Interview: Beans on Toast

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It’s best I warn you about this first before we go any further. By the time Beans on Toast reaches us in Cambridge on Oct 29th, he might not be standing. This summer he has played 15 festivals and 28 shows – probably mostly while fuelling himself with god knows what – and the Portland Arms gig here will then be a further 28 gigs into a 33 date tour, pretty much without a days break between them. So, like I said, he might be a bit knackered by the time he reaches us. Not that it’ll likely spoil the show. Beans on Toast, lesser known as Jay McAllister, is a born entertainer; one part musician, one part comedian, one part storyteller. Self-titled as a ‘drunk folk singer’, his back catalogue of songs is entertaining enough to just read through, never mind listen to and if you don’t leave one of his gigs with a stupid grin plastered across your face then well, I’d be shocked.

Support for the night comes by the way of roots singer-songwriter Will Varley, who to be honest is worth the entrance fee alone. Fresh off the back of his newly released album ‘As The Crow Flies’, Varley is growing a reputation for absorbingly entertaining live performances and is surely on the road to bigger things. Tickets are a mere £6 in advance which also includes a free download of the Beans on Toast album ‘Live at the Scala’, and I promise you, whether he’s sitting on the floor or standing on a chair, it’ll be a night to remember.

Prior to the gig, I sent over a few questions to Beans.

Right then – festival season or 30+ live dates in a row, which kills you more?
If either of these things killed me I’d be dead a long time ago. I often get people saying how hard it must be to go to festivals every weekend, or to have to travel around playing shows every night. I promise it’s not hard at all. I Love it, I know people who work a fuck lot harder than I do. Plus if I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t do it.

How’s the tour going so far?
Amazing, we’ve had broken gearboxes, tie dye T shirts, Scottish coastlines, pool games with witches, mountain climbing, boat rides, musical Essex reunions, police fines, standing on tables, broken glass and a little bit of fiddle. Some more that I can’t remember (see above), and we’re not even halfway through.

You’ve got a few different support acts with you on different sections of the tour, what was the thinking behind that?
Few reasons, it’s the first time I’ve been able to choose supports, so it was good to share the Love around a bit and meant I didn’t have to decide on one act. I also think it will help the flow of the tour keeping it fresh as it moves around.

I Love all the acts for different reasons, Sean McGowan just finished his stint and he’s amazing. Was good to see him so far away from his comforts of Southampton. He’s a very ambitious and clever dude, especially for one so young. Next up is Gorgeous George… Can’t wait for that.

You toured the States with Frank Turner earlier this year – how do find the reaction to your gigs over there to the reaction you get at home?
Amazingly well actually. Lots of people told me that the Americans wouldn’t “get it” before I left. But I didn’t give a shit. I wrote some songs about America, sold a bunch of handwritten T-shirts (bought for 2 bucks, sold for 10 – The American Dream) and didn’t end up in Guantanamo Bay. So an overall success.

If I can ask about a couple of stand-out events from the past few months? How was guesting on Billy Bragg’s Leftfield stage at Glastonbury?
Yeah, Glastonbury was great, especially the show at Leftfield. What I saw in that tent years ago shaped what I do today, so it’s great to be able to take part. However from the USA to summer of festivals to this huge tour 2013 has been a stand out year in itself, rather than having stand out moments as such.

And then your appearance with Slamboree in ‘Death of a Festival’ that must have been fun to get involved with, right?
Yeah it’s been amazing, I saw them at the start of the Summer last year, I’ve never really seen an act like them and was really drawn to the gang mentality of how they do a live show. The first time I met Mike I asked if I could join the band… Funny how things work out. I think it works because in many ways the music I make and the music Slamboree make is completely different and in many ways its exactly the same. I think it’s fair to say you can expect more stuff between us.

You broach a fair amount of subjects in your music, is there any subject you just won’t touch?
I guess there may be. I’ve never really thought about it that way. I guess I just go on what comes to mind and with in that there would be limits. Whether they limits be to boring or too controversial I’m not sure though.

Any audience members (knowingly) taken offence to something you’ve said or done on stage?
To be honest I’m surprised that in all the years I’ve been doing it I’ve only been told to pipe down once, I won’t go into detail but it was a case of misunderstanding that led to be being escorted out of the festival for my own safety (I was very much up for hanging around and explaining myself but wasn’t given that option). However I’m not trying to offend anyone, in fact quite the opposite.

Your new album ‘Giving Everything’ is due out later this year – what we can we expect from that?
Mike Freear, head honcho of Salmboree produced the album. Although we definitely set out to make a folk record rather than a rave record or what not, but he’s put a good spin on it and it’s got it’s own sound to it.

Subject matter ranges from Fracking to Prince Harry, from Mobile Phones to Swollen Throats, Cocaine to Come Downs and all sorts of other things…

Beans on Toast / Portland Arms / Tuesday 29th October

Full interview can be found at http://www.slatethedisco.com

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