Mr Tea and the Minions – Interview

Interview with Pete Devine of Pete’s Rock News and Views (

PD: What type of band are you?

MTATM: Aaargh. The dreaded question. We used to tell people who asked us this that we play Cosmic Disco Metal as a joke, until someone replied ‘oh what, like with violins?’ and we had to say ‘err… yes?’ We’ve basically rolled all of the stuff we like into one band: Balkan, folk, ska, rock, metal, dub, funk, a bit of swing, a bit of disco…the general idea is to make genre-bending high-energy original and fun music!


PD: Tell us the brief history of yourself.

MTATM: In the early days the band was formed after a collaboration between Tomo (guitar) and a producer, trying to make some Balkan-influenced dance music! Soon afterwards close friends Elle (vocals) and Lucy (fiddle) got involved and the direction changed, writing music together with the ultimate goal to be a high energy, genre-mashing live band to play at the festivals we so loved, such as Boomtown. We were eventually joined by Pembles (guitar and vocals), Fabs (drums) and Fold (bass). After loads of jamming we managed to get pub shows in the vibrant Bristol circuit, and after lots of hustle we started getting booked for festivals, which has been our main focus ever since – I’ll never forget finding out we’d been booked for Boomtown whilst in a dodgy internet cafe near a beach in India, that was the absolute pinnacle of our dream at that point … and we’ve been back every year since!


PD: Who are your musical and non-musical influences?

MTATM: Seeing Gogol Bordello at an extremely wet Glastonbury was an absolute revelation! It was so exciting and fun to see Balkan and folk music fused with punk rock in a colourful explosion of a set, and the contrast to the muddy, wet Pyramid stage was incredible – they have always been a big influence on all of us and we still often listen to them on van journeys! Other collective favourites are Bristol legends Sheelanagig, and all sorts of others from System of a Down to Bonzo Dog Doo Dah band!

Weirdly, S Club 7 keep coming up as well (most notably in a radio interview on BBC Somerset when they didn’t have any of the songs we suggested as being relevant to us, so we said S Club 7 as a joke, which they gratefully latched onto, leaving us to explain live on air why S Club 7 have been such a formative influence on us…)


PD: What are your dreams and goals?

MTATM: Ultimately our main goal has always been to have as much fun as possible helping people jump around and have fun while also jumping around and having fun ourselves! Obviously we all have bills to pay, so getting paid to do this is also helpful…


PD: Who writes your songs, what are they about?

MTATM: Usually one person will have a musical idea and we’ll develop that together. The collaborative aspect is great in that we all bring a bit of each personality to every song, so instead of trying to reinvent the wheel every time, we just do what feels natural and end up with a sound that represents all of us. Then Elle goes away and writes lyrics about tea, or underpants, or festivals, or politics, or bin men, or Cinderella driving her pumpkin under the influence of alcohol. Just normal, standard song topics really.


PD: How do you promote your band and shows?

MTATM: We’re magpies and we like bright, colourful shiny things – so we use colourful images and posters to get our vibe across and attract attention! These days it’s mostly social-media based so we’re fairly active on Facebook, Instagram and (more recently) Tiktok, and we try to have a bit of fun with it. Everyone gets such an overwhelming amount of spam these days that it’s hard to stand out. Obviously we work with promoters from venues and festivals, and generally the most successful ones are those who understand their local audience and area so are able to use that knowledge to promote shows in the best ways.


PD: What do you think about downloading music online?

MTATM: It’s brilliant! Just like vinyl, streaming, watching videos on Youtube, random kids doing random dances to music on Tiktok, CDs (we still sell quite a few of those at gigs!), tapes, minidisc, Betamax, wax cylinders, whatever. People listening to any music in any way that works for them is brilliant.


PD: What song do you wish you’d written and why?

MTATM: Answering this as a band is going to be impossible (for reasons that should become obvious), you can make up your own mind about how serious these answers are:

Elle – Spice Girls: Say You’ll Be There
Lucy – Dubioza Kolektiv: No Escape (from Balkan) or Limp Bizkit: Hot Dog
Tomo – Sheelanagig: Shetlag
Pembs – Jimi Hendrix: Little Wing
Fold – Prince: Raspberry Beret
Fabs – Pip Millet: Heavenly Mother


PD: What are some of your pet peeves?

MTATM: Promoters who don’t do any promotion and can’t understand why their event didn’t sell out. Also people spelling our name wrong! We’ve had ‘Mr T and the Minions’ more than we can count, and ‘Mr Tea and the Millions’ was a good one – we’ve always wanted to be called ‘Mr Pea and the Onions’ so maybe we’ll change it to that one day just to amuse ourselves (or if we get sued by Disney).


PD: What is your proudest moment in music?

MTATM: It would either be some of the incredibly epic festival gigs we’ve been lucky enough to play (last year at Nozstock, Shambino in 2021, several of our Boomtown and Glastonbury sets to name a few), or Tomo falling off the side of the stage at Priddy Folk Festival within about 3 seconds of the first song. Seriously though, we’ve mentioned how much Boomtown means to us, but there was one gig during a biblical downpour on a Sunday evening where we were playing in a big open field … we were in a tent backstage fully expecting zero people in the audience and were astonished to find a packed field full of brightly coloured waterproof wearing and umbrella wielding smiley people, who despite the crazy weather and numerous covered venues at the festival had chosen to come and see us. After a very long and very fun weekend, that just about finished us off … in the best way!


PD: So what are you working on at the moment?

MTATM: After a few years of just figuring out what the hell is going on in the music scene, post Covid (our last album came out in October 2019 and we lost out on a lot of our promotional options when everything got cancelled), we’ve just recorded three new songs which we’re really excited to release. We’re focussing much more on streaming than before (we’ve been really slow with this as we’ve always been predominantly a live band). Plus we’re writing new material and have been rethinking older songs to really get the best out of our live shows.


PD: What music have you available online and where can we buy it from?

MTATM: We’ve got two albums (Tea Your Mind, 2016, and Mutiny, 2019), available in all the usual places, although our preferred option is Bandcamp, or buying a CD from us in rEaL liFe at a gig. But most importantly, our new single Twitchy Feet is out from 16 June, we genuinely think our 3 upcoming releases are the strongest songs we’ve written and we’re really, really excited about them all!


Mr Tea and the Minions links:
Band/Artist location – Bristol UK
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