Tess Emma wasn’t performing on the Philly singer-songwriter scene for too long before she realized she was more than a singer-songwriter. After her self-titled debut came out late last year, she dropped its country-folk leanings and re-convened with a group of friends from the modern rock outfit Modern Colour. Collectively, they took her music in more of an intricate and expressive dreampop / indie rock direction. The new band was dubbed Lou, and debuted in March.
As we hear in their performance for the Key Studio Sessions, her bandmates – Stephan Sirochman and Nate Ridgeway on vocals and guitar; Chris Boyle on bass; and Thomas Weir on Drums – have a good handle on sonic space, playing parts that are distinct yet complimentary. Sirochman and Ridgeway take turns in the guitar spotlight (heard in action in the jangling licks on “Always, David Lindhagen”) while Weir’s drumming can be gentle and reserved as easily as loud and urgent (love his rollicking beat on “Grains”). Boyle’s low end is the center holding it together, while Emma is upfront with a vocal style that’s hushed yet confident, not unlike Cat Power’s Chan Marshall. And when they want to, they can make the rafters shake – the buildup and explode on “Fade” had the group of us in the control room comparing it to everything from twinkly emo-punk to post-rock (which probably makes Death Cab for Cutie a safe reference point there).
Lou’s Key Studio Session is a collaboration with our friends over at Root Down in the Shadow, so of course it features a cover of another Philly artist for their acclaimed Cover Club series. Lou tackles Pine Barons’ “Chamber Choir” and totally knocks it out of the park, pulling back from the anthemic stratospheres of the original and re-imagining it as a gentle, Yo La Tengo-esque ballad. Listen to it (along with the full set) below and grab a free download over at our Soundcloud page, watch a video of the Pine Barons cover over at RDITS and see the band performing “Grains” in our studio below, care of Philly videographer Bob Sweeney.
Lou, Tess Emma, The Key Studio Sessions