Interview: Beans on Toast on Rolling Up the Hill and upcoming annual tour

Rolling Up the HillThis interview is nearly as traditional as the man himself. For the past 7 years and since his debut album Standing On A Chair - named after his then-tradition of, you've guessed it, standing on a chair at gigs - the road-worthy singer songwriter Jay McAllister aka Beans on Toast has released an album at the end of November to celebrate his birthday. For the past four, we've interviewed the man to chat about the twelve months previous and look ahead to the future.

This time around we celebrate the impending release of Rolling Up the Hill, due via Xtra Mile on 30th November 2015. Read on to find out about new and revised thoughts on "Fuck the Smoking Ban", Beans' upcoming performance at Fleece in Bristol, and more.

Rolling Up the Hill is due out in December. Can we expect any Kate Bush impressions from the album?

Erm, I’m afraid not. Someone else mentioned that about the title, but that's not where it came from. It’s an album about moving and browning older and that's kinda what the title is about. I think.

What are the main themes of Rolling Up the Hill and what inspired you to write this time around?

There’s a range of themes as per usual, a song about dressing up as Robin Hood and robbing banks, a song about enjoying shitty jobs, one about Charlie Hebdo, songs about my travels to the USA and South Africa. Some love songs and some piss take songs. There’s also a poem, which is a first for me.

It's now become a firm tradition for you to release an album every December to celebrate your birthday. Do you ever feel pushed for time, in terms of writing and recording?

No, not at all. Seems to be my natural output to churn out an album in a year. I’m always on the look out for new places to record, doing it this way keeps me moving and keeps me busy, which is how I like it.

On the flip side do you ever feel the need to mix things up? You can never have too much Beans but I can imagine your touring/touring/festivals/recording/touring routine would wear me out!

I don’t feel worn out. If I wasn’t doing this I’d probably be back behind the bar pulling pints. Which is fine, but I’d rather travel, drink for free and have people clap and cheer. I’m happy to keep going for as long as people will have me.


How do your traditions translate to the studio - do you work with the same people?

I like to record in a different place, with different people for each record. This latest one was recorded in Kansas with an amazing country band called Truckstop Honeymoon. I met them at Larmer Tree Festival in Somerset, we hit it off and they invited me out. They back me up on the record with double bass, finger picking and some sweet guitar playing. They’re now here in the UK on tour, opening the show each night and then playing as my backing band. So it’s a all singing, all dancing wen style Beans on Toast gig.

Thanks to your regular festival slots I see you a few times each year, and you seem to always have new material to hand - even immediately after you've released an album. Are you extremely prolific or do you just have a massive back catalogue of unreleased material?

That would definitely be new stuff that your hearing. I find writing really easy and come from the school of thought that you can write a song about anything, so general drop in new / unfinished songs into my sets. Sometimes the best place to write is in front of a crowd.


How have your songwriting tactics progressed over the years, or have they largely stayed the same?

Largely stayed the same.

You've always boasted a fine balance of humour and social commentary, but you quite often claim you're not political. Have you ever surprised yourself, looking back on songs?

I had as song called "Fuck The Smoking Ban", and was fully against the banning of smoking in pubs. I was outraged and though it was a terrible idea. Many moon later and I can’t think of anything worse than a pub full of people smoking. I played a show in Germany that you could smoke at and hated it. I was wrong, I put my hand up.

You're due to play The Fleece in Bristol - I can't remember you having played there before. Will this be your first time at the venue?

I sure have, played it around this time last year. It’s a brilliant venue, Big Jeff came down and sung a tune and I took half the crowd out for a night on the town in Bristol. More of the same this time round.


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