T.j. McFaull, energetic front man for The Bar Stool Preachers speaks to Ten-Midnight.com about his own influences growing up in a Punk Rock household, to now releasing the band’s second album.
Kami! Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me today. I know I’ve been monumentally shit at replying, feels like I’ve blinked and the last 3 months disappeared! So I’ll be as honest as possible without letting you know about Gibbs’ bright pink underwear that we’re never allowed to talk about.
I read an interview you did in 2015 where you said in 5 years time you hope to achieve finishing off your second album, with the band still together and keep your hair. Now having taken the first album all over the world, you are still together and to have kept your hair (I presume). How do you think things are progressing so far only 3 years down the line?
Thank you for that reminder! It often feels like we want to be doing everything NOW! NOW! NOW!, so it’s nice to have some historical context! We managed to do that list in 3!
In all honesty Kami, the last few years have been an incredible time for us. It’s all moving and blowing up so fast. We’ve managed to tick childhood boxes we never thought possible. Now the plans are Japan, South America, Album #3 and reaching as many people as we can with “Grazie Governo” (whilst still keeping my hair and band together).
Play: The Bar Stool Preachers – All The Broken Hearts
The second album “Grazie Governo” is now out in the world, how difficult is it really to get a second album together after establishing yourself? Did you feel any pressure of maybe not achieving those high standards again when writing, as other bands have done in the past, was there conflict in making decisions about the album among the band?
It is! Grazie was released at the end of August ’18, and like a wonderful, stumbling, little drunken musical fighting baby it’s currently taking on the world. We didn’t find it hard at all to write ‘Grazie’. We know as prolific writers that with context and life, inspiration comes, and we’ve been constantly inspired over the last few years. So we locked ourselves away and Grazie was born.
So what makes the new album “Grazie Governo” different from “Blatant Propaganda”, what would you say has changed in listening to both albums? Also, how did you come up with the title, are there deeper sentiments behind “Thank You Government”?
The title literally means ‘Thank You Government’ and is a real story of a man who wrote those words on the side of his house, as lava raged towards everything he owned, everything that the government ignored him about, and deemed not important enough to save. It is our attempt at a beautiful and angry call to arms against the current socio-political bullshit we all contend with, and the unfathomable depths of an aching heart.
‘Grazie Governo‘ is very different to ‘Blatant Propaganda’. I think mainly it’s just a hell of a lot more mature. With ‘BP’ we created a selection of songs that came from our different lifetimes of experience. With ‘Grazie’ our experiences and lives are now incredibly intertwined. We communicate now on a musical level that far surpasses that of when we wrote ‘BP’, so the songs are much more together, and created from a place of shared influence and inspiration.
Play: The Bar Stool Preachers – The Trilogy
Describe your schedule prior to and after releasing an album, for those who are unaware of what goes into promoting your work now, it is finished? The organisation of getting noticed in a crowded arena of music must be all consuming at times?
It’s full on! Prior to it, we were locked in a dark room like musical Apple workers until it was finished. Since it’s release we’ve been flat out interviewing, booking tours, shipping orders and engaging with fans about it. This album particularly has been a massive undertaking for us. Before we recorded it and when we wrote it, we had no-one on our team but we were determined to still do it ourselves. However, when people heard it and listened to us talk about it, they wanted in. We now have one of the best (and most carefully selected) teams around us, including amazing labels like Pirates Press Records, people like Vique Simba in distribution and some brilliant PR companies… So we have had to adjust and change plans of attack constantly, we’ve learned so much throughout.
Play: The Bar Stool Preachers – One Fool Down
Coming from a background of street Punk with your Cock Sparrer roots, what got you interested in the Ska influence that’s heard throughout the BSP sound? Who were you listening to growing up to get a feel for this side of your music?
The realness of the music! It was fun, it was beautiful, it was TOGETHER! My favourite bits of Punk and Ska have always been the heartfelt messages of the working class (not that 3rd wave drivel). I grew up listening to everything and eclecticism was massively encouraged at home. My parents introduced me to everything from Tamla Motown/Stax, to anarcho 80s punk, from classical music to 90s pop girl bands!
I grew up in a punk house, but I was never forced into punk. I chose it. Because it’s the best scene in the world.
Was it always your intention to take up the lead singer’s role in a band with your Father being such an iconic figure in Punk? How much of an Influence did Cock Sparrer have on your aspirations, did you realise how huge a band they were over the world growing up as a young boy?
