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Indie Mixtape 20: Tenci Capture Mother Nature’s Beauty On Their Sophomore Album

When Tenci‘s Jess Shoman describes the band’s music as “unconventional,” she’s not wrong. Since releasing their 2020 debut album My Heart Is An Open Field, Tenci have been releasing some of the most unique and endearing music in indie rock. The band first captured hearts with Shoman’s distinct vocals; her husky lilt adds dimension to the band’s light and flowing instrumentals. But now as Tenci prepares their sophomore LP A Swollen River, A Well Overflowing, the band — composed of Shoman on vocals, Curtis Oren on saxophone and guitar, Izzy Reidy on bass, and Joseph Farago on drums — are ready to bring their refined songwriting to the masses.

Tenci are more than just a “hot cute fun band from Chicago” as described in their Instagram bio. The four-piece have revamped heartland Americana for a new generation. The upcoming A Swollen River, A Well Overflowing — out Friday on Keeled Scales — weaves Shoman’s poetic observations on nature, rebirth, and memory into 12 heart-tugging tracks.

Ahead of their sophomore album’s release, Tenci sat down with Uproxx to talk jumpsuits, John Prine, and stick and poke tattoos in our latest Q&A.

What are four words you would use to describe your music?
Shoman: Emotional, vibrant, spacious, unconventional.

It’s 2050 and the world hasn’t ended and people are still listening to your music. How would you like it to be remembered?
Shoman: A beautiful, winding, vivid story. An honest archive of memories and life.

What’s your favorite city in the world to perform?
Shoman: Chicago! There’s no place like home.

Who’s the person who has most inspired your work, and why?
Shoman: Mother nature.

Where did you eat the best meal of your life?
Oren: My friend’s living room.

What album do you know every word to?
Oren: What It Takes To Be A Man by Nora Petran.

What was the best concert you’ve ever attended?
Shoman: Aldous Harding at The Empty Bottle in 2017. I had to step outside because I was so overwhelmed with emotion.

What is the best outfit for performing and why?
Reidy: Best outfit for performing is a jumpsuit because it’s a whole outfit in one piece of clothing no need for multiple sartorial decisions.

Who’s your favorite person to follow on Twitter and/or Instagram?
Farago: For the longest time I didn’t have a Twitter account, but I would Google search Patti Harrison’s Twitter and read it from top to bottom like a novel. She’s got plenty of antics besides her iconic impersonation of Sia on the Nilla Wafers account that got her banned from the platform.

What’s your most frequently played song in the van on tour?
Shoman: I think every tour so far I’ve listened to Aqua’s Aquarium.

What’s the last thing you Googled?
Reidy: Last thing I Googled was “Lund surk bandcamp” which is the name of someone I met at a show the other night — it’s cool check it out.

What album makes for the perfect gift?
Shoman: My friend Mia recently gifted me Prime Prine: The Best of John Prine and that is perfect to me.

Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever crashed while on tour?
Oren: I slept in my car at a state park in northwest Pennsylvania and got woken up in the middle of the night by a dozen men in camo with flashlights frantically running around looking for something.

What’s the story behind your first or favorite tattoo?
Reidy: A lot of my favorite tattoos are from when I first moved back to Chicago a few years ago. I was getting into doing stick and pokes and was hanging out with this group of artists all the time at my friend’s apartment/tattoo shop. It was such a nice experience — hanging out and drawing all night, getting tattoos more or less at random. I look at them and remember that time fondly even though I don’t see those people very often lately.

What artists keep you from flipping the channel on the radio?
Farago: Roddy Ricch has some of my favorite hooks in pop music right now, so whenever he comes up I refuse to switch the station.

What’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done for you?
Shoman: Anytime my friends bring me a treat or check in on me when I’m feeling down I feel so loved and cared for. Well before me and my partner started dating he spontaneously brought me flowers to cheer me up and I cried. I still think about that often and remember feeling like it was the nicest thing anyone had ever done even though it was a simple and kind gesture.

What’s one piece of advice you’d go back in time to give to your 18-year-old self?
Reidy: For some reason the idea of trying to council myself out of my mistakes is terrifying to me despite this being completely hypothetical. I experienced a great deal of pain at that age, but I’m pretty attached to the stuff I learned. The things I would say to an 18 year old generally would be: Be nice to yourself, get into therapy, and don’t go to college right out of high school.

What’s the last show you went to?
Farago: Moontype, Joshua Virtue, and NNAMDÏ for NNAMDÏ’s latest LP release. Three incredible Chicago musicians, great energy, amazing stage presence, the Midwest is a dream!

What movie can you not resist watching when it’s on TV?
Farago: Probably Pokémon 2000.

What’s one of your hidden talents?
Oren: Finding photographic evidence of a memory.

A Swollen River, A Well Overflowing is out 11/4 via Keeled Scales. Pre-order it here.