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“It’s gonna be beautiful!”: SEM Interviews Tess Parks About Her Collaboration with Anton Newcombe

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SEM recently reported in a TOTD feature that “Brian Jonestown Massacre auteur Anton Newcombe has been working in Berlin with Toronto indie chanteuse Tess Parks for about a year now, sketching out slices of austere, almost baroque beauty.”

Stark, beautiful, and graced by Parks’ stunning voice and Newcombe’s singular musicianship, the resultant songs possess a synergy that indicates that these two songwriters were seemingly destined to collaborate – and to help each other grow as musicians.

The result? A “work-in-progress” album, tentatively titled, I Declare Nothing.

Hot off the success of her sumptuous 2013 album Blood Hot, Parks gave SEM a sneak peak at the making of I Declare Nothing and working with Newcombe. She also revealed what from the project the duo plans to release on Record Store Day (April 18, 2015).

SEM: Thanks, Tess, for chatting with us today. How long have you and Anton been writing and recording together?

TP: We started recording in February 2014, so a little over a year.

SEM: How did you meet and why did you decide to work together?

TP: Anton and I were internet friends, and I was always a massive Brian Jonestown Massacre fan. I guess he heard about my music through our mutual friend, Alan McGee, when I was signed to McGee’s new label, 359 Music. I messaged Anton saying I was coming to Berlin and it’d be great to meet him if he was around. So I went, and we ended up doing two songs together in our first sessions.


SEM: Was the project planned – or did you spontaneously decide to collaborate?

TP: The first two songs were slightly spontaneous, but after that, we had discussed that it would be really cool to do a full record.

SEM: Anton told me that the two of you have recorded over 20 songs. In what form(s) will these songs be released?

TP: We’re gonna surprise ya! And you’ll like it!

SEM: Anton also said that you intend to release a single on Record Store Day. What can you tell us about it?

TP: It’s gonna be beautiful! The A-side is called “Cocaine Cat” and the B-side is called “Mama.” It comes out April 18.


SEM: Is the working title of the “work-in-progress” album still titled, I Declare Nothing?

TP: I do believe it is!

SEM: One can stream the entire album on YouTube. How close is this to the finished project?

TP: I think we’ve stayed true to our original ideas… I can say it’s a very polished beautiful record.


SEM: In your opinion, does any of The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s aesthetic appear in your work with Anton?

TP: Everything Anton has ever touched is absolutely golden. He has such an iconic, original, and distinct style. His presence definitely shines on these recordings.

SEM: What are your favorite BJM albums?

TP: Honestly, I’m a massive fan. I can’t pick one.

SEM: Please tell me about two tracks that have generated a lot of interest. Let’s start with “Mama.” How did that track come about? I love your voice in combination with the acoustic guitar…

TP: Thank you so much. That’s the first one we recorded, incidentally. That was recorded folk style, with me playing acoustic guitar and singing at the same time. And then Anton layered the shit out of it!


SEM: The other track is “Wehmut.” Anton plays some truly fabulous guitar on the track. What other instruments figure in the mix?

TP: We’ve got some organs on there… some flute & fuzz guitar… acoustic guitar… tambourines on everything.

SEM: Do you tend to write the lyrics and vocal melodies, while Anton focuses on the music?

TP: That’s about right, yeah.


SEM: Do you or have you played any of these tracks live?

TP: Yeah, for sure. I wrote “Cocaine Cat” when I was 17, for example. So that’s something I’ve been playing on my own for the past seven or eight years. Some of the chord progressions on this record I’ve been messing around with since I was 13, so it’s nice to finally turn them into proper songs.

SEM: What’s the intended release date for the album?

TP: To be confirmed….

SEM: Thank you for your time, Tess. It was a pleasure speaking with you.

TP: Thank you so much! You as well!

Feature image from

Photo of Parks and Newcombe by Katy Lane.