The power of Tess Parks.
(photo credit: KHALILAH PIANTA)
Described by a writer as a psychedelic chanteuse offering twilight hymns, Tess Parks combines angelic melodies and droning dissonance into a cohesive whole that makes her a captivating writer and performer.
The 27-year-old Toronto native has turned heads well before releasing her debut album Blood Hot in 2013. Alan McGee, the record company mogul behind Britpop sensations Oasis and Primal Scream, saw her performing in London where she moved after high school and called her “an amazing songwriter.”
“My favorite band growing up was and still is Oasis – the best band in the world, no question,” said Parks, describing how McGee’s accolades made her feel, in an online interview with the Post
ahead of her Israel debut this week on June 18 at the Barby Club in Tel Aviv.
Parks took the unusual path of heading to London to study photography, but soon got caught up in the British music scene.
“I had always loved British music and by this point I was taking music and photography very seriously and wanted to continue studying,” she explained, “but what parents would let their 17-year-old daughter move to London by themselves at that age without some sort of schooling involved?
“I dropped out after my first year and kept taking photos, but also full-on pursued music with my whole heart. I ended up spending the better part of the past 10 years living in London.”
The joint love of music and photography was instilled in Parks from an early age, thanks to her family’s creative streak.
“My grandfather was a professional pianist and my grandmother was a ballerina,” she said. “They met while he was accompanying her while she was teaching at the Winnipeg Ballet School in the 1930s. They had one son, my father, and he also plays piano and showed me all of my favorite music growing up. My mother used to sing to me and paint with me and takes beautiful photographs too. I started writing songs as soon as I could talk.”
Even though Parks went to an arts high school in Toronto, she said that she felt lost among the other talented students.
“My best friend Annie and I used to perform some songs together towards the end of high school at talent shows and assemblies and we ended up getting booed once or twice, but the kids just didn’t get it,” she said. “I was so sensitive, I don’t know how that didn’t discourage me completely. I left straight after high school to London and that’s where I built up my musical confidence.”
McGee’s enthrallment with her music was ill-timed as he had dropped out of the record business. But by the time Parks moved briefly back to Toronto in 2012, he had founded a new label – 359 Music – and she was one of his first signings.
A year later, Anton Newcombe, the front man for the Brian Jonestown Massacre, contacted her and they ended up recording a well-received album together – I Declare Nothing
– and toured to rave reviews in England and throughout Europe. Their second album – Tess Parks & Anton Newcombe
– was released last year.
“I met Anton in February 2014 on a trip to Berlin and we recorded a couple of songs,” said Parks. “They turned out amazing, so we decided to make a record.
“I was always very inspired by the music he makes and I just knew to trust all of his ideas because they’re all so good. His brain is music.”
The combination of the records with Newcombe and establishing her own following has turned Parks into a known entity in Europe, where she keeps her touring band ready to go.
Her Tel Aviv show is a one-off that will see her reuniting with the band after completing a European tour last month.
“I’m coming directly there from Los Angeles!” Parks said excitedly. “It’s going to be a long journey! Eighteen hours on the way there and 30 hours on the way back, and I genuinely couldn’t be more excited about it.
“It’s going to be such a thrill reuniting with my friends in the band in Israel. They are the best group of musicians and they’re my best mates.”
Although she’s done here share of solo shows, Parks said that she always prefers playing with her band.
“I feel like I have much less to offer when it’s just me on stage singing with a guitar,” she explained. “But I’ve learned to enjoy it and appreciate and recognize the power I can possess on my own too.”
Parks’ power will be on full display on Tuesday night in Tel Aviv.
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