Electronic duo Tennyson talk about Barney the Dinosaur’s unlikely influence on their music

January 30, 2015

In contemporary electronic music, inspiration can come from anywhere. Websites like Soundcloud are filled with artists who draw on a well of influences and ideas to create something their own. Yet Edmonton electronic act Tennyson stand out simply because they are the first group to admit their sound may have originated from the world’s greatest purple dinosaur—Barney.

“I think subliminally [Barney’s Sleepytime Songs] did influence our music,” laughs Luke Pretty one half of the teen sibling duo.. “We actually found these old VHS tapes of when I was little and I was totally into Barney trying to sing along, but my mouth wasn’t developed enough to say the words.” Not that it’s an issue with the duo, as words often transform into samples against Luke’s moody synths and plush chords.

Coming from a family of classically trained musicians, Luke (production) and sister Tess (drums/percussion) have always been performers. Tess says the two started playing piano and drums as little kids busking on the streets of Edmonton, covering songs by Weezer and Nirvana. “The first time we played together, I was seven and he was nine, and we’ve been playing together ever since, to the point where it just feels natural,” says Tess. As they matured into teenagers, they took their first shot at a full project, releasing jazz cover albums. Luke would also soon start dabbling in electronic music. “The electronic thing was something I was doing for fun on the side and then I got more and more into it and found a way to work in the jazz music we’ve been doing for so long.”

Influenced by the likes of Boards of Canada and Radiohead, Tennyson started fusing jazz with darker tones before finally releasing their 2012 self-titled debut and the Blamer EP shortly after. Both went relatively unnoticed.. Undeterred, the duo honed in on their own sound while releasing a steady stream of new tracks on  Soundcloud, eventually catching the attention of producer Ryan Hemsworth with the rolling carousel and mellow midi keys on their remix of Angus and Julia Stone’s “For You.” Taken aback by the strength of their musical compositions, Hemsworth put Tennyson’s track “You’re Cute” as the first in his monthly Secret Songs series.

Picking up from where their Secret Songs single left off, the duo’s new two-track EP With You is equal parts jazz—with a sonic marsh of bouncy synths—and snappy percussion snares on the title track; “Lay By” somehow manages to make car alarms feel soothing. However, despite the duo’s odd ear for new music there’s one genre that has somehow managed to escape them.

“There’s this whole 2014 rap thing that I’ve never really been able to grasp,” says Luke. “But watching Ryan and how the audience responds to it, I think that’s something I’ll have to bring into my own music [for our next release].”

[magazine month=”December” year=”2014″]

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