Maud Mostly: Hello and welcome to The Other Team's Tunes Tuesday, an interview series that discusses music and matters with queer artists you love! I'm your host Maud Mostly, my pronouns are they/them, and joining me this week is Toronto-based multimedia artist, Miss Tea Party. Thank you so much for being here with me this week. Would you like to introduce yourself?
Miss Tea Party: Hello, everybody out there in the universe. My name is Danah McCollum, and my stage name is Miss Tea Party and my pronouns are she/they, and I live at the moment in Toronto, and I'm so excited to be here and joining you today.
MM: I was so excited to have you here today, and I really specifically introduced you as a multi-media artist because I really think your debut album, Old Fortress, that we’ll really be speaking about today, highlights that fact so beautifully. From the instrumentals and poetic lyrics that run through it, to the sewn puppets and really mixed media art on the album cover. How did it feel to bring all those layers of your artistic practice together?
MTP: It feels...It definitely was a journey of...I've always been the type of person where it's hard for me to stick one thing 'cause I'm a little bit explorer and I just get excited about a lot of things, so I love dancing, I love singing, I love textiles, and so to be able to bring all of those mediums together on one focused project was a real treat for me.
MM: I love that so much. And can I ask a little bit more about your inspiration for that album cover, all the different mediums that you brought into it, and really what you wanted to convey through that art because I think it was so beautifully done.
MTP: Thank you so much. I had a vision of what this album cover had to be come to me, and it's funny because it actually took a lot of work 'cause I made all of these dolls and it took a lot of time, and in some ways, there's a part of me that wished I could've just taken a photo or (laughs) 'cause it was adding a lot to like, y’know, I was also working on editing my music and things like this, but what I really wanted the album cover to portray was documenting a chapter in your life becoming like a fairy tale or a folktale, because you realize this album is about loved hard and love lost, and I was going through a lot of loss in my life at the time, and a lot of transition, and as the years kept going off and on to my healing journey, the past people in my life who were no longer in my life, they were like a fairy tale in my mind because they're so prevalent in my memories and so prevalent in my journey and in my soul journey, but also not in my present moment, so it can almost feel very strange, so I wanted the dolls to document that reason of time and that...Everyone's life becomes a fairy tale full of journeys and adventures and heartache and loss and rebirth, and so that's what...(laughs)
MM: I think that's so impactful, and also it makes me think of the line or the idea that it's like “we're all ghost stories at the end of the day,” but I almost love this reframing of that where it's like we're all fairy tales at the end of the day. That's such a beautiful way to also just move through your current reality too. Oh my gosh. But yeah, speaking a little bit more about the album itself and more of it, again, that creative process that went into it, it was really put together in and across various locations. So did you find the changes in your setting had an impact on the music as it came together?
MTP: Yes, because it makes me think of Björk has an album that was like a break-up album and I think it was... I can't remember the exact name of the album, I just know that when she talks about the album, she talks about how the songs she was writing from when the relationship...You're wondering if it's gonna break up, and then there's the songs where there is the break-up, and that's exactly how I felt in my journey of the album, y’know? The first songs I wrote...So I should say this is a break album, I always say, 'cause it really is, there are other things going on in my life, but it really was an end to that huge chapter in my life, and so the beginning songs, I was literally still in a relationship and a little bit scared because I wasn't sure what was going, and I was just in my bedroom in Toronto, and then I had moved to Newfoundland for a couple of years, and I wrote a good chunk of the song there as well. And at that time, those were the years that I was parting ways with this person, and being in Newfoundland helped to give me that space away from my familiar home, in Toronto, to just to create. Because I was so sad, but the fact that I was surrounded like, if you've ever been to Newfoundland, there’s the ocean and such beautiful nature, and I think that gave me the energy that even in that place of deep sadness, I was able to create.
And then also, I had mentioned...You probably had read...And that's why you bring it up, I also found myself in BC by the ending of the album because I went on a road trip with my sister, and she makes fun of me because I carried all this equipment, 'cause during that time I was sort of editing, the songs were written in, I had been recording and editing, and she just laughs about how I'm lugging all this luggage to get her backup vocals or I'm recording little shell sounds on our trips, I'm like, Oh, that would be cool. And it's my first time really ever doing a tiny bit of production, 'cause I wasn't the producer of the album, but I was exploring it a bit, so definitely the places made a difference and have an impact.
MM: Absolutely, I also love the idea of these relationship transitions, but also life transitions with the movement that you were going through, and also how being out in all these different places helped bring in some of those really natural elements and sounds that you ended up really like that's one of my favorite parts of listening to the album is hearing all these really interesting different... Not inherently like instrument noises that get really involved and intertwined and really build the atmosphere around the song to share that world with people.
I love hearing you talk about it as a break-up album as well, 'cause I feel like so many of us have an idea of, you know what a break-up album is and what it sounds like, and it's either very much filled with grief or anger or resentment or there's these different ideas that are really common that we hear across break up albums, and those are all great and fun, but what stands out to me about yours too, is that it's more of like it comes to this full circle break up album that you highlight really well in the description of it and the way you talk about it as well, where you come back to this place of finding love and seeking love and understanding love, like after those chapters to say like, You know there's this grief, there's something ending, but there's also going to be these new beginnings, there's going to be more love, and I think that's a really impactful story to share.
