I first heard of Beans on Toast after a friend recommended I listen to his music after coming back from one of his gigs, where he’d been lucky enough to share a pint with him and as a result, informed me of his fun-loving, down-to-earth attitude. After listening to a couple of his albums and falling in love with his folk-style songs, which often cover topics of politics, love and drugs, I knew I was a fan. So a few years down the line, when I got the opportunity to have interview him whilst finishing off his tour in the US with Frank Turner, I jumped at the chance.
In the interview, Beans, formally known as Jay McAllister, demonstrates all the traits his fans love and adore, shining some light on his musical influences whilst growing up, his upcoming album Rolling up the Hill, and his thoughts on touring in America.
Image courtesy of Jem Mitchel
You’ve just finished your tour in America with Frank Turner. Is it different to touring in the UK?
In some ways it’s very different and in some ways the same. Once I’m up on stage I get the same feeling I do anywhere, but the sheer size of the States is hard to get your head around. When people talk about life on the road, I think that’s what they mean. Feels like you could tour America forever and never play the same town twice, which is quite an interesting thought. There are of course lots of little cultural differences, some good, some bad. Too many to bore your readers with though.
What is your fondest memory of the tour?
The Filmore in San Francisco. It’s a legendary venue, all day everyone tells you it’s a legendary venue, then you arrive and the walls are covered with original artwork from all past sell-out shows. From the Grateful Dead to Jimi Hendrix to Bryan Adams. It really is a beautiful venue and it was sold out, we all had tattoos done in the venue after soundcheck. It was a great day and I was ready to play my legendary set. Halfway through my first song the power blows and goes silent. Could have been a disaster, but this kind of thing has happened to me before, so I jumped into the crowd, asked everyone to sit down (which they did) and keep quiet (which they did) and I played to a huge crowd completely acoustic. When the power did come back on, after a vote everyone wanted me to continue as I was. So it all worked out in the end.
If you could play anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Aberdeen on 11th November at The Lemon Tree, because my favourite gig is always my next gig and I’m pretty happy with my lot.
You often talk about your friendship with Frank. How did you meet?
At a pub in Holloway called Nambucca. I used to live there, play shows and put on nights. Frank pretty much lived there and played many times. It was a special time, in a special place. Then it burned down.
When did you learn to play the guitar?
I’m not sure I ever really did. I started my first band before I even had a guitar, I just graffitied the name all round school and told everyone I was in a band. From that, I had to follow through, get a guitar and learn enough chords to be able to write songs (3 by the way) and once I had that down I pretty much stopped learning.
When did you decide you wanted to create your own music? Was there anyone in the music industry at the time who participially inspired you?
I think maybe Jim Morrison, but I started to listen to The Doors about the same time I started smoking weed, so could have been either.
If you could speak to your younger self, what would you say?
I don’t think I’d say anything, but I’d like to listen to what he has to say.
What advice would you give to those trying to break into the music industry?
Concentrate on the music, let the business and the industry come to you.
What was the first album you bought?
The Simpsons – Sing the Blues. Which may sound like a cheesy answer, but it’s a great record that features the likes of Michael Jackson, B. B. King, DJ Jazzy Jeff and Dr. John.
What kind of music did you listen to as a teenager?
A mixture of country from my dad, grunge from my school mates, hip-hop from my brother, techno at raves, and The Doors.
What kind of music do you listen to now? Is there anyone you would like to recommend to our readers?
I’d recommend Skinny Lister, they were also on the Frank Turner tour in the States. I was travelling with them and we’re kind of family now. An amazing band. Also, Truckstop Honeymoon who I made the new record with. They’re a country duo from Kansas who’ll be opening the show on my upcoming tour and also playing as my backing band. Apart from that I really like the new Ezra Furman record and the new Turnpike Troubadours record.
If you had to pick one song to be the soundtrack to your life, what would it be?
‘The Ballad of the Devil’s Backbone Tavern’ by Todd Snider.
What’s your favourite lyric that you’ve written?
I’ve made enough jokes about the hair on my head. Seriously though, where do you think it went? That was the last lyric I wrote, so I guess that one.
Image courtesy of Jem Mitchel
I know you get asked this a lot, but for those who don’t know, why did you call yourself Beans on Toast?
It’s English, simple, cheap and fills a hole.
You talk about the establishment and the media quite a lot in your songs. Would you say you’re quite political?
I would say I’m opinionated. But then again isn’t everybody? I’m not even sure my opinions are correct, but I’ll sing them all the same.
In your song ‘The Great American Novel’ from your upcoming album, you mention that you’ve seen police brutality swept across the land. What are your thoughts on Ferguson?
It’s a nightmare and I’m worried it’s only gonna get worse. It’s a problem of guns, race and inequality. All 3 need to be addressed before we can make any worthwhile changes.
If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
What inspired you when writing your new album Rolling up the Hill?
There’s a range of subjects as usual: art, travel, Charlie Hebdo, shitty jobs and traffic jams. My favourite is probably ‘Robin Hood Costume’ which is a story about dressing up, robbing banks and giving to the needy.
Thanks again for taking the time to answer these questions. We’re really excited for Rolling up the Hill to be released on December 1st. Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans?
Keep it real people.
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