Luke and Tess Pretty have come a long way since busking in Edmonton, Canada, at the ages of seven and nine, respectively. Life Is Beautiful in Las Vegas is one of the many festivals they’ve played, and Luke—the older of the siblings—has only recently turned 21, but that hasn’t kept the duo from performing their music in Sin City.
After walking down winding hallways to the end of a corridor, I’m signaled to turn left where I’m met by a shy smile and welcoming hello from Luke. He is tall and slender, working away at last minute adjustments to lights for the show. Tess walks in shortly after and greets me with a robust hello, sporting a grin that lights up her eyes. These two could make anyone feel welcome. Our conversation was fluid and authentic, making for an interesting view into the hearts and minds of two young, upcoming and artistically revolutionary artists.
Luke is the brains of the production, and the one behind many of the vocals on their “Like What” EP. Tess’s contribution is live drums, which takes incredible talent considering Tennyson’s intricately erratic compositions. “We use an electric drill with a drum key bit to switch all the heads on an acoustic kit with mesh heads (three 10-inch toms, a snare and a bass drum),” Tess explains. “We also have a Roland OCTAPAD and electronic cymbals. That combined is around 22 unique places to put sounds, with something like 13 songs that all use an entirely different set of sounds. Learning the songs that my brother writes is like playing Simon Says.”
The two complement each other conversationally, just as they do musically. One finishes the others’ thoughts during conversation. Luke’s more reserved and introspective nature, juxtaposed with Tess’s bubbly, bright personality is the perfect way to understand their music: Playful, yet unpredictable. Erratic, but not cluttered. Crisp and rhythmically complex. If you’ve listened to their music or seen them live, you know exactly what I mean. This duo is redefining electronic music, broadening the soundscape by incorporating creative additions like the dinging of car doors or footsteps down a hallway into their music.
Check out their interview below, and don’t miss them the next time they’re in your town!
DOPE Magazine: You talked about your parents’ “tactics,” parenting-wise. For example, your dad took all the tables and the chairs into the garage and painted patterns on the bottoms to stimulate you as kids. What are some other fun memories of things your parents did to encourage creativity and imagination?
Luke: My dad took, like, a jigsaw and cut all of these shapes out of wood and painted them all different colors. I was too young to realize that they were made [by him]. They were just objects.
Tess: I totally forgot about those.
Luke: When you grow up with something that simple, it becomes so conceptual and visceral. Some of the pieces fit together because they were the same piece.
Tess: There was that one piece that was a sandwich. Do you remember? It was a triangle but there was a chasm going around the outside, so it looked like a little piece of sandwich. That was my favorite one.
Luke: The cool thing was it was so abstract, but we had them from birth so they made so much sense.
Tess: Damn, that’s crazy the way you said that. Halloween was always a huge process. We would pick who we wanted to be and my dad would always help us make it absolutely perfect. Luke had the best Frodo Baggins costume I bet any kid has ever had.
Q: What was your favorite costume for Halloween growing up?
Luke: A tie between a Headcrab Zombie from Half-Life 2 and Salad Fingers. But Salad Fingers was the best, because I was in high school and I didn’t do a good job. I just put white around my eyes and then a black outline so I had these big eyes, but it didn’t look like I had big eyes…it just looked like I screwed up everything. I put green paint all over my face and wore this $1 ball cap that was just hanging with hair everywhere, fingers made out of duct tape that were dipped in paint…
Tess: I was an archer, like an Elvish archer. My dad took a hockey stick and cut it down, bent it into a huge bow and tied the string really taught. You could totally use it as an actual bow. He made me a quiver with arrows. That was the best costume.
Q: For the song “Like What,” you asked a girl named Nikita, who has been blind since birth, to listen to the song and describe what came to mind as she listened. Afterwards, you filmed everything she described. What gave you the idea for that video? Is Nikita someone close to you?
Luke: The director lives in Toronto. His name is Graham. His wife works with children with different disabilities, so I think that’s where the idea came from. Originally the idea was to have more than one kid who couldn’t see, but I think it was more difficult to find parents and children that were willing to do it.
Q: If you could be one race in the Lord of The Rings series, what would you be and why?
Tess: Oh, definitely an Elf. Definitely. I have been so obsessed with Lord of The Rings since I was probably eight, and I had—everybody has a screen name they use, and I used to play RuneScape, and my screen name was my name translated into Elvish. I was eight and I found an Elvish translator. I created this alternate persona for myself, which was me as an Elf living in Middle Earth. When I was a kid, Arwen was my favorite character. She was too cool.
Luke: I don’t know, like a Slytherin or something.
Tess: (Laughs) That sucks that you said that.
Q: What were your 2017 resolutions? Have you reached them? What do you think will be your 2018 resolutions?
Tess: One of them was spend more time with my parents, especially because we’ve been touring. It got more important when I was at home to do stuff with my parents, so I started watching hockey with my dad and started cooking with my mom. . . It kinda backfired, because I miss them more now that I’ve been spending more time with them.
Luke: I don’t think I made any. Probably something like stopping a habit, like cutting my nails with my teeth.
Tess: 2018 resolutions? Maybe read more nonfiction books.
Luke: Maybe throw out all of my clothes and just have one outfit, but multiple versions.
Tess: Like a cartoon character and every morning would be the same, where you open the closet and it’s like “Oh, ahahaha. Which one do I wear today?”
Luke: Yeah. I think I just want 10 hospital gowns.
Tess: (Laughs) Oh, god.
Q: Do you get nervous before shows? If so, what calms your nerves?
Tess: I get nervous every show. I don’t know what I do, though. I think the first song is just like, an explosion of nerves and then the song ends, and you’re kinda shaking a bit but by the second song you’ve just sorta settled into it and it feels natural again. The first song of every [show is] like, pow pow pow pow.
Q: When you started touring neither of you were old enough to legally drink, but you were touring the world in these bar venues and festivals. Was that hard for you?
Luke: When we were like, 16 it was weird. Not too weird, but there was that divide. Now it kinda feels like we are playing to our peers, and soon it will feel like we are playing for kids.
Tess: The first tour, I was 16 and it felt kind of…I don’t want to say more exciting, but it was kinda more exciting because I was still in high school and I was seeing all of these cities for the first time. Looking back on it, I think I felt especially like a kid. I think I felt younger than 16 when I was doing that tour. I think if I had a memory lapse and somebody asked me how old I was when I did that tour, I’d probably say 12, because that’s how I felt.
Q: You guys have played a few festivals. What would you say is your favorite part about playing a festival, and which is your festival favorite so far?
Luke: Favorite part is the golf cart rides through the back paths of the festival.
Tess: The green rooms always rock at festivals because it’s always like an artist’s trailer park basically, but in the middle of all the trailers there is usually a nice field of grass with hammocks and bean bag chairs out in the sun under a tent, and they have Red Bull coolers everywhere and baskets of snacks. You feel a lot cooler when you play a festival. I think Lollapalooza was the best one. Oh no, sorry, Lollapalooza. Pickathon was my favorite one. They have Kombucha on tap and horses. (laughs)
Luke: Pickathon was good, but maybe Osheaga.
Tess: Oh yeah, that was good. Osheaga had the Top Chef winner doing the catering. Yeah! That rocked.
For more of Tennyson, check out their latest project, the ‘Uh Oh!’ EP.