The Tealeaves’ James van Cuylenburg on making an album as a band full of parents

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The Tealeaves’ James van Cuylenburg on making an album as a band full of parents


It’s taken five years for The Tealeaves to get their new album The Wolf and the Girl Child to come together. Lead vocalist James van Cuylenburg puts the time down to changes in circumstances.

“Since our last release in 2013, which was an album called No More Can You Be Here, a lot of the band has started families and moved so it’s been difficult to all get together to play shows,” van Cuylenburg says.

“But my writing collaborator and I, [bassist] David Prideaux, collaborate writing songs together and send each other emails of song ideas all the time. It got to a point where we thought we had enough good ones to really dig in and try and record an album.”

The Wolf and the Girl Child mixes the sounds of their previous two releases with elements of folk and indie-rock, but this time also offers a more orchestral sound. Van Cuylenburg believes that although the album itself does not tell a story, it expresses dominant themes reflecting the fact that a lot of the band have become parents in recent years. “It does get you thinking about the responsibility of raising a young person,” he says. “There are a lot of these themes in the album that are about letting go, growing up and what it means to be a parent as well.”

The release of the album coincides with the ten-year anniversary of the band’s formation. Van Cuylenburg reflects on the band’s busy beginning with their debut album release and touring, and how as life and circumstances change, these things are not always feasible. He says it’s been great getting the band back together to create this album, describing it as “like catching up with old friends picking up where you left off”. Although things are different for the band now than they were ten years ago, that does not mean that the band is ending any time soon, as Van Cuylenburg teases another possible album after this one.

“We’ll always come back together to do music as often as we can, but it’s not something we’ll rush,” he explains. “We’ll probably take some time to do some other projects now. David Prideaux and I are looking to do a smaller project, a duo with more of an electronic flavour to it after this album. After that we might look at possibly doing a Tealeaves album down the track.”

To celebrate the ten-year anniversary and album launch, The Tealeaves are putting on two massive shows in June. Van Cuylenburg says the Northcote Town Hall was chosen to host the events as it has a great set up for an orchestra’s acoustics, a grand piano, and it’s in the northern suburbs where the band originated, just up the road from the Northcote Social Club where they first started playing gigs.

“In the regular band, there’s seven of us, and so we’ve added seven musicians on top of that which includes French horn, trumpet, cornet, percussion. We’ve got two violinists, we’ve got a cellist, we’ve got synths, mandolin, accordion, Hammond organ. This is a big show,” Van Cuylenburg says.

He’s particularly looking forward to hearing the arrangements for all of the instruments performed live, stating that this is the biggest and most ambitious show The Tealeaves have ever done. As it’s such a special one, he really hopes people can make it.

“I guess in terms of our ability to play live, there may not be as many shows as we were able to do for the first two albums, just because of the band’s life circumstances and the scale of this show,” he says. “In many ways, we’re putting all our efforts and our energies into this launch. We’ll definitely look at trying to play a few more festivals later in the year but if anyone’s keen to hear us, this is the time to do it.”