Most who have the privilege to have a chat with Beans on Toast would say he’s a breath of fresh air. A signal to a divided nation that apathy and argument is not a way forward. A voice of reason, calm-headed and positive. But Beans remains a humble man, still picking up his guitar and touring the nation with his mate. His optimism and honesty continue to shine through in his latest album, A Spanner in the Works.
Interviewing the day after Article 50 was triggered, he is about to embark on his first tour of Germany. With his distinctly British humour, he seems a bit worried about attendances, but as always his optimism prevails. “I mean it’s not like I’m a particularly good singer or guitar player… I did do a festival in Latvia once though, and learnt how to swear in Latvian. I find it an apt time to go to Europe, if anything I’ll be apologising for everybody,” he jokes.
His Down the Pub tour sees him visit a number of smaller towns across the UK, visiting what some would call the ‘Brexit Heartland.’ “In order to constantly tour, you need to go further afield – travelling and touring is the best thing about doing what I do. With the referendum, it’s pretty weird though – but when I did a similar tour last year, the referendum was not mentioned once.” As the folk hero he is, he proclaims “the last thing this country needs is people having a go at each other.”
So, with his views on the current situation very clear (listen to 2016, off his latest album), how does he stay so positive? Simply put, he says “It’s just who I am at heart. Writing songs to get people down, I mean what a horrible thing to do! Even when talking about the more troubling subjects, in the end it’s like a cheesy Hollywood movie: everything’s gonna be fine, and I genuinely do believe that.”
It’s a breath of fresh air in folk music, a genre often shot down for its pessimism. Beyond the lyrics, Beans was keen to bring in new sounds for A Spanner in the Works. ‘2016’ is a classic Beans on Toast anti-folk number listing all the woes of the year, but then the album lives up to its name. Beans says, “it was album number eight, what can we do? We should just try and f*** with the plan… Just do one without guitar! We basically made the album on his laptop. The thing about working on laptops is, it’s very easy to fall down a rabbit hole of bleeps and blobs.” But of course, there had to be a solo major-key acoustic guitar tune in there somewhere. “At the end of it I just said f*** it, give me the guitar, that’s it, album done.” Simple.
Although he breaks the convention, Beans retains a certain structure to his music. He releases an album a year, tours the album, then does a main tour before heading out on festival season. What’s special about this tour is the effort he’s making to go to the smaller towns: “people are almost thankful that you give a s**t, you know? They’re smaller crowds, but I’d say there’s a bigger difference between a Tuesday night and a Friday night than there is between Newcastle and Warsop. You put the same into an arena as you do in a pub.”
Beans’s tour pays homage to the Great British public house. “At the end of the day, that’s what I do. I make music for pubs, festivals. Drop me anywhere in the country and the first place I’ll go is the pub,” he summarises.
Maybe Beans has the answer to all of life’s problems right there.