Ten minute tea with Afternoon Tea. Spend ten minutes with Afternoon Tea. In the time it takes to boil one kettle, and let one cup of tea steep, we will have your daily art + music fix covered. Take your afternoon tea break with our Afternoon Tea curators.
Today’s tea + soundtrack + visuals curated by Alex Mason.
Alex Mason is a Canadian singer-songwriter based in Toronto, Ontario. His songs are dark, anthemic, quiet and dynamic, like dredging up the bones of things that sit at the bottom of lakes. Raised in rural Ontario, he moved to Toronto after completing his degree in English Literature and decided he’d rather put his words in songs than essays.
Whether solo or with his full band, his voice and songs bring a fresh energy and lyricism to Canadian music. After three EPs, Mason is currently preparing his first full length LP, Ghost of the Great Lakes, inspired in part by Virginia Woolf’s 1927 novel, To the Lighthouse, and the life lived that has brought him here.
“In mid 2016, not long after having moved to Toronto, I was really struggling in my career and trying to write songs about genuine hope. I had a conversation with a friend at work about what it meant to overcome failure and she told me that many people pursue something, whether it be a passion or a career, and get to a middle point where they give up, and are doomed to keep finding new fixations and repeating the process, always giving up in this middle period where they plateau.”
“It takes working through this ‘desert,’ sitting with the pain, being stranded alone, to come out on the other side. I ran home with words in my head, picked up the guitar and wrote this song almost immediately.“
During the making of “Dark Days” and the rest of the songs for this upcoming record, a big part of the sound of the album involved a delay pedal called the Deluxe Memory Man by Electro-Harmonix. For “Dark Days” in particular, a lot of guitar parts have this analog echo on them, creating an ethereal wash.
The older units in particular are really sought after, as popularized by so many bands such as Radiohead and many others. After losing his mom mid-way through the recording process for this album, Mason‘s old bandmates and producer banded together to purchase one of these units for him and it’s the same sound you hear on the delayed guitar parts in this song. The pedal given to Mason was also used on the record, Suffer Summer, by Chastity, recorded at the same studio.
For the piece of art, I chose the classic “Wanderer above the Sea of Fog” by Caspar David Freidrich (1818). I chose this work specifically because “Dark Days” and this painting share the theme of a lone figure ensconced in the beauty of nature, away from the modern world. I’m influenced heavily by folk and acoustic based roots music, which often come from a perspective of ‘refuge’ against modernity, and this German romantic era painting encapsulates that same feeling of finding one’s self in the refuge of the wilderness, away from modern society. The artist Freidrich was once quoted as saying, “The artist should paint not only what he has in front of him but also what he sees inside himself” and this very much aligns with the process of making this song and record. You have to journey inside yourself to come out the other side.
The type of tea I’ve chosen is Lavender Earl Grey Cream tea by Pluck. I think a London fog perfectly frames the Wanderer in his own fog and the narrator in “Dark Days”, coming through difficult times through reflection into enlightenment.
The song I’ve chosen is “You” by Nils Frahm from his album Screws. My mom was a piano teacher most of my life so the sound of this song is really familiar to me. It reminds me of hearing the old upright in the living room with the sunlight pouring in and the damper on. It has that really soft close sound I love from pianos and this song feels like drifting off into a cloud and fits nicely as the scenery to the painting and tea I’ve chosen.