Interview: Beans on Toast

Drawing towards the end of one of his most exciting years yet, we spoke to Beans on Toast (aka Jay McAllister) before he closed his UK tour at Camden’s Electric Ballroom. Slightly bedraggled from the rain, I’m quizzed mercilessly by security at the back entrance of the venue, before finally being allowed in – luckily it doesn’t take long for Jay to offer me a beer.

Before we settle down, I ask him if he’s excited about tonight – they haven’t got anything too special planned, but we can expect a frumpet player (a lovely young lady who can make sounds with her mouth that sound exactly like a trumpet). After a quick phone call from his parents – who needed letting in as they were running his merch stand – we got down to business.


So you’ve had a huge year! It’s gone from supporting Frank Turner at the O2, to a US tour with Flogging Molly, and now this tour. What’s the difference between playing such different venues?

It’s been the year of all years. We just had a really sentimental pint, looking back over everything. It’s been incredible, but we try to treat all the gigs the same.

You’ve had all of that, plus your albums just come out… what are the plans now? Straight back into it?

Yeah we just keep going. We’ve been writing songs on the tour – it’s a song a night. I’ve forgotten them all already, but I’ll piece them together when I have some down time. I don’t see albums anymore than just walking down the same line. We’re always writing and there’ll always be a new album.

With your constant gigging, do you always have time to write an album of songs, or have you got a sort of back catalogue of ones that haven’t been on albums yet?

No, each song that’s written is for the next album. It doesn’t take long to write a song! To be honest, the busier I am – the more out and about I get – the more I have to write about. The more people you meet there’s always more stories.

And with your song writing process, it’s clearly very honest. Do you get criticism for that at all?

Not really! No censorship either. It seems quite surprising but I guess people either like it or they don’t. If you’re selling loads of records and forcing yourself down people’s throats then the people who hate you will vocally let you know they hate you. It’s not like I market my music at all – you either listen to it if you like it, or you don’t. It’s easy enough to ignore. In that sense I’ve got quite an easy life in that way, the only people I come across just want a hi-5.

Saying that, in ‘Keep You’ you mention Twitter followers and Facebook likes – do you feel like you need that? Or are you content with the fans you have?

Well, that songs kind of an entire thought process. And it would be great to think that there are loads of people out there, but at the end of the day as long as I’m happy with the album it doesn’t matter. The world seems a bit obsessed with growth sometimes – I’ve done a lot of interviews recently where people have asked how I think I’ve changed musically. In all honesty, I don’t think I have, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Not if you’re making what people want to hear.

Exactly. I really enjoy what I do and I’m lucky to be able to do it so if I can just carry on doing it the same… happy days!

Indeed! And tying in with that – again going back to the politics within your music – your latest album seems a lot more happy go lucky. In a ‘Whole Lot Of Loving’ you mention being ‘busy being happy’. Is that important to you – the balance between seriousness and enjoying yourself?

Oh yeah of course – the zen is the most important. With the politics side, I’m not particularly well read. I don’t really know much – it’s just pub speak. And as much as I voice my opinions, I don’t necessarily think they’re right or that other people should feel the same. But the underlining core is just have a good time.

And what’s your recording process like? How do you have time to get into studios?

I love recording studios – but only for a short amount of time. People spend months doing that but I’ve never spent more than a few days in a studio. It’s nice to just get it done. That way there’s no room for error. I always keep an ear out for friends who are producing or have places to record; I book it in for a weekend in September and I just make sure I have songs ready. I mean, I’m glad other people spend years recording these amazing things, but I’ve just gotta go in and get it done.

And the pressure doesn’t scare you?

Nah, writing’s always come really easy to me. And no one’s forcing me to make an album a year – it’s my own decision. If I felt there was pressure I probably wouldn’t be able to do it. It makes sense because it means I can have a busy year every year.

You’ve worked with quite a few people – Ben Lovett (Mumford and Sons), The Holloways, Frank Turner… do you think it helps?

I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for Frank!

He says the same! He credited you for his shift to acoustic. It’s clearly a mutual respect…

Well, yeah…but the reason I can play places like this is the because of the amount of people he put me in front of. And we’d play songs to each other when no one else gave a shit.

It’s nice that there’s no competition. Everyone’s just helping each other.

Yeah, everyone expects to find bitchiness in an industry like this, but really everyone’s sweethearts. Even with stuff like small open-mic nights there’s far more pats on the back than sneaky detuning of guitars.

And are we excited about tonight?

Yeah! We don’t want to do anything too special, we want the same atmosphere as all the other shows, but it should be fun.

Well, I’m very excited to see how it pans out…

Melissa Svensen

Melissa Svensen

Melissa, 22. Editor. Student, music journalist, probably talking about Blur or Bowie