Beans on Toast, a singer-songwriter from Essex and no, not the meal, performed at ‘The Soundhouse’ on Wednesday 30 December, alongside support acts Tensheds and Sky Smeed. The folk singer from Essex, known for his controversial songs on drugs, politics and love, released his eighth album, A Spanner in the Works, on the following day. For the lucky attendees of his Leicester gig though, he made it available for them to purchase on that night.
The singer has toured the U.S. with Flogging Molly in 2014, as well as touring with Frank Turner. He started off the night with ‘2016’, one of his new songs about how terrible this year so far is, many of the crowd sung along perfectly with him. Beans performed a mix of new songs, such as ‘We Made it to the Waterfall’ as well as old songs, ‘Keep You’ and ‘Can’t Take Another Earthquake.’ The crowd were amazed and mesmerised by his words; there was a buzz in the air, a current running through everyone.
Gracing the stage for a second time that evening, Matt Millership from Tensheds came up to perform ‘Life’ alongside Beans – a song never played live before. During the final part of the set, Matt came back up again, as well as Sky Smeed and Bobby Banjo to all sing together, including a cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Everybody Knows’; this was a fantastic performance with everyone on stage who had played that evening, and was possibly one of the highlights of the night – as well as Beans’ dancing on cables during songs – barefoot since he set foot on the stage. With occasional sips from his pint of Guinness in between songs, he talked to the audience about all sorts, from the latest U.S. president, Donald Trump and the government, to life, love and having a laugh.
So traditionally, each year you release a record on your birthday, which just so happens to be tomorrow, why is that?
It just kinda happens; my first album was just ready around that time, so I thought I might as well release it on my birthday. It seems that all my albums are ready around that time. It’s good because then I have a yearly schedule. It was also a ploy to get bums on seats; when you first start, you have family and friends to come to gigs and then other people come, who have listened to and liked your music. I was on the fence, so I thought an album release on the same day as a birthday party would be a good idea – it was a double whammy.
On to the subject of your new album, A Spanner in the Works, what made you decide to change things up a bit and embrace technology further?
Well, this is album eight, so I wanted to do something different. The rest of my albums are string-led, so I decided to change it up. A mate of mine suggested producing it on a laptop, so that’s what I did; it’s a bit out there, but it still sits well with my other albums – I’ve not completely changed my sound. Every album I’ve released, I’ve recorded with different people. I like doing things different and well, put a ‘spanner’ in the works. I actually came up with the title around this time last year; it’s very fitting.
The opening track of your new album, ‘2016’ is about the year so far; what would you say are the best and worst things to happen this year – so far?
The worst thing is Trump.
The best thing is finding an acorn in Sherwood Forest today – we played Nottingham last night and so today we went into the forest and to the Major Oak. This was where I found the acorn – the only acorn that was found today. I can’t believe it’s from a tree that’s 1,000 years old.
What are you going to do with it?
I’m going to swap it for a painting of the moon. No, seriously. I’m going to visit my friend this weekend, she’s an artist and I think she’ll love it. I was advised not to swallow it.
Later on that night, Beans showed the acorn to the audience, getting us also to raise our hands, closing our eyes and becoming trees ourselves – one of the greatest moments of the night, to see the audience so united as one unit.
Are there any subjects that you wouldn’t write about?
There’s nothing that I wouldn’t write about, however there are things that people (anyone) shouldn’t write about. I believe there’s a line and some subjects no one should sing about, and I would never write about those.
What is your advice on budding artists on writing lyrics?
Remember that the song is the most important thing. These days, you’ve got to be pretty savvy about it; if you spent as much time writing the lyrics as messing about and experimenting, they’d be good lyrics. But yeah, it is the song that matters.
Is there a specific venue that you would absolutely love to perform at and why? It can’t be one you’ve already performed at.
Well if it can’t be one I’ve already performed at, then it has to be The Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado; it’s an open venue on the side of these epic rocks – it’s huge. But I’d probably have to open the gig for someone else though.
Lastly, what pint would you recommend to us?
You can’t beat a pint of Guinness. Definitely Guinness.
Seeing the barefoot guitar-playing storyteller was a unique and unpredictable experience; he broke down the barrier between performer and audience with his interactions, and created a sense of equality amongst everyone.
Beans on Toast is currently halfway through his A Spanner in the Works tour, with remaining dates in places such as Birmingham, Portsmouth, London and Hastings – with his events in Bristol and Norwich already sold out.