It All Begins With a Fairy Tale: An Interview with Tele Novella
Tele Novella. Photo: Angel Cebollas
“It all begins with a fairy tale…” goes a lyric in the song “Tesseract” from the excellent debut album House Of Souls from the Austin-based band Tele Novella. The group’s music is described as macabre pop, a nod to darker themes in the band’s music, as macabre is defined as gruesome and horrifying, of, or pertaining to dealing with, or representing death, especially it’s grimmer aspect. Grimms tales, fairy tales, all have a quality of light to the darkness, the ecstasy of happiness interrupted by the morbidity of reality. In that sense, Tele Novella shares a likeness, because love is, in a way, like that when it goes awry or unrequited, but Tele Novella’s music is much more than that, hell, I wouldn’t even really call it dark, completely.
“You know, I guess to an extent we did sort decide that we wanted to have a darker flare in the music,” notes guitarist and vocalist Natalie Gordon, who along with Jason Chronis, Sarah La Puerta, and Matt Simon comprise the band. “Only the music was the aesthetic of the band, and the reason was because we are all big fans of Halloween, and so we wanted to have sort of a Halloween-themed band, sort of, but we didn’t want to be too silly as a joke band, so we just sort of we were trying find that balance between being sincere and writing real songs and not just being a silly playful act, but yet still being able to have fun with the darkness and costumes and bringing Halloween type elements into the world we’re creating.”
House of Souls is a fine pop album with morose undertones as there are references to corpses and death and things of that nature, but not in a Thriller type way, more like Os Mutantes. Illusion and delusion are subjective — we fabricate worlds in times of joy or duress causing things to seem better (or worse) than they are depending on the dominant feeling. What are monsters and ghouls and fairies other than symbols of some aspect of the psyche or an emotion used as a tool to abbreviate language, but the idea of something being real is subjective, as evidenced by everything from cosplay to partisanship. “Heavy Balloon” is an example, something meant to fly, that remains on the ground, weighted by insecurity or uncertainty, “Fruits of Misery” a realization that there is a need to cheer up. “I’ve tasted the fruits of misery, I blame the tree, but you blamed me,” the perception that I have been poisoned, but it is only my perception, as everyone sees my state of woe as contrived. We know terror, but ghosts are as much the manifestations of grief, the unspoken words of loss, and the album contains the stories from the House of Souls.
“When we were trying to organize the songs or put them all together,” notes Gordon. “They are different stories, different souls in a way, that bundling of that particular group of songs, it [the stories from the House of Souls] was the theme.”
Songs, the album has songs; songs that can be bolted from a mountaintop or sung in a whisper beneath a bed or bedsheet to calm and create security. “Dead Canary” — “another dead canary that used to sing;” “Bull Sees Red” — “there’s a hole for a key for a world that is kept away from me;” and the eloquent “Waiting For Answer.” All these songs are beautifully written and played, which poses the question of composition and conception: How does one cut a diamond, how was the statue sculpted?
“It’s really challenging to think about a full length record really holistically and making it have a certain consistency throughout the songs, we were putting it together we were always asking ourselves what can we do in the production of all these very different songs, about different characters, and make them a cohesive body of work where it is about this world that you are trying to create and that’s really, really hard, we like to sort of jump around genres a lot and so making that happen was something we were thinking about throughout the whole recording process,” Gordon says. “That’s why it was great to have the producer Danny Reisch’s help on that with picking the instrumentation and arrangements and stuff and I feel like it does seem like a cohesive body of work to me now, even though the songs are so different from each other.”
Tele Novella will play Walter’s Downtown on Sunday August 14 with the mighty Deerhoof so there’s no need to further wax the poetic about their excellence when you can be there to bear witness yourself. Whether that be in the esoteric setting of a concert or the more personal space of headphones or home speakers please remember and take note of this band as I anticipate greatness to come. In all this talk of horrors and whatnot, the most frightening thing, for me, is that you miss the opportunity to feel this flow, then you will forever be haunted by ghosts of greatness passed. (Man dissolves into air and out of open window, curtains blow, faint laughter, and Wild Berry Skittles wrapper whisks down the street…)