I haven’t exactly been silent about The Tea Club. They have quickly become one of my favorite new progressive rock acts. Their last album, Grappling, was one of the most exciting and promising progressive rock albums I’ve heard this decade. I wrote a pretty effusive review of Grappling, but didn’t go too in depth about the lyrics. The lyrics on Grappling are pretty esoteric, but they have a strong narrative quality. It’s kind of like hearing someone read James Joyce out loud- you have no idea what’s going on, but you still like it. When I asked where the stories came from, the answer was, “The sick mind of Daniel McGowan.”
In our conversation with The Tea Club, they mentioned that they would be releasing a multi-part graphic novel as a companion piece for their latest album, and that it would likely help clarify some of the confusion surrounding their lyrics. Well, their first graphic novel was just released this month, and it creates a more solid narrative backdrop for the album. The full title, Grappling Book One- The Magnet, explains that this edition coincides with the first song on the album, ‘The Magnet’. You’ll see some lyrics explained/visualized if you are a close listener. Phrases like, “a wretched pilgrim baring the mark/no one can see” and “a long centipede is making its way up my arm”, are just a few that are instantly noticeable, and I’m sure with continued listening and reading, more will be explained.
One of the coolest things about this graphic novel is that it was done completely in house. Daniel McGowan illustrated, Patrick McGowan wrote the text, and Kendra Desimone (who also does The Tea Club’s album art) did the coloring. In talking with Daniel, I learned that he is a big comic book junkie, and channeled experts of the graphic novel/comic medium :Frank Miller, Bill Sienkiewicz, Stephen Bissette, Steve Ditko, asnd Jack Kirby. He also mentioned John Tenniel and Jon R. Neill, who did Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz, respectively. The art style has a very cool, vintage feel to it- sort of reminiscent of the art styles and colors of the seventies and early eighties, but there is also a cyberpunk element as well. In other words, much like The Tea Club’s music, it somehow represents the sum of all of its’ oft-vintage influences, but manages to create something new and interesting (without seeming derivative or relying too heavily on any one source).
Check out Grappling Book One- The Magnet if you are interested in seeing a great example of how artists can use various platforms in tandem to realize their artistic vision. You have the option of buying either a digital copy (here), or a hard copy (here– these will be released at a later date). ALSO, The Tea Club is on tour currently with Thank You Scientist and Moontooth. If you’d like to see what these guys are all about, see if they are coming to a city near you on their tour page.