Every year since 2009, folk-punk singer-songwriter Beans On Toast has released a new album on his birthday, 1st December. Ranging from scathing politically charged assaults to whimsical story-songs and always loaded with Beans’ disarming warmth and wit, they provide something to look forward to every time December rolls around again, and his new album Survival of The Friendliest is no exception.
Recorded at Big Jelly Studios in Ramsgate under the eye of producer Blaine Harrison of Mystery Jets with a cast of musical friends including spoken-word artist Dizraeli, acclaimed author Nick Hayes (on banjo), gospel singer Sarah Telman (backing vocals, strings), Rosie Bristow of Holy Moly & The Crackers (accordion), Adriano Rossetti-Bonell (saxophone) and Graham Godfrey (drums), alongside contributions throughout from Harrison and Mystery Jets bandmate Jack Flanagan, the album is a beacon of positivity in a dark time.
“I wrote [‘Survival of the Friendliest’’] when the bad news was everywhere,” Beans recalls. “I switched off social media, looked to nature and zoomed out to write songs about a bigger, longer and stranger story. There are no songs about Brexit, about coronavirus, about climate catastrophe. I’d sung those songs already. I’m not naive to the challenges we face as a species and I’m not ignoring that. But in order to tackle our current predicament, I feel we need to be in a good place mentally and spiritually. This is an album about finding that peace in preparation for the road ahead.”
We asked Beans to guide us through the album, track by track.
A BEAUTIFUL PLACE
The album opener lays out the albums lyrical theme and musical flavours about to come your way. Much of this album was inspired by the book Human Kind by Rutger Bregman. This is where the album title comes from. It’s a book that explains how humans are good, kind-hearted and collaborative beings lucky to live on a beautiful and fascinating planet. In a world full of bad news, I wanted to put some positivity out there, and that’s what inspired this song. Musically the album was brought to life by Blaine Harrison of the Mystery Jets, an old friend. We reconnected to make the album and he set out a clear sonic journey for the songs to take.
I wrote this album at my new home on the Kent coast. Out priced from London, my family and I decamped to Whitstable in October last year, and I started to put this album together. I now live near a shingle beach, and I instantly began something of an obsession with the stones on the beach. This song is about the history and lifespan of a simple beach stone, originally it was called “The incredible adventures and history of this stone”, but I cut it down to “Stones”. The album version was recorded at my house, in the same spot where the song was written, and as soon as I got the take we went to the beach, to thank (and make a little recording of) the stones.
BLOW VOLCANO BLOW
Shout out to Adriano Rossetti, who played sax on this one. Once we’d done a week of writing and tracking at my house, we moved to Big Jelly Studios in Ramsgate. Here in this incredible studio, we tracked the rest of the record. It was a revolving door of incredible musicians and friends. I’d never even met Adriano. He was a friend of a friend. He turned up and smashed this tune of the park, took it in a whole new direction. It’s a song about having a good time and being open to new ideas – so all very suitable.
NOT EVERYBODY THINKS WE’RE DOOMED
I love life. I’m constantly inspired by the crazy world in which we find ourselves. The road ahead may not be an easy one, but I refuse to believe it’s all for nothing and that we should roll over and quietly wait for extinction. If that’s the future we imagine, then that’s the future we will get. We need to visualise a better future. We need to adapt, and we need to celebrate the things worth celebrating. That’s what this song is, a celebration of life and our future. Bring it on. Chaos and all.
TREE OF THE YEAR
Inspired by a story I heard about a tree in London. It was awarded a certificate of ‘Tree of the Year’ only to be felled the following year at the hands of a property developer. The song has wailing guitar feedback going through the entire song, provided by musical genius Jack Flanagan (who played throughout the album). He managed to make the guitar amp talk the secret language of trees for 4 minutes straight.
This is a song about letting your imagination run wild. It’s a song about connecting to nature, being a part of nature and finding our place on the planet. Physically, mentally and spiritually.
Inspired by The Book of Trespass by Nick Hayes. A book about land ownership in England and how by fixing errors of the past, we can create a fairer future for the common folk. The book blew my mind, and I did my best to transfer what I learned into a bite-size song of information. Since writing it, I’ve become friends with Nick and joined him on his campaign for the Right to Roam. I had no idea that 97% of our rivers are off-limits and privately owned until I read the book. The same goes for 92% of the countryside. It feels like more people should be aware of this, so we can do something about it.
LET’S GET MARRIED AGAIN
With a limited number of festivals happening this year (for obvious reasons we won’t go into), I did something I’ve never done before and started to take wedding bookings. I sat down to write a song to play at a strangers wedding, and I ended up writing another song about my wife, Lizzy. Lizzy and I now plan to get married again and honour the idea behind the song – we’ll probably make a music video for the song on the same day. Why not?!
A song about trees. Inspired by the incredible novel The Overstory by Richard Powers. I’ve always had a thing about trees (I’m a hippy at heart), but this book made me see them in an even brighter light, as the all-knowing, ancient gods that they are. The song is a collaboration with Bristol beat poet Dizraeli. I’m a huge fan of his work, and after we played a show together this summer, we got to talking about doing a tune. I sent him this song and left him some room to play with. He wrote his part and sent the tune back, along with a note saying that he’d been reading The Overstory at the time of writing. A beautiful coincidence.
READY FOR ACTION
Musically this tune went off on its own wild ride. We put it together late at night, rolling out some of Blaine’s old skool synths. It seemed like a fitting backing for the song, which is a bit of a rant about individualism as a way of life.
The last song I wrote for the album and the album closer. The message of the song is the title, “Love Yourself”. I genuinely believe that we all should.
Survival of The Friendliest is out now on Bot Music. Order on vinyl or CD here.
Catch Beans On Toast live on his UK tour – tickets here:
1/12- WHITSTABLE The Playhouse – SOLD OUT
2/12- CAMBRIDGE Storey’s Field Centre
3/12- COLCHESTER Three Wise Monkeys – SOLD OUT
4/12- GUILDFORD Boileroom
5/12- BEDFORD Esquires
6/12- COVENTRY Kasbah
7/12- ST ALBANS The Horn
8/12- TUNBRIDGE WELLS The Forum
9/12- BATH Moles
10/12- TRURO The Old Bakery
11/12- PLYMOUTH The Junction
12/12- EXETER The Phoenix
13/12- STROUD- Prince Albert – SOLD OUT
14/12- READING Facebar
15/12- DERBY The Venue
16/12- STOKE The Sugarmill
17/12- LIVERPOOL Phase One – SOLD OUT
18/12- LEICESTER Soundhouse
22/02- PORTSMOUTH Wedgewood rooms
23/02- BRIGHTON Chalk
24/02- NOTTINGHAM Rescue Rooms
25/02- LEEDS Brudenell Social Club
26/02- BARROW Underground Music Society
27/02- SHEFFIELD The Leadmill
01/03- HULL Social
02/03- EDINBURGH Voodoo Rooms
03/03- GLASGOW Stereo
04/03- MANCHESTER Gorilla
05.03- NEWCASTLE Tyne Bank Brewery
06/03- NORWICH Norwich Arts Centre
08/03- OXFORD The Bullingdon
09/03- BIRMINGHAM Castle & Falcon
10/03- CARDIFF The Globe
11/03- BRISTOL Lost Horizon
12/03- LONDON Lafayette
Find out more at Beans On Toast’s official website
Introduction by Paul Maps