Interview with Beans on Toast
Indie folk champion Jay ‘Beans on Toast’ released his 10th studio album ‘A Bird in the Hand’ on the 1st December (an annual birthday tradition). A sweet and honest record about family, growing up and the bright side of life, you can read my thoughts on it here. This year, he marks the occasion this year with a performance of the record in full at Rough Trade Nottingham and a launch show in Nuneaton. I was lucky enough to catch up with Jay on release day.
First things first – Happy Birthday – how’s your day been?
Haha thanks, it’s been busy, but I do it to myself I suppose.
‘A Bird in the Hand’ is the new record. It’s a very direct and honest record that speaks for itself, but is there anything about the album and the songwriting process that doesn’t come across in the music?
I think the difference with my songwriting is that it’s kinda say-what-you-see storytelling, so you know what the song’s about. I’ve always found that songwriting has come naturally to me and I don’t try to overthink what it is. Songs draw from real life and emotion and for a song like “Magic”, having a daughter had a lot of that, so it was always gonna turn into a song. There was a time when the whole album was gonna be about my daughter because it was such a life-changing time – we went into the bubble you go into when you’ve got this tiny precious baby to look after and initially nothing else matters, but I’ve never really been a fan of concept records. Eventually you come out of the bubble and it’s like ‘come on, you’ve gotta talk about some other stuff.’
The main inspiration for this album was obviously the narrative about your daughter, but was there anything that inspired you musically at the time you were writing and recording?
As far as musical inspirations, there’s a lot of stuff I listen to but I dunno how much inspiration I draw from music. I’ll enjoy it, but because I go by the formula I’ve always done, the main inspiration is always life and what I’ve been up to. It’s not like there’s this new sound I wanna try. The actual sound of the record was down to Ben (Lovett – Mumford & Sons), I just played my plinky plonky tunes and the whole album could’ve sounded like that. But at the same time there’s a lot of good new music out – I was on tour with a band called The Devil Makes Three, who are one of my favourite bands. I really like his lyrics and it was quite interesting to spend three weeks on the road with someone whose words you admire. I work with a different producer on every record because it could just end up as one long album of the same shit going on and on.
You’ve done Robin Hood Costume, you’ve done Major Oak, is there anything about Nottingham you’ve got a connection with?
Yeah, my Mum’s best mate and her kids are the same age so we used to come up from Essex a lot to Nottingham at Christmas and stuff and go to Sherwood Forest. One of the real joys of doing what I do is I get to travel so much – I’ll come to Nottingham four or five times a year for gigging. In fact, Dan, one of the friends of the family, is the guy that’s filming the show tonight and the other brother runs Mocky-D’s, which is a vegan kebab shop in town. I just got a veggie doner kebab from there and they’re better than real doner kebabs, hands down. I’d never eat a doner kebab at 2 o clock in the afternoon but I just snatched one of them and I feel great!
Have you got a favourite venue you like to play when you come to Nottingham?
The whole Rock City/Rescue Rooms complex is amazing. I think Rock City’s probably the best of the big ones. It still feels independent as opposed to most 3000 capacity venues. I’ve played the Bodega but most times I do Rescue Rooms – I’ve had some of my favourite gigs there and I’ve got no qualms with ‘if something’s good keep doing it.’
‘A Bird in the Hand’ is your tenth record, and it’s nine years since the debut ‘Standing on a Chair.’ What for you has changed?
Everything has changed. As far as releasing music, the whole business aspect is different. It’s interesting releasing a record every year because you realise how quick it changes. 2 years ago, it was all about ‘instant grat’ where if you pre-ordered the album you got the single and that was the way to ultimately get your album downloaded. Nowadays nobody really gives a shit about that because no-one downloads anything, it’s all about streams. The way it’s definitely going is Spotify playlists which seem to be the be all and end all of how many plays you get. But Spotify’s an incredible tool for listening to music. As much as people bitch about it, no-one wants to put the genie back in the bottle.
Benjamin Folke Thomas, who’s supporting and playing in your band tonight, has the song “Stuff of Dreams” about playing pool with Paul Newman. If you could have a game of pool with one person who would it be?
It’s an incredible song. I’ve played pool against Ben before and he is fucking good. He’s a good guitar player and he’s a killer pool player as well, so definitely not him. I’d go with John Lennon. I would imagine he was a good fucking pool player, he was probably good at everything wasn’t he.
Yeah, probably one of those people.
I’d lose. I’d lose to John Lennon happily.
‘A Bird in the Hand’ is out now.