Beans On Toast is not the most talked about artist on the indie scene, but quite frankly he should be, his lyrics are honest, relatable and if you’re a festival goer who hasn’t stumbled across playing in a field, you haven’t spent enough time in our muddy British quagmires. For Beans latest album he took the bold step of releasing his first full band album which on the whole is a great piece of work. It’s been a couple of years since we chatted with Beans (better known as Jay McAllister to his friends) and with massive changes in his musical output and his most politically angry album yet we had to have a chat with him.
Hi Beans, since we last spoke you appear to have grown a full band and were a pre-election psychic with your latest album The Inevitable Trainwreck. How are you and the band feeling as you approach the next leg of the tour?
I can’t wait and although I can’t speak for the rest of the team, I’d like to think they feel the same. We’ve only actually played one live shows as this band, that was the Album Launch gig in December at Hebden Bridge Trades Club and it was next level fun, for me it’s a real treat to have such talented players put so much Love into my songs.
You’ve dabbled with a band set up throughout your career most notably on the album prior to this one, A Bird In The Hand. When did you know The Inevitable Trainwreck would feature a band on the entire album and what made you make that decision?
I wrote the batch of songs for the album and they were all pretty bleak and miserable, so I knew I’d have to be clever about how I was gonna present them to the world. I didn’t just want me moaning over the top of my guitar about the end of the world, who’d wanna listen to that? I came up with the idea of making a rock n roll record and the music being upbeat and fun. Lots of old skool rock n roll records dealt with pretty serious subject matter, but also gave you a backbeat to dance to. Plus I’ve always Loved a contradiction.
How did the song-writing process work on this album, at what stage did your group get involved?
I wrote the songs as three-chord folk songs and then took them to Lewis & Kitty Durham (from the band Kitty, Daisy & Lewis). They then rewrote the music underneath the songs, making them rock n roll bangers, they played and produced the record and then I sang the tunes over the top. It was very much a collaborative process, more so than I’ve ever done before and I don’t mind saying that it went exactly according to plan. Which was nice. Kitty & Lewis are now gonna join the live band that we’re touring with, both unbelievable musicians.
For as long as we can remember December is your release month, when you had your album completed and the general election was announced how did you feel your album spoke about the sudden climate it was going to be thrown into?
The album was written, recorded and ready to go when the election called, it came out just under 2 weeks before the vote and I was touring around the country for the weeks leading up to and just after the country voted how it did.
There’s a bunch of songs on the album that mention Boris being prime minister and I was hoping with all my might that those songs would be outdated on the 12th Dec, that would have suited me just fine. We know now that’s not the case, the songs still stand. Most of the songs on the record are about the collapse of society through climate chaos, absurd wealth inequality and world war 3, which is in fact what we’ve voted for, it may well be on point, but it’s still bad news.
Stylistically, visually and musically your track England, I Love You instantly made us feel like we were thrown into a Camberwick Green set, what vibes were you channeling when you wrote that track?
I’ll be honest with you, I just had to google Camberwick Green as I had no idea what it was. Seems fun, I’ll play it to my daughter when she wakes up from her nap.
The song is about Brexit, which was impossible not to pass comment on, as much as I had a clear side of the debate I wanted to write a song that wasn’t pointing fingers or adding to the divide of the country, again it was Lewis & Kitty who made the music, I just said it needs to be really really happy.
Now we’ve given you Camberwick Green, what’s the weirdest comparison or thing you’ve ever heard about a song of yours and what song was it about?
Bloody hell there’s a question. On tour in America, I was once called an Irish rapper. Does that count? I’ve also had people come up to me and say – “You’re that Fish & Chips guy aren’t you?” or another time I was called Mr Mayonnaise. Which is pretty funny, but give yourself a stupid name and you’re gonna get into stupid circumstances I guess.
In your track Saying Thank You To Robots you meander through many different generations of robots, electronics and computers. Being as specific as possible, what piece of technology or feature of technology to you appreciate most? And if you could eradicate one piece or technology what would that be?
Wow. The first thing that comes to my head here is facetime, which is something I never used until I had my daughter. Since then, we use it all the time, it’s incredible when you’re on tour to be able to transport back to your home every morning at the press of a button. Even when I’m not on tour it makes contact between my daughter and her grandparents so easy and regular. Communication is a brilliant thing.
I’d eradicate unmanned machines of war, drones are nasty as fuck. All wars are nasty as fuck, but the wars of the future maybe even more horrific. If I could eradicate all weapons of the face of the earth I’d do it in a heartbeat. I’m with Bill Hicks when he said wouldn’t it be better to use all this technology to shoot food at hungry people.
On the album you make an anonymous reference to presumably Boris Johnson being an unelected leader whereas now he’s been voted in under the rules we have in our democracy. How would you approach a conversation about politics with someone who feels it’s something they have no interest in?
To be honest, I wouldn’t. If someone made it clear they had no interest in talking about politics, so be it – plenty of other stuff to talk about. As far as how I’m gonna write songs about what’s gonna happen next, well we’ll have to wait and see I guess.
On this latest album you cover a wide variety of cultural issues such as littering, politics, the rich vs poor divide and on Lost Poetry Department you refer to mistakes. Some of the things you refer to throughout the album could be termed as societal mistakes, looking back on your youth what would you say were some of the mistakes you made and what advice would you have for our readers on those?
I’d say personal mistakes are a necessity, everyone makes mistakes, that’s the beauty of it. If you have fucked up, or have changed your mind on something it’s always worth putting your hand up and admitting it though.
My advice would firstly be, be very careful who you take advice from and apart from that. Tell the truth. Always tell the truth to yourself and to everyone else. Makes for a much simpler life.
Your work has been an inspiration and support for people of all walks of life for your whole career. Regardless of your gender, race, or place in society we are all feeling this difficult period right now, so I wanted to leave our last question for you to sign off as you choose?
Thank you, that’s a lovely thing for you to say. Great questions all round actually, caught me off guard a bit. I think I kind of answered this question in the last one with the tell the truth rant, so apart from that I’ll say – why don’t you come along to a Beans on Toast gig – tour starts next week all over the UK. Come hang out.