously played together during their teenage years in a number of different bands. They had decided to name their new group The Tea Party after the infamous hash sessions of famous Beat generation poets Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs.
The Tea Party released their eponymous debut album in 1991, distributing it through their own label Eternal Discs. The album drew influences from psychedelic rock and blues, and was produced by Martin; album production was something Martin would continue with for all of The Tea Party's albums, as a way of giving the band complete artistic control. In 1993 The Tea Party signed to EMI Music Canada and released their first major label recording, Splendor Solis. The band employed open tunings and goblet drums (Dumbek) to imitate Indian sounds, something they continued to employ throughout their career, while continuing in a blues influenced style. In 1994 the album released in Australia, with the single "Save Me" launching the band's career in the country. The band gained the support of national radio station Triple J, enabling the band's first tour, with "Save Me" becoming a staple of their setlists.
Further developing The Tea Party's sound in 1995, The Edges of Twilight was recorded with an array of Indian and Middle-eastern instrumentation. "Sister Awake", the third single from the album, defines what the band set out to do, combining three-piece rock compositions with music from the world. "Sister Awake" is an acoustically based arrangement on 12-string guitar, sitar, sarod, harmonium and goblet drums. The Edges of Twilight is The Tea Party's most commercially successful album; with sales exceeding 270,000 units, the album is certified double platinum in Canada and platinum in Australia.
Upon returning from successful tours in Canada, Europe and Australia in 1996, The Tea Party recorded Alhambra, an Enhanced CD which features acoustic re-recordings of songs from The Edges of Twilight, and followed its release with a brief tour of Canada called "Alhambra Acoustic and Eclectic". English folk musician Roy Harper appeared on The Edges of Twilight reciting a poem and on Alhambra providing vocals for the song "Time".
Transmission released in 1997 saw The Tea Party's first foray into electronica, the sound not unlike Nine Inch Nails, with a sampled world music foundation and thrust. Transmission is a collection of aggressive songs influenced by upheavals around the band; the firing of their management and the feeling of a lack of support from their record company. Epitomising the feelings were the first single "Temptation" and the album's title song, but the band stepping forward from this catharsis a wiser group of men, with the reflection seen in their following albums.
Triptych followed in 1999, the first single "Heaven Coming Down" rose to #1 on Canadian radio. The Tea Party's music took on a more orchestral sound, maturing from the blues base. Live at the Enmore Theatre, the band's only live album was released through Australian radio station Triple J during the band's tour for Triptych.
The band released a singles compilation called Tangents: The Tea Party Collection in 2000, and then a DVD compilation of music videos (which Martin remixed in surround sound) called Illuminations in 2001. The Tea Party released The Interzone Mantras later in 2001, and in November 2002 joined symphony orchestras across Canada in adapting their live show.
Seven Circles, the band's final album, was released in 2004. Both The Interzone Mantras and Seven Circles saw the band return to their earlier sound with maturity.
In October 2005 The Tea Party disbanded due to creative differences, with Martin abruptly announcing he was beginning a solo career. Afterward Chatwood stated on the band's forum "that Jeff Burrows and myself are sincerely sorry for the way this was handled. As far as Jeff Burrows and myself were concerned, the band was taking an extended break."
Martin moved to Ireland and recorded his debut solo album Exile and the Kingdom, which was released in Canada and Australia in 2006 He has toured parts of Europe, Canada and Australia, and he released two live albums, Live in Brisbane 2006 and Live in Dublin, in November 2006 and May 2007, respectively. In August 2008, Martin announced the formation of his new band, The Armada.