The Rocks Off 100: Tessa Kole, PuraPharm's Voice and Vice
Welcome to the Rocks Off 100, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too. See the entire Rocks Off 100 at this link.
Who? Every once in a while I run into a band and I have to question my position as a journalist because I haven't heard of them. PuraPharm, featuring the magnificent vocals of Tessa Kole, is one of those bands.
Holy God in Tifa's 7th Heaven, have you heard this girl? It's like Nina Hagen was fronting the Legendary Pink Dots! She's got a voice like a living orgasm that just pounds right out of a wall of psychedelic rock until you fall on the floor like the heroin just kicked in. No wonder she's up for a Best Female Vocal award this year. I'm surprised we're even having a contest.
Kole has been leading up to this since the age of four, when her classical-pianist mother taught her the keys. By 15 she was already performing background vocals in The Cry, gigging at Rudyard's back when you had a dartboard behind your head. She moved on to 61 Cygni, which Kole says taught her enough about the music industry that she decided that pursuing a major-label career wasn't really what she was into.
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She was working at Guitar Center with PuraPharm saxophonist Niki Sims when they decided to strike out together in PuraPharm. The new direction has led to an explosive musical experience that is quickly gaining a bigger and better audience drawn to the haunting music and sheer, undeniable power of the performance. You literally feel like you're re-witnessing the birth of the Banshees. She's. That. Good.
Home Base: Practice and writing all occur at either Kole or bass player Paul Adams' home. Rudyard's is bar none her favorite place to play. All their live recordings are done at Rudyard's, and the expertise of the sound there really shows through in the CD quality of those tracks. Plus, Kole has been playing the venue so long the staff feels like family.
Why Do You Stay in Houston? "I've been in this scene so long it's impossible to leave it," Kole says. "I love it here. Most of these people are like family to me now. I don't know what I'd do without all of the fantastic people I've met through the years. Believe me, I've moved away to Portland, Oregon and I ended up back in a year.
"It was miserable," she continues. "I missed seeing all my friends and going to see them play. There was a fabulous scene in Portland at the time, but it just wasn't the same. I felt detached from it even though I really loved the bands there at the time. Houston is a really fantastic city with a very vibrant music scene. I wouldn't leave it for the world!"
One Good War Story: "When I was in 61 Cygni, there was a sound guy at this one show we played who was a total asshole," she begins.
We were backlining as there were a lot of bands that night. I set my amp near the back of the stage, as did the rest of the bands with their gear as they were loading in. The dude seemed to have no problem with any of the places the other guys were setting their amps or kits, but yelled at me (really loudly at that) about where mine was. He was a total rude ass about it.
I knew he was singling me out because he thought I was a dumb girl musician. I was beyond pissed. I basically told him to go straight to hell and so did my band, as well as some of the people in the other bands.
I finally ended up leaving it there and walked off, he eventually calmed down quite a bit, and when we got up there to play I was so pissed off that I just let it all out and we rocked. It was one of our best shows in 61 Cygni. Afterwards, he was complimenting us and apologizing. I'll never forget that guy.
Music Scene Pet Peeve: "There's a few things, but I try not to get caught up in any of it," allows Kole. "I mainly try to focus on working really hard, working with other hard-working musicians and promoters and trying to create something powerful with them and for ourselves in the process.
I try to think about networking and promoting this band, our shows, and our music like mad in and out of Houston and using every tool online to my advantage," she adds. "So far we've gotten some great opportunities because of that. It's really exciting.
"I'm looking forward to bigger and better things for us in the future," Kole says. "I just keep working really hard and smart and surround myself with people that are doing the same thing. That way I develop less and less pet peeves and focus more on goals and success stories."
Five Desert Island Discs:
- Spiritualized, Pure Phase
- Siouxsie and the Banshees, Tinderbox
- Curve, Cuckoo
- The Dead Weather, Sea of Cowards
- PJ Harvey, To Bring You My Love
Best Show Ever: "It really is a toss up," says Kole. "The 2012 Press Awards because we got to play to so many people. Also our June 15, 2013 Rudz show that Visionary Noise put on. That was stellar. I promoted like mad for a month for that show... worked my ass off handing fliers out to people on cheap-drink nights for a month straight, worked social media, called people, emailed people... and it was super packed.
"It was really great seeing the benefits from promoting well," she adds. "Plus we premiered that show with our new drummer, Josh, and he absolutely nailed it. We sounded great, the energy was super-high, and we got a great live recording out of it. That show really motivated me to take things up to the next level. It made me believe in my hard work."
First Song You Ever Fell in Love With: "Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel's 'Scarborough Fair.' My mom was a huge fan and played the records constantly when I was kid. Still one of my favorites to this day."
See who else has joined The Rocks Off 100 this year on the next page.
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