Music is not something a musician produces; rather it’s something a listener perceives – a John Cage quote that has stuck with me ever since it rattled my ear-drum. Originally I interpreted it to mean that audiences are solely responsible for determining music’s value, deferring any sovereignty from musicians. Although, recently, a thought has been scratching at the back of my brain: what if such musicians could be considered to be their own audience? If the music that they write isn’t principally an extension of themselves, rather a product of external influence and expectation? ALPHA MALE TEA PARTY, a frenetic local trio who reverberate instrumental post-hardcore, are one of the few exceptions to this concept.
Catching up with Tom Peters (Guitar), it was instantly clear that he echoed this sentiment: “We just don’t care for the prescribed pretense which seems to permeate a lot of music and the image that’s around it.” With the recent release of their aurally-towering eponymous debut album, Tom, Dan Leadbetter (Bass) and Greg Chapman’s (Drums) autonomous status has been cemented, as is evident from colourfully coined song titles such as Depressingly Shit Lunchtime Sandwich and Jason Fucked the Argonauts: they only perform and record music under their own rules, without a concern for cursory trends. Anyone else enjoying it is simply a bonus to them.
Born from the womb of a Gumtree advert, AMTP have since concocted an equally bludgeoning and expansive sound that weaves a delicate balance between acts such as Three Trapped Tigers and If These Trees Could Talk. “It’s smashy and abrasive with a sense of fun and bounciness,” says Tom. “I guess when the band started I was driven by the idea that technical, heavy music could still be melodic and fun without losing its spine.” Whilst some consider instrumental music a channel with which to boast technical capacity, this trio of musical maestros couldn’t be further removed from such mantras. “It was never our intention to write needlessly wanky progressive meltdowns.” Instead, their music is carefully considered, compellingly exploiting the gaps that a vocalist would usually occupy. Without the burden of a single- stemmed musical nucleus in their songs, they have a liberty that gives guitar melodies, drum sections and bass accompaniments room to breathe and interact with each other. A prime example of this coalition can be heard in the intricate and aesthetically broadening We Should Be Animals.
Whilst there are plenty of acts who season their identities with absurdity and irony, it’s uncommon to find one who confidently replicate it within their live shows. But AMTP are one of such acts; honourable mentions of their on-stage antics include Tom wearing nothing but a perplexingly tight pair of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Y-fronts, a framed photo of George Michael watching their every move and a catalogue of turtle-neck jumpers adorning their figures. Possessing such self-consciousness is what allows this trio to enjoy themselves in whatever manner they deem fit, without consequence or opinion affecting them. But what inspires them to achieve such heights of obscurity? “It’s because we’re all deeply insecure about our breast sizes,” reveals Tom. “That said, it’s not as if we’re a comedy cabaret act; as far as detaching music from seriousness is concerned, I think the point with us is that the music itself is serious.” And so, by considering music as their form of anchorage, AMTP are bestowed a freedom that allows them to retain a substance in their songs despite any peripheral actions.
Yes, I might be teetering on the edge of cliché, but AMTP are a band who truly live by their own rules and values. Any preconceived notions of how to hold themselves are disregarded, and in their place all that is left is thorough independence. “One of the things that we were really sure of when we started this band was that everything would be done on our own terms,” explains Tom. “We’ve allowed ourselves to develop pretty naturally and just kind of let it take us where it feels fun and right.” The auteuristic nature of the band is further imbued in their debut album: “Well, it was a totally self-produced effort. We’ve come away with something which we’re really happy with and something that we can be proud of because we did everything right through to the artwork design.” Whether it’s the profound song titles or woolly garments, it’s clear that this is a project that they’re incredible proud of, not for the attention it garners or the praise they receive, but quite simply because it’s devoid of compromise. AMTP are never likely to be the poster-child of some vogue style magazine (although those Ninja-Turtle briefs could suggest otherwise), but I don’t believe that’s their point.
Without bands like AMTP, music scenes would have nothing to balance out the mundanity of organised hysteria. My journalistic instincts urge me to look deeper into the reasons behind their entertaining mannerisms, but as much as I’d love to second-guess the consequence and incentive behind their behaviour, I know it’s nothing more or less than a signature of their personalities. “We just do it because that’s who we are as people,” concludes Tom. “Maybe we’ll have a go at introspection one day but for now it’s about perforating eardrums.” He adds, “If our music didn’t reflect our own personalities we’d be doing something very wrong,” and that is where the beauty of AMTP rests: their music isn’t a product of expectation, it’s an extension of self.