PuraPharm Vox Tessa Kole's Top Five Desert Island Discs

PuraPharm's new EP will be released in February.
PuraPharm's new EP will be released in February.
Photo courtesy of PuraPharm

Here on Rocks Off, we ask local heroes for their top five absolute desert island discs, the records that made them the musicians they are today. This week; Tessa Kole, vocalist and guitarist of one of our Houston Press Artopia 2015 performers, PuraPharm.

Prince, Sign O' the Times Anyone who knew me in junior high and high school knew how big of an influence Prince was to me! Good God, that man could put out an album and no two songs on it would even remotely sound alike.This is the main thing I always admired about Prince the most; other than the fact that nobody could even touch him when it came to his unique style of writing, his team of musicians, sound, and incredible work ethic. On Sign O' the Times, though, I really feel that he reached an especially genius level of his craft. It was pretty unbelievable.

My favorite song on the whole double album is "It's Gonna Be a Beautiful Night." What an explosion of horns, drums, and voice! Honestly I didn't realize the full potential of this song until I saw the Sign O' the Times movie. The dance sequences, the horn section, the stage and set design...WOW, just wow. The level of energy all those musicians had was off the charts.

Kole admires Siouxsie, Cocteaus and Spiritualized; so do we.
Kole admires Siouxsie, Cocteaus and Spiritualized; so do we.
Photo by Michael Villegas

In my opinion, this was a point where I think Prince had really reached a truly unique level of his creative ability. The fact that on this record -- which was a double album -- for no two songs to sound the same and for those songs to cross any and all genres was what influenced me the most.

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The songs on this record could attract people that listen to all sorts of music: pop, rock, funk, soul, jazz, electronic, experimental, psychedelic, etc. That's the one thing I personally want to accomplish myself as a songwriter and musician and Prince took it to epic levels on this album.

Siouxsie & the Banshees, Tinderbox This is another band that had very different-sounding songs on each record that in many ways spanned and/or combined musical genres. Tinderbox, however, was this band's greatest record. First of all, the biggest inspiration to me in that band is Siouxsie's voice. I always used to wonder how a woman that smoked so many cigarettes could sound so damn amazing!!

This girl had the most unique voice I had ever heard. It floored me. I remember being a really young teen hanging out at Numbers and not even being able to dance to her music when they played it because I just wanted to listen to her sing. Her range is simply off the charts. When I was in my old band -- 61 Cygni -- we actually covered "92 Degrees" from this album, which is my favorite to this day.

I remember when I went into private voice lessons this was one of the first songs I brought in to work on. It's one of the hardest songs I've ever performed because it requires such incredible execution of correct techniques in breathing, correct use of support and placement, and power singing without straining. It's incredibly difficult and I spent a lot of time rehearsing it before I could bring forth anything even remotely close to what Siouxsie did. I've been listening to this record since I was 14, and I still listen to it to this day.

PuraPharm Vox Tessa Kole's Top Five Desert Island Discs

The Cocteau Twins, Blue Bell Knoll This band has by far been the biggest influence on my guitar sound and also me as a singer. It was Elizabeth Fraser's voice that really compelled me to begin private voice lessons in the first place. I remember being about 14 years old and hearing her voice and going "HOW THE...???"

At this point, I had done solo and ensemble competitions in junior high with what I felt were incredibly difficult classical pieces, but none of that even came close to the difficulty I encountered when trying to sing anything off this album. This band has created some of the most beautiful soundscapes I've ever heard, particularly on their album, Victorialand (which was actually my runner-up Cocteau Twins album for this piece).

Robin Guthrie has always been one of my favorite guitarists. He knows how to get such lush delays, reverbs and choruses on guitar effects, and the chord progressions he chooses are interesting and almost unexpected. What they were doing then was so groundbreaking and unique, and surely no female singer could touch what Liz was doing vocally. Nobody.

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Young Magic, Melt I know this is a more recent album and group, but I've never heard anything quite like them. I came across this band on YouTube one night as I was checking out new music, which I do frequently. I noticed them because their album art was really cool, and I thought, "Let's listen to these folks."

From the start, I was completely blown away. The first song I heard was "Jam Karet." I wondered, "How did these people combine psychedelic rock, electronic music, tribal music and dance music like this?" It was completely and totally unique.

PuraPharm Vox Tessa Kole's Top Five Desert Island Discs

It's incredibly hard to explain what I'm trying to convey unless you hear them. "Night In The Ocean" was the next track I listened to, and at this point I figured I'd open up some wine and just listen to the whole album. This song blew me away. It was a mix of Cocteau Twins, Lush and My Bloody Valentine with male and female vocals. Just soft, spacey, huge and magnificent with what sounded like programmed drums or beats of some kind and live drums, which is what we do in PuraPharm. It reminded a bit of what we were already doing but took it to another level.

I finally went to see this band at House of Blues some months ago and I couldn't believe more people hadn't come out to see them. I got to meet them and talk to them a bit and they are incredibly friendly people and I was so amazed at how great they sounded live. For a three-piece, they sound much bigger! I also have their latest album, Breathing Statues, and it is quite different than Melt, which I loved.

PuraPharm Vox Tessa Kole's Top Five Desert Island Discs

Spiritualized, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space When it comes to the total package of songwriting, I think Jason Pierce has it. His lyrics are so real, heartfelt, revealing, and in some way I feel his words speak to all of us at our very core. He is so unafraid to write about things that have caused him despair and heartbreak, and I just love that about his writing more than anything else.

You can hear that on the songs "Broken Heart," "Home of the Brave" and on "Cop Shoot Cop." Then there are the psychedelic explosions of "The Individual" and "No God Only Religion." The guitar parts on those songs are phenomenal, and I love how they are layered to achieve the effect that they do. It was a very big challenge to pick a record of theirs that would be my favorite, or truly had its biggest effect on me, because it is without question that this band influenced the psychedelic element of what we do more than any other band I like.

I think this record came out at a time where I was really trying to discover what kind of sound I wanted, so it was at the forefront of my influences at that time. It was the biggest inspiration because I had such an appreciation for the lyrical content and the sheer honesty in it. I would listen to this record over and over again when I was in my mid-twenties.

PuraPharm plays tonight at Walter's with The Brunson Theater and Fake Believe.

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