Come see a Stripped-Down Tenci, Tonight at JB’s (w/ Another Michael)

Local Run for Cover Records outfit Another Michael are headlining a hometown show tonight at Johnny Brenda’s.  However, we’re just as excited to get another chance to see Tenci,...

Local Run for Cover Records outfit Another Michael are headlining a hometown show tonight at Johnny Brenda’s.  However, we’re just as excited to get another chance to see Tenci, who will be providing direct support.  Tenci is the Chicago-based indie folk project of singer/songwriter Jess Shoman, who we have seen a few times in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection in recent years.  Shoman is currently touring solo (for the very first time) behind Tenci’s recently released single, “Bubblegum,” the follow-up to the band’s sophomore LP, A Swollen River, A Well Overflowing, which dropped in 2022 (both courtesy of Keeled Scales).  Earlier today I got a chance to chat with Jess about just what you can expect of Tenci solo.

Izzy Cihak: Since this is a Philadelphia publication, I have to ask your thoughts on the city, as you’ve played here a few times in recent years?  I saw you last year at Union Transfer with Wednesday and in 2022 at Johnny Brenda’s with Friendship.

Jess Shoman: Philly is so beautiful!  The city itself feels like a mix between Chicago and St. Louis to me – so whenever I get to spend time there, I feel really comfy.  Plus, all of the incredible music that comes out of Philly feels endless.

Izzy: And, since you’re Chicago-based, I have to ask your thoughts on your city’s music and arts scene?

Jess: Chicago’s music/art scene feels very uplifting to me.  People genuinely feel interested in what others are making – and for good reason, the music/art that comes out of Chicago and the Midwest in general is extremely special!  When I first started playing music in Chicago it was more in the DIY world and I was overwhelmed by how immediately welcoming and supportive people were.  It really gave me the confidence to keep going with what I was doing.  I think if I hadn’t had that support from the very beginning, I’m not sure I would be going on 5+ years with Tenci now.

Izzy: You just released a brand-new single, “Bubblegum,” the follow-up to your sophomore LP, A Swollen River, A Well Overflowing.  How do you feel like the song compares to the songs on your last LP?  Do you feel like it’s an organic evolution, or do you feel like you’re exploring new territory?  Or a little bit of both?

Jess: I think it’s definitely a little bit of both.  We experimented with a lot of new things – we really just let go and tried whatever felt right, and the last LP was definitely a little more planned out.  This song definitely has the most instrumentation, mostly due to Curtis adding four different woodwind instruments.  We were experimenting more with creating a “wall of sound” at the end of the song, whereas past LPs have been about creating space.

Izzy: Considering that A Swollen River, A Well Overflowing has been out for about a year and a half, I’m curious if you’ve had any favorite reactions to it, whether things that were written about it or things that fans have told you, which I feel like are often the most meaningful responses?

Jess: In general, people saying that it felt like a very natural progression to the last album and that it felt very reinforced and fuller because the band, is always cool for me to hear, because I feel proud of the songs that we have built with my best friends and am so glad that’s shining through.

Izzy: You just kicked off a tour with Another Michael, who are actually local to us.  What are your thoughts on them and their music?  How did you originally connect with them?

Jess: I LOVE THEM!  We have been having such a blast.  They’re all so sweet and supportive and funny.  I genuinely am excited to see them and listen to their songs every night!  Their music is so full of life and as the shows go on it just keeps getting more and more fun to watch them.  I met them at their show in Milwaukee a couple years ago and was blown away!  That’s why when they asked me to do this tour and my band wasn’t available, I knew I had to make it work, even though I don’t usually perform solo.

Izzy: What can be expected of the Tenci show when you return to Johnny Brenda’s?  I understand you’ll be performing solo.

Jess: You can expect a mix of stripped-down songs from both albums and some new unreleased songs!  Just me and my guitar and my voice!  I will also have some special guests joining me for a song 😉

Izzy: How do you approach solo performances, compared to full-band shows?  I mean, obviously they look and sound a little different, but do you approach them with a different energy or vibe?

Jess: It has been such a huge learning curve for me.  I have never toured solo before and it has been really intimidating, but at this point in the tour I finally feel like I’m getting the hang of it.  The energy and vibe is definitely way more chill!  I try to focus on emphasizing my vocals more, since I feel like that’s my strongest instrument, and allowing the space in the songs to really shine.  I’m finding that during those uncomfortable moments of silence is where the magic happens and I’m leaning into that more as the shows go on.

Izzy: And finally, what’s next for Tenci?  What do you have planned for after these dates?  Can fans expect another LP (or even maybe EP) in the relatively near future?

Jess: We are just writing and making songs as much as possible!  I have another solo show coming up soon after I get home – June 12 at Color Club with Dan Wriggins and Minor Moon.

I’m hoping for a new album by 2025 but we’ll see what happens.

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.