On Wednesday of last week, the up-and-coming Canadian duo Tennyson opened for electronic band M83. The brother and sister duo played a unique set; their music was an odd intersection where jazzy-electronic beats meet playing pots and pans as a kid in your kitchen, yet it all somehow came together in a novel sound.
Given that most concert-goers were in the venue to see M83, the audience was unimpressed with the two when they first walked out. But Tennyson won them over with their contagiously bouncy sounds, and by the end of their set many listeners in the crowd were bobbing along to the synth beats and expressing wishes for an encore.
Despite the winning music, their set was not without glitches; they bordered on awkward while interacting with the crowd, and partway through the set they had to stop and start a song over due to a technological mishap. But the synesthesia of their music was convincing enough to level with any distractions.
I had to opportunity to sit down with Tennyson, comprised of drummer Tess Pretty and vocalist/keyboardist Luke Pretty, after the show, and they’re both as unique as the music they create.
We chatted about what influences they draw from when writing music. “Memories are good inspiration,” explained Luke, who writes the band’s lyrics. “Although inaccurate, and I read somewhere that you change your memories every time you recall them. And also it’s dangerous to be nostalgic. So I guess wherever I’m making music is what inspires me. I usually try not to just sit in a boring room, I’ll go to a cafe or something. More recently I’ve been going to work in Los Angeles, and I wrote inspired by that unintentionally.”
The duo is also unusually youthful; both are barely adults. “It doesn’t really change anything. People are more impressed if you’re younger though” said drummer Tess.
“It’s dangerous because your age keeps changing,” Luke added.
When asked about their roots and how they forayed into the music industry so early, they came back to their family.
“Both of our parents always knew that they wanted to put us into music. Our dad’s a drummer, we were both put in to piano lessons, and then drum lessons. We just kept playing, and then we started playing together.” Tess explained.
“While we were playing covers, it was never like a personal project or something that we looked ahead or tried to predict where it would go. It was just what we did when we were kids.” Luke added. “I wouldn’t say music changed our lives because there was never really a change.”
It was clear that they build off of each other, not only on stage but also in conversation; stealing glances at one another mid-set, building to the same musical crescendos, and clarifying each other’s points.
“I started singing because it was easier because you don’t have to write melodies that aren’t voice with the intention of finding people to sing the tracks I wrote.” Luke said.
“Yeah, but you hate writing lyrics.” Tess added, with Luke conceding, “It turns into a bit of a nightmare because of the perfection complex.”
The origins of the band’s name are a bit of a mystery to fans, but the two clarified where they got their name. “Luke’s middle name is Tennyson — our parents named him after the poet.” Tess said. “And it rhymes with Edison, our favorite lightbulb inventor!” Luke added, jokingly.
Touring across Middle-America is a new experience for both. “It gets to be different when you’re in this part of America because we see things that you just don’t see in Canada,” Tess said.
“We went to an ice cream place and it was the size of a grocery store. So we were going around taking photos of everything and the manager came out like ‘I’m just curious why you’re taking photos,” said Luke, referencing Braum’s Restaurant. “It was crazy!” Tess said.
When asked in closing about where they saw the band in the coming years they balked.
“I have no idea, I can’t even think that far ahead.” Tess said. “I’m living in the past — I’m still thinking about yesterday!”
And so Tennyson will continue on, hopefully playing their self-proclaimed “past-inspired” music for many future shows to come.