I don’t know that I’ve ever had any intentions! Haha, my school reports would definitely attest to that at least… I’ve never known anything I was as good at as this, and to this day I’ve still never found anything that feels as natural to me. Where I feel most like the best version of myself (sorry for being a bit cliché there!). Apart from maybe being under the sea, there’s nowhere to me that feels as good as being on stage.
Cock Sparrer has shaped everything about me. They write incredible music, promote family/community and constantly deliver one of the greatest live shows around, so growing up with that at my fingertips meant that they’ve influenced me in a huge way. The idea has never been to copy that (though hundreds of bands have tried and failed horribly, even to this day with new supposed ‘big Oi! Bands…’, and Cock Sparrer just shit ‘em).
I never cared how big they were as a kid. I just watched my Dad and knew that there was no-one cooler in the whole world. I never had to share him. It’s a beautiful thing to grow up and realise your respect grows too when you didn’t think it could.
Your live shows have always been animated and full of energy with plenty of crowd participation, who did you steal bits and pieces from for your stage presence at the start?
Hahaha, how dare you! In fairness, we’ve never tried to emulate anyone on stage, we all just knew it had to be real, and explosive. Being comfortable on stage I learned from my Dad and to have him as a role model growing up was phenomenal, but I’m my own frontman, and the lads in the band are their own entertainers and performers. We want people to engage and believe in everything we say as much as we do. The only way to do that, in my opinion, is to be genuine. I’ve always been a bit of a mental case and when I’m live I shut the rest of the world off and concentrate on being totally and utterly engaged with the energy in the room. Crowds aren’t scary, they’re in cahoots with you, trying to live their best possible lives. If they’re not, they’re in the wrong game, and if you can’t tap into it, maybe you’re in the wrong game too…
Play: The Barstool Preachers – Trickledown
“Blatant Propaganda” has been an undoubted success as an album as well as live, it’s established the band as a force to be reckoned with in a very short period of time. What’s your proudest moment of going through that period when you toured the album and started to make an impact, and what was the most difficult experience you remember?
Without a doubt when people started to sing our words back to us. They danced from the very first show, but when they understood the words, we could hear the passion with which the fans were singing it. These words meant something to them. We’ve had van breakdowns, equipment fires, lost voices and sacrificed more than we thought we had to give, but none of them threatened the band at all. Putting up with the old drummer was tough hahahaha!
There are many bands trying to breakthrough nowadays, even those with excellent tunes find it hard to be found in the saturated music world of today. What do you put your own rapid rise in popularity down to, is it simply constant gigging and producing good quality music? Do you feel that the Cock Sparrer connections were a leg up in those early days, or did you try to keep the connection away from the band initially?
I think people see how hard we work, and that we’re not some industry babe that is going to be around for a couple of years and disappear. Especially in the punk scene, real recognises real, and no matter what some naysayers might reckon, you can’t work harder than being self-managed, funded and creatively in control, whilst touring 150 days a year.
We’ve never played off the Cock Sparrer connection but of course, we’ve never denied it. Cock Sparrer got us our first ever Rebellion festival slot, at 3pm on a smaller stage. It was that show that then enabled people to see what we were made of, and I remember 3 different bookers approaching us after that show saying ‘I’d never heard of you before but bloody hell, that was a bit special!’.
Play: The Bar Stool Preachers – Sleep No More
If you gave one album (Other than BSP) to a young person to inspire them to do what you have done in a band, what would you choose and why?
Pass. I’d make them one and it would have the best of Sparrer, The Clash, The Small Faces, Rancid, Desmond Dekker, Otis Redding, The Descendents… All sorts. How can a musician pick one album!?
Choose one song for you and your Dad to sing as a duet?
Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, he’s Dolly (but for real, Ooh La La by The Faces.)
Play: Faces – Ooh La La
Over the years bands have had some unusual ideas about where to play live, roof tops, prison’s, Mental Institutions and even cliff tops, where unusual would you like the BSP to play, and what plans have you already got lined up?
Theresa May’s front room with her, Boris Johnson, David Cameron and Farage all tied to chairs, and we would play a huge medley of pop songs from the 80s and 90s, but one key and one step out of time, whilst her billionaire husband is forced to juggle sharp knives stood on the kitchen table.
We’ve got so much coming up it’d take another interview, but some of the stuff we’re most looking forward to are touring America with The Interrupters, demoing album #3 in January, touring across Europe in the biggest way we’ve ever done next spring, and going to see mates across the UK this winter. There are some things I can’t mention, but in 6 months we can definitely spill some amazing beans.