MTP: Honestly, it’s a story I feel grateful to share because at the time when it was the beginning of the separating with that person who is such a big part of my life, when you're in the part that feels so painful and everything's just so painful, your whole life is crumbling 'cause that part of your life is coming to a death, it's like collapsing, you feel like you can't get through it. It's like all the love songs when they're like, “Do you believe love after love?” There's a moment where you're like, Can I survive this pain? And I remember I had a good friend say to me, I know it feels so painful now, almost like you wanna die, you feel like it just hurts, it's unbearable and my friend just said, I just promise you that it gets better, and that's all they said, and those words were so powerful to me, so if my album can offer, it's just like another little drop of art in that pile of all the love songs of eternity on this earth, of the beautiful artists that sing about heartbreak, because heartbreak, whether it's with a lover, a friend, there's so many different types of relationships. It can be traumatizing, but you can't really take time off work or all the time, or there's not a lot of space that society offers you for that trauma, so you have to create it yourself, and so this album really was my medicine of processing, and I've had other artists along the way be a form of medicine for me, so if my album can offer any sort of holding space for people when they're going through a hard time then that would be wonderful.
MM: Yeah, I think that's so beautiful, just the way that the music served you and also how you're hoping it is serving others, and I'm sure the way that it is serving others, y’know? I'm certainly not moving through those spaces right now, but even listening to it, thinking about times before that I have existed in those spaces, and being able to go back through that and feel those things with you and also know that I'm seeing the other side of that now is so, so, so powerful. Thank you so much for sharing all that with the world and creating that for yourself. And although the album Old Fortress was released in March of 2021, you recently held an album release show this June in 2022, and I was fortunate enough to be there and then meet you through that, and I'm so endlessly grateful for that. But for those who couldn't be there, could you share a bit more about the event and as it took place in a park, could you speak to what it meant to bring community and music together and a public space?
MTP: Yeah, so I was working on recording and editing the album with Miel, who was also on this series, another artist, beautiful local artist, during the lockdown. So a lot of the music and finalizing it, and even when I was releasing it, there were those waves of opening, but still we were kind of in the lockdown and having things opening and closing, and I just never got to the point when I released in 2021 where I had the energy or the space, in relation to all of that, to hold space and put on a performance. And there's a lot of moments where it didn't feel comfortable or good timing because of the world pandemic, so...yeah. I remember going to Mel and just being like, I always wanted to perform this album, it's my first recorded album, it would be so beautiful to bring that to community. And they were just like, ‘you have to do it, like, let's do it.’ And I was kind of like, well, is it strange that it's been like a year since I released it? and I'm like, ‘hey, don't forget!’ And they were just like, no, that doesn't matter, and just honoring that.
And so, yeah, so through all of those thoughts and deciding, we decided to do it this spring and bringing it to the park and in nature, I think it felt really beautiful because it's so much about the heart, I'm learning a lot that the element of air connects to the heart and bringing nature and energy to the heart. So I feel like being outside really compliments that energy, also a lot of my family was there, my mom, my cousins, my brother, so just having enough space. I have a huge family, so just having space where even some of my nieces and nephews were there running around, so it felt so nice, it was like an all ages event, and it was just felt nice to be in nature and to have space for whoever wanted to join, and it was free for anyone, if anyone was in the park, they could come, and it felt nice to hold space for the arts and it felt very accessible.
MM: Yeah, absolutely, and I love that you were so affirmed to put it on even a year later. That time is essentially irrelevant, 'cause I mean there's so much that had to be stepped away from or put on pause, or couldn't happen for so many different reasons, whether it be internal or external, so I'm so glad that didn't end up holding you back in the end, 'cause it was such an honor to share that with you and watch that happen, and it was so exciting to see that Miel was a part of that as well, and was working on the album with you 'cause as you mentioned, another fantastic queer artist. I'll link their interview under the video as well, and I just love when community comes together like that, to support one another's arts, not only behind the scenes, but in those spaces as well, to really help with both the creative process and that really community aspect of it too.
MTP: Yeah, I have to say, making Old Fortress, it was a huge learning experience because I really am interested in production, but I'm like a toddler, a little baby toddler, and I experiment, but collaborating with Mel was such a beautiful experience of just hearing how supported you can feel in those collaborations and connecting with other people who have strengths where maybe you're still growing and, yeah, that was a beautiful experience.
MM: Yeah, for sure. I think that's one of the really incredible aspects of being able to work in community with one another, because it's not necessarily just working for each other in a very traditional sense of that, but it's really learning from one another so that it becomes more of this process where we are skill sharing and really talking through things, and I feel like that can really come across even in the music itself as it shares, this was my intentions with it, and I was really able to talk through it and have that come out in the end by having those more in-depth conversations when we work with somebody that we can build a closer relationship to.
Well, thank you so much for sharing all of this with us today. It has been incredible to talk to you on this week's Tunes Tuesday! If you would like to check out any of the music that we have been talking about today, if you would like to listen to Old Fortress, which I highly recommend doing so, you can find all of those links below as well as social media links to check out the rest of their art.
Thank you so much for being here with me today, and Miss Tea Party will be playing us out.
MTP: Yeah, and Maud, I just wanna thank you, thank you for the space that you hold for community and especially for our queer community, I just think it's so beautiful and I appreciate it so much.
MM: Thank you so much.
*No Future by Miss Tea Party begins playing*