Dandelion Tea is a fresh-faced band trying to secure their place in a bustling Belfast music scene. Their debut EP, A Picnic in Limbo, launched earlier this summer, sets them apart from their contemporaries due to the nature of its instrumental arrangements and vocal dynamics. Founded by Jordie Sunshine and Mary Anne Farenden, the pair recruited Scott Anderson and Neil Hughes to create sounds that leave goosebumps all over the skin while listening. On social media they describe themselves as a ‘4 piece alternative indie sounding band, thinly coated with that kind of weirdness that tastes like red wine mixed with diet coke’. For me it’s a sinful description – as a red wine lover I would compare them to deliciously flavored fine wine with crazy notes of dreaminess.
We caught up with the band for a chat to pull back the curtain on the world of Dandelion Tea.
► I got a chance to listen to your music during Chordblossom Kickstart competition earlier this year, how long have you been together?
JS: It’s difficult to explain. We have been together for about a year, but I’ve been working on my music since I was around 16. When I was at university I was working on these songs but they never fully came about until last year when I went to record them.
► Was it your idea to get the band started?
JS: Mary Anne and I used to be a couple, when we were recording this album we kind of split up, but we decided to keep doing the music thing together. I think it was last summer where were going through Scratch My Progress where I sent the song and they really liked it, so I got a call back for an interview, but I had no band. I had to go online to look for people and that’s how I met Scott and Neil.
► Did it take long to get it all organised?
JS: They were in another band at the time, on their online post they were looking for a keyboard player but I said “would you fancy doing that instead?” and I sent them the songs. They really liked my music and wanted to be on board.
► Did you have a “template” ready for this EP and get the band to stick to it or did they add bits and pieces during the recording process?
JS: I am trying not to be too strict, but they weren’t involved at the point of recording, so in regards of this EP I did most of it.
► Oh, really?
JS: The only things I didn’t handle were vocals and drums. There is actually one track that I sing to – ‘Portrait’, the rest was done by Mary Anne and Zach Whitefield. Zach is a singer- songwriter from the Dungannon area and a good friend of mine – we used to play gigs together. I think he has very good voice so I said “do you want to sing on this record?”. I always liked the idea of male and female harmony in terms of singing and Mary Anne’s voice is great, she is a great talent. During the live shows she takes the lead and Scott does the backing vocals. The engineer, Neil, took over on drums for the EP so the rest was left for me: guitar, bass, keys, strings…
► The music on “A Picnic in Limbo” is far from the usual stuff you hear from the Belfast scene, is it difficult to arrange for live shows?
JS: (laughs) Mary Anne, Scott and Neil always said to me “When we play those songs live they don’t sound anything like the recordings!”. I say to that – fantastic point! We are doing a cover version of ourselves and I think it’s fine, because I think if you do go to see a band live that’s what you go to see – a band live. If you listen to the music on your player that should be an immersive experience. Yeah, I think our shows differ from the songs on the EP, there is four of us, so we cannot make that much noise on stage. When I go to the studio I could just try whatever I want: brass, wind strings, the works – I would love to have that live as well.
► How long did it take to write and complete A Picnic at Limbo?
JS: I felt like I couldn’t move on until I had it done. I started one of these songs when I was eighteen and it took about a year to record it. I would go to the studio to record, go to work to save up a bit and go back to the studio again.
► The whole project was clearly well thought through – tell me a little bit about the artwork for your EP, what stands behind it?
JS: I have been wrestling with it for so long. When it was coming up to the release date, a friend of mine Anto Coleman who is a graphic designer came up with it after listening to the EP. I showed the artwork to the band and it was approved by all of us. I really like textures and the colours – I think it works.
► What about the name of the band – Dandelion Tea?
NH: Believe it or not it is an actual thing!
JS: There is a dandelion tea bag in my house which I’ve had since I was about fourteen, it’s really potent now because it’s so old! A friend of mine was using this type of tea as a part of her diet and I thought that it’s a good name for a band.
► Neil, Scott – how did you find adapting into the band?
NH: I was super into Jordie’s music, very interested in it. The drums are pretty easy so I just play sort of hip hop beats which I have done in the past, I used to played with Titanics. Our first show together as a band was actually for Chordblossom’s Kickstart competition.
SA: For me it was a bit of a journey and adventure with music, my cousin had a bass guitar that hadn’t been used much so I picked it up. My mates were starting the band and asked if I wanted to join. They had a guitarist and drummer saying that they would need ‘that guy who stands in the back and does nothing ‘ – the bass player. I have proved them wrong as our John Myung (Dream Theater).
► The last song on your EP “Milk” is instrumental only, why did you decide on leaving it without vocals?
JS: When I was recording it I was planning to get the words before Zach was going away, but I never did and the more I listened to it I felt like leaving it instrumental only. Maybe in the future we could do “Milk 2” with the lyrics to it.
► Are you already working on new material?
NH: Yeah we have two or three songs together that we have played live but never recorded. We are hoping to go into the studio in August.
JS: We would like to record an album, the music will be different, because we will be creating it as a band this time, but we would like to keep the same ‘character’.
► Ok, let’s say there is a fire in the house – which album from your collection would you grab while escaping?
JS: “Graceland” by Paul Simon.
NH: “Blackened Sky” by Biffy Clyro
SA: “Pinback” self titled.
Thank you for the chat lads, looking forward to your live shows and the new album.