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 is curated by Smaller Hearts. The Halifax synth-pop duo, Smaller Hearts, began as a game. Kristina Parlee and Ron Bates tore up a bunch of pieces of paper, and on each they wrote a word that could describe a song: slow, fast, quiet, loud, odd time signature, with or without certain instruments, et cetera. Then they’d mix the paper all up in a bowl and pull out a few. The results were treated as instructions: the corresponding song would be written and recorded to the random spec of the draw.
When Smaller Hearts first started, Parlee and Bates enforced a firm rule of no guitars allowed, as an effort to get out of their comfort zone. They stuck to this through three albums, but eventually this rule that was initially liberating had become a limitation. The synths are still at the forefront, but by permitting their earlier punk and indie rock styles to influence their current interests, Smaller Hearts believes that this song is one of the truest expressions of the sounds they love.
New single, “Sleeper Agent,” is partly about trying to escape reality by sleeping and dreaming—but also about the limits of that approach. Sleeping through your problems can feel like a relief; but at some point you might notice that you’re accidentally escaping a lot of good stuff as well as bad. Parlee and Bates wanted it to feel dreamy and optimistic, but tinged with melancholy. There’s a cloud of background noise throughout that frames the sunnier guitar melody and vocal harmonies—the hope is that it reflects the moment of pleasant confusion you feel upon waking from a hopeful dream.
Escape reality with Smaller Hearts on “Sleeper Agent” now:
“The title ‘Sleeper Agent‘ doesn’t appear in the lyrics,” explains Bates, “but it metaphorically can stand for the song: our agency in deciding what parts of life to engage in versus what parts to tune out; and the change that can happen if a person who’s sleeping through their life becomes activated and wakes up.”
Growing up in the Maritimes, a cup of tea meant just one thing to me: Red Rose brand Orange Pekoe tea that was brewed first thing in the morning, two tea bags in a Corningware tea pot sat on a low burner on the kitchen stove. Over the course of the day, cups would be extracted, the tea pot might cool only to be reheated, extra hot water added if the contents got too strong, extra bags if it got too weak and cups would be poured throughout the day around meals or cookies or just for a moment’s pause. The next day the cycle started all over again.
Approaching writing this post, I dug around and fished out my old tea pot (probably my mom’s old teapot) and brewed the first pot I’ve had in years, added a little bit of milk and a little bit of sugar to a mug before topping it off with the fresh tea: delicious.
Chosen Art: Ketchup Mustard by Chantal Tardiff
We’ve been very lucky over our years living in Halifax to have in our circle of friends many talented artists and musicians. Our walls and our record shelves are filled with the output of people we have shared stages and coffees with, including a number of paintings by my old Maynards bandmate Chantal Tardiff. Although a lot of Chantal’s works are 3D or kinetic pieces, she recently revisited some of her paintings and shared them online. I was instantly smitten with this sneaky fox with a mouthful of hot dogs. It’s both whimsical and a little sad, this creature of nature stealing proudly away with the most manufactured of snacks. And it’s also just very cute.
Chosen Song: Lethargic by Gut Health
In the last couple of years, I’ve been particularly aware of an amazing indie music scene coming out of Australia and out of Melbourne in particular. I just stumbled upon this track from Gut Health’s debut EP a couple of weeks ago. This is maybe not a song you might think of as one to relax to – a friend of mine described it as “chaotic” (I assume she meant chaotic good!) – but I’ve often found more raucous sounds actually relaxing. I like that this band describes themselves as fusing musical styles (influenced by Jazz, Punk and Queer Rave culture) and that they are pulling that all together to make something unique to them.
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