Green peace of Toast
17 October, 2019 — By Róisín Gadelrab
Folk-poet Beans on Toast – aka Jay McAllister
THESE won’t be the first songs I’ve written about the environment, or wealth and inequality but, yes, you look at the world more when you have a young daughter and see it through her eyes.”
Camden’s favourite folk-poet Beans on Toast – aka Jay McAllister – is talking about his forthcoming album. Following on from last year’s very personal album, which focused on his family and the birth of his daughter, Jay has turned to wider issues with The Inevitable Train Wreck (out December 1).
“Becoming a father made me believe in my beliefs even more, it cemented how I feel, made me feel stronger, especially with environmental issues,” he says.
“On one hand it seems kind of devastating. On the other hand, finally people are talking about it. People are kind of demanding change, it’s kind of everywhere.”
The album, which touches on Brexit and the state of the world, includes the inevitable love song to his wife and the endurance of nature seen through the theme of his homegrown tomatoes.
It is an exploration of wider themes and a search for hope, says Jay – and climate change is clearly on his mind.
“I turned my attention back out towards the world, and it didn’t look good,” he says.
“The sixth mass extinction of life on Earth, divisive politics, the rise of Artificial Intelligence. It was all looking pretty bleak – and that’s what I started writing about.
“If the songs were gonna have this apocalyptic outlook, I figured it would be better to present them in a happy way, and came up with the idea of making a rock ’n’ roll record.”
Departing from his one man, one voice, one guitar sound, Jay teamed up with friends Kitty and Lewis Durham, of Kentish Town’s Kitty Daisy & Lewis, who put their own twist on the album.
“It was just an honour,” says Jay. “I wanted these to be rock ’n’ roll songs.
“They really did take it and run with it. They changed the whole vibe of the collection of songs exactly how I asked them to do. I recorded it in their studio which Lewis pretty much built himself.
“I put on a Kitty Daisy & Lewis gig when Kitty was nine years old.
“I’ve known them for years, they were incredible musicians when they were in primary school, and they’ve grown up in this incredible environment in Kentish Town.”
Kitty and Lewis feature in the video for World Gone Crazy, the album’s first single. While exploring heavier themes, the search for hope has carried through the album.
“The album ends on a hopeful, optimistic note,” says Jay. “I’ve been to a couple of those children marching protests.
“When I said I was musically searching for hope, that’s where I found the hope, it was so youthful and colourful and it was really positive.
“The video for the last song, On and On, was filmed at the recent climate change protests.”
He is now working on the lyric video for next single England I Love You, which features the work of artist Castles In The Sky – aka Kate Chidley.
“I woke up this morning to 25 beautiful pictures of England. I met Kate at Glastonbury,” says Jay. “She does these unofficial but incredible Glastonbury site maps with all the food vendors etc. I bought one off her a few years ago and we got chatting.
“I’ve got a map of the UK she’s done with landmarks drawn into it.”
The single is a prime example of Beans’ approach throughout the album, where the lyrics are often darker than the music that carries them.
“It’s basically about Brexit and the current situation we find ourselves in as a country,” says Jay.
“Lyrically it started off as just me and the guitar, it’s pretty bleak, more so than my usual optimistic folk songs.
“A lot of the album has that feel to it, pretty sad lyrics, almost apocalyptic. It was what came out, but no one needs me singing songs on a guitar. I wanted to do it in a happy way.
“That’s how the album came about. It starts out with flute. If you took the lyrics out it would be the happiest Beans On Toast album ever.
“I wanted it to a be a visual love letter to England – quintessential English countryside.
“The video will be a nice thing to look at. The music is almost happy-clappy but the lyrics paint a different picture.
“That is kind of the theme of the whole album, not that it’s a concept record.”
And his own view of Brexit?
“I’ve tried not to be finger-pointy but also admitted the country is divided and I’m on one side of that divide,” he says.
“I’ve sort of talked about targeted Facebook ads and that maybe had something to do with the swinging of the vote and people making money out of hatred.
“It might be a guise to turn us into a tax haven for corporates, the only people going to win. But I’m also admitting if everyone’s been hacked maybe I am and we’re just being divided and conquered, so maybe we should be concentrating on the fact that the weather’s going up the wall rather than wasting three years and counting going round in circles.”
• The Inevitable Train Wreck is launched on December 1 before Beans on Toast sets off on tour, stopping off at The Dome in Tufnell Park on Feb 15 with full band.