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The Tea Club Return with Dense Pastoral Dejection on “If I Mean When” (premiere)

The Tea Club's latest single finds the quintet evoking classic folk rock artists in the midst of maintaining their knack for evocative songwriting and arrangements.

Pennsylvania is home to a multitude of outstanding progressive/art rock acts, but none infuse their powerfully intricate dynamics with the folk rock splendor of yesteryear quite like the Tea Club. Thus far, the quintet—Patrick McGowan (vocals/guitar), Dan Monda (drums), Joe Dorsey (keyboards), Dan McGowan (vocals, guitar), and Jamie Wolff (bass/violin/cello)—have shared the stage with the likes of Thank You Scientist, the Flower Kings, and Beardfish, as well as received praise from countless noteworthy publications (including PROG). On their latest single, “If I Mean When” (taken from their upcoming fifth LP, If / When), the band taps into their lusciously rustic and regretful side with a beautifully arranged acoustic ode that lingers long after it’s over.

Of the track, songwriter Dan McGowan confesses, “I felt bombarded by hopelessness and cynicism from all directions. It felt like I was being attacked… I was trying to maintain hope, but I was being beaten down. So I started to come up with these lyrics that were like a caricature of that extreme hopelessness. Yeah, yeah, we’re all going to die, and life is meaningless and everyone knows it, so why bother? It was my sarcastic way of pushing back, but I think I accidentally wound up saying something really sincere with it.”

Likewise, Dorsey says that If / When as a whole deals with ‘dichotomies like cynicism and hope’, while Wolff hopes that the record “can be a way for listeners to connect with the all-encompassing beauty of life and that it can work against the tides of alienation in the world”. With its piercingly impassioned guitar strums, resolute percussion, nostalgic piano chords, commanding vocals (including dense harmonies), and slight symphonic ether, it certainly achieves that intention. It channels the pastoral angst of classic CSNY, the Byrds, and Tom Petty while also clearly maintaining the Tea Club’s DNA. Above all else, it cements their skill at prioritizing songwriting and succulent arrangements over anything else.

Take a listen to “If I Mean When” for yourself and let us know what you think! It’s available now on all streaming platforms. Also, keep an eye out for If / When when it releases on 30 July.