*Please Enjoy Responsibly by The Tea & Whiskey | INTERVIEW
Author: Thommy Delaney
The Tea & Whisky are no strangers to music. Though they formed in 2008, they broke up in 2012. But now, they are back with their first ever album, "*Please Enjoy Responsibly!" Their new album has a great combination of punk rock and modern power pop songs. Is this a sign that the group is here to stay? Let's find out as we explore the world of The Tea & Whiskey!
Hey, The Tea & Whiskey! Congrats on your new album "*Please Enjoy Responsibly!" Thus far, this is the only album that you have released as a band. Tell us a bit about how you guys started and why you decided to call it quits in 2012.
Scruff Cardinale: I was friends with a guy named Michael Ambrose who was the original person spearheading the project and the one to come up with the band name. Though I (and pretty much everybody who knew him) pretty much just always addressed him by his last name. He was an organist/keyboardist that played predominantly in ska bands, but had a handful of songs he'd written over the years that didn't work with that genre. I was still going through a phase where I was under the mistaken impression that I could convincingly write tough guy oi and hardcore type songs before a few of my friends (mostly members of my longtime pals The Ergs) finally gave me the tough love/reality check I needed that nobody was buying it and I should really play more to my strength of singing rather than growling/yelling and clever lyrical content rather than trying to shoehorn breakdowns for people to floorpunch and such to into songs. The band I was in was also fizzling out for reasons beyond just the aforementioned me not being a convincing tough guy thing and I mentioned to Ambrose that I'd love to be a part of this new project he had mentioned should he need a guitarist. I also showed him some bits and pieces of things I'd written over the years that didn't fit with my main band. So we had almost a whole set's worth of these "Island Of Misfit Toy" odds and end type songs and figured we ought to find ourselves a rhythm section. I'd known J for a number of years seeing each other around at the various all ages venues throughout our teens and supporting each other's respective high school bands and mentioned to him there was a new project in the works. And then onetime when going to yet another different friend named Mike's house where his bands practiced I learned that his little sister Steph was also a drummer. We had a handful of practices and started tightening up, and then... Ambrose who was always super in demand as an organist/keyboardist got a lot of paying gigs with some blues band and going on tours with a prominent ska act and said he just wouldn't have time for this project anymore. I was like "Dude we ordered stickers though. Is it cool if we still keep using the name?" and he was like "Yeah. I don't give a shit." A lot of people that it was a peculiar name choice since it's pretty widely known among my circles of friends/acquaintances that I refrain from imbibing any alcohol, and I'd always just be like "Yeah I didn't come up with it. But we got stickers y'know?". We had a lot of fun playing a bunch of shows over the course of the next four years. Then J found out he was gonna be a Dad and understandably wanted to put all of his focus on that. Steph decided to go to school out of state. Both of those things made continuing the group very difficult, so we amicably split. We remained great pals and would hang out when time permitted (which wasn't very often) and every now and again when we'd get the itch and somebody would offer an opportunity we'd play a stray oneoff reunion show every hear and there. Usually that person was Lazlo who was always one of our earliest and most ardent supporters.
J Orellana: I've known Scruff since High School. I ran into him at some point in the early 2008 and he mentioned he was looking for a bass player for his new band. I hadn't been active in anything musical at that point and was quick to jump on board.
The title of the album, "*Please Enjoy Responsibly," complements the name of the group well. Why did you decide to record an album after all this time and why did you call the album?
Scruff: We had always meant to record an album eventually. We had the songs and we wanted to have some encapsulation of them. Our first attempt at recording was during the very early days of the group and was very rushed because J lived in a second floor apartment at the time and the people in the neighboring units were not pysched about us trying to track drums in such a setting. Aside from the rushed nature of things Steph had been steadily progressing and becoming a better and better drummer as time went on and said she didn't feel like the quality of the drumming on those early recordings was an accurate representation of her ability any longer, so we scrapped that and figured we'd get around to it eventually. And we did. Just 11 years after we ceased being a fully active band. I would often play our songs at various solo acoustic performances of mine and friends would yell at me to record and release said songs (Paper Money in particular), but I was always adamant that I didn't feel right about doing it without J and Steph also being involved. The two of them were definitely integral in fleshing out the songs beyond whatever basic skeletal lyrics and melody I'd written and I didn't want anybody's feelings hurt. As far as the title of the album goes it was always a joking tag line we'd use since back when we used it on our Myspace page. I'd always thought about putting it on shirts or stickers or something. But I'm glad we ultimately saved it for this.
Who wrote the songs for the album? Tell us a bit about the songwriting process.
Scruff: I wrote some songs. J wrote some others. Whoever sings which song denotes who wrote it. If for some reason listeners can't easily differentiate whose voice is whose I believe the bandcamp page mentions who sings on which tracks. As far as whatever songs I wrote go they're all based on personal experience dealing with various things I was inspired to gripe about at the time I'd written them. Mostly lacking money (there's two about that) or things like coming to terms with no longer feeling as young and cool as I once felt, the need for affordable healthcare as a friend's battle with cancer was racking up bills or the frustration of losing somebody you care about to addiction. None of those things are particularly happy topics, but writing about sad stuff is cathartic and often more relatable.
J: I wrote 3 of the songs (3,6,9) on the record. I originally wasn't sure if I was going to contribute songs to T&W, but The Chandelier Swing came out one night and it felt good and I knew I wanted to play it live. It just made sense to bring it to T&W. Thankfully Scruff was open to me contributing some tunes. My process was always just working through thoughts and feelings, then translating that to some sort of musical output. I generally play guitar, so I would write my songs on guitar then play bass for T&W. For my role in T&W, I always approached playing bass like playing a guitar so there are silly little riffs throughout my playing.
