Natalie Gordon discusses the Austin band's liberation from pressure and apathy
Natalie Gordon doesn't hide the fact that "no one gave a shit" about her last band.
The former Agent Ribbons front woman spent seven years on the project without much fortune. "We worked so hard, were touring all the time and running on a hamster wheel," she says, laughing at the lunacy. Gordon's new gig with Tele Novella, an Austin project shared between her and members of the late Voxtrot, is a different animal. It sprung out of spontaneity for a 2013 SXSW set, but that moment has already blossomed into Gordon and company's full-time gig. Gordon indicates the new act couldn't be more different than the last, as Tele Novella is not only coming it to its own sound but quickly finding a songwriting and performing sweet spot. Tele Novella plays The Saint on Friday.
Gordon explains her time with Agent Ribbons with little nostalgia in her voice. It was a stressful and draining experience for her, as she spent countless years on the road filled with countless days at the computer and on the street spreading the word. "At one point, I was wondering if this is what I really wanted do," she says. Gordon explains inexperience was a major factor in Agent Ribbons' falter. Comprised of just Gordon and a friend, the band didn't know what it was doing, working to blend instruments the best it could without much practice or attention to detail. Welcoming bassist/vocalist Jason Chronis and drummer Matt Simon infused the new group with refreshing experience and know how, but it was an adjustment to start writing with a full band, Gordon says.
That adjustment sounds easier than it might have been, but there's a confidence and complexity to the shortlist of tunes released by Tele Novella so far that confirm things are working as well Gordon claims. That's again partly due to Chronis and Simon's chemistry after playing in bands together for decades, she says. What Gordon most appreciates now is more options, a broader palette aided by more bodies and sharper minds. Many are quick to label the group as psych pop, of which Gordon disapproves for good reason. Tele Novella has elements that match such a describer, but nothing feels formed by the pressure of a genre or style. It swerves in and our of context with music history, letting some influences show but taking interesting chances with more modern techniques. "Having all these options has blown my mind up in a three-dimensional way," she says.
Tele Novella's fresh slate still has some time before expiring, and released singles thus far are aided by a willingness to try different things and explore other avenues. The band isn't fully formed yet in sound or much else, but Gordon sees this as a good thing. Tele Novella might be gaining speed with each show played or single released, but Gordon says any pressure is far less damning than the challenges of Agent Ribbons. More people listening doesn't make her more nervous, but serves as a boost of confidence, a catalyst, finally knowing that people are listening. "Sending out CDs and posters is some much more fun and uplifting when people give a shit."
Tele Novella seems to be operating in a vacuum for now, where band camaraderie and songwriting inspiration isn't running short yet. It's another reason Tele Novella can take a less chaotic approach to releasing music. Gordon says the Internet is key as the band continues to release singles and videos every so often, keeping up with demand while avoiding pressures of throwing a debut album together. There's a plan for that, too, but not until 2015. Taking time seems to be the right step for Tele Novella, as the group writes more songs and plays more shows.
The current Tele Novella tour is only the band's third, but that's a lot in a year. Still, the live performance is what needs the most work, Gordon says. The band is getting better by the day but some of the adjustments are personal for her. Agent Ribbons had a few more "rocking songs" in its catalogue, and Gordon could lose herself on stage without detriment to the set. Tele Novella requires a bit more focus and control when sings, balancing lyrical complexity with authentic performance. Even amid these challenges of a fledgling band, Gordon sounds inexplicably relaxed, confident and enthusiastic. "I wish I knew the exact formula or why it's working," she says. "We've made some good choices with how we've been making things."