To my ears while listening to this album, it sounds like you guys have a very punk rock vibe mixed in with modern power pop. How would you describe the sound of the band when it comes to this album?
Scruff: I'd say that's a very accurate assessment. I definitely came up in the punk scene and have always continued on writing songs mostly utilizing the basic double barre or "power chords" that are the building blocks of that. To give things a little more flourish I'd throw in some jangly open chords or arpeggios. I don't want to ramble on too long listing influences especially since I don't feel as though I live up to many of the artists I admire and occasionally attempt to emulate. But I will say that the choice to move from the heavy solid body Les Paul's I played in my more hardcore punk days to the lighter airer Epiphone Dot/335 style semi-hollow guitars I opted to use in this group were directly influenced to me listening to a lot of Ted Leo at the time the group first formed.
J: I like your description. I don't know that I could do a better job describing our sound.
The first track on the album, "The Old Bear Died Fighting," is such a great song. What are the lyrics about and why did you not call the album since it seems to correlate to the cover perfectly?
Scruff: Thank you very much. The song is about an annual bbq with bands I would have every Summer that was called The Masturbating Bear-B-Que as a nod to a recurring Late Night With Conan O'Brien character called The Masturbating Bear that my friends and I all found hilarious in the early 2000's. As the song states the event flourished and grew in the years we had it, but would occasionally run into obstacles. The town of Laurence Harbor where I'm from and would hold the event would have an event every August called Salt Water Day down at the waterfront. Some years if it got rained out they would reschedule it to whatever day I planned to have the Bear-B-Que. Then I would have to reschedule it or move it to somebody else's yard. Sometimes we couldn't find an alternate place or the bands that I booked couldn't play the different date we'd try to do it on. After a few lackluster final years like that I decided that the name must have become cursed somehow and that I needed to have my event earlier in the Summer so that Salt Water Day couldn't impede on it, so in 2008 we changed the name of the annual bbq with band's I have in my folks' yard every Summer to The HarboQue, a portmanteau of Harbor and Barbeque. We have it every July and it's become kind of my unofficial birthday show held whatever weekend that month falls closest to my birthday that enough of the friends' bands that I ask to play it are available. The cover art is a tattoo that I got to commemorate the band based on the song title. Over the years I've gotten tattoos of all of the bands I've been in for substantial periods of time that I was either the main or an important creative force in. And when the time came to get some kind of T&W tattoo I didn't want to go literal and just get some kind of mug and liquor bottle, so I tried to think of what I could get to symbolize them. I told my friend Sideshow Brian Woolverton that's done a great deal of my work over the years that I wanted a bear wearing boxing gloves and that's what he drew up for me. Nailed it as always.
"Insufficient Funds" was another song that caught my attention. Where did the idea for it come from when it comes to the lyrics and were there any specific musical influences that helped create the sound of the song?
Scruff: As I said in the one question about the songwriting process this one came from an experience I lived. I was working at a low paying job. I noticed my gas tank was nearing empty. I checked my bank balance and had $8. I don't recall exactly how many days I had to make it last until I got paid again, but it was several, hence the "and no payday in site" line of the chorus. I wrote it at some point during the recession in 2008. So it resonated with a lot of folks going through similar hardships. I'm not really sure what influences I drew from musically other than that I wanted to play the thinner strings really open and jangly. Off the top of my head trying to think back I would guess I was probably going for perhaps an R.E.M. kind of thing there.
Do you plan on performing together at any point this year?
Scruff: We would definitely love to play some shows to promote the album. When we could book such things based on everybody's busy schedules remains to be seen. But it's certainly something we're going to try to figure out at some point/
J: I'm definitely open to playing some gigs whenever the timing is right.
Are there going to be more albums from The Tea & Whiskey in future?
Scruff: Sadly it's not very likely. I haven't successfully written a song to completion since we wrote Pray For Shayne sometime around 2010. That's why I've stepped out of the spotlight to be a supporting player rather than frontperson in whatever projects I've played in since our initial run. I'm not adverse to the possibility, but it would require me to finally defeat the writer's block that's been plaguing me for the last decade plus.
J: While I wouldn't say never, I think it is relatively unlikely.
What else do you have planned as a band or individually?
Scruff: Going to keep my fingers crossed that I can maybe record with the band Puppyboy that I play bass in, but who is sadly also only semiactive due to the frontperson/songwriter living many states away. We're gonna do our damnedest to see if we can beat the record The Tea & Whiskey set and record/release something in fewer years since ceasing to be a fully active band. (That happened back in 2018).
J: As a band, it will likely be the random 1 off reunion. Individually, I also write and play songs in a band called erase:rewind.
Is there anything that you would like to share with our readers?
J: Check out our record and download/stream it at www.theteaandwhiskey.com (we'll get on all the streamers soon)
Check out our other projects:
Puppyboy - https://puppyboy.bandcamp.com
erase:rewind - www.eraserewind.com
Artist Bio: Originally formed in 2008, The Tea & Whiskey broke up in 2012. Now they occasionally play when the timing is right.
The Tea & Whiskey were and occasionally are:
Scruff Cardinale - Vocals, Guitar
J Orellana - Vocals, Bass
Steph Zee - Drums
About the Author: Thommy Delaney is a Senior Music Business Major at New
Jersey City University. He is also the lead guitarist and a vocalist in the Bayonne
Indie pop-rock band BreakTime: a four-piece writing modern pop tunes with
generous vintage allusions to artists such as The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. Looking for something new to listen to? Be sure
to follow BreakTime @breaktimelivenj on social media and stream their music on