Following her highly praised return with “Happy Birthday Forever” and “‘Brexit At Tiffany’s”, Toronto-born, London-based artist Tess Parks is today sharing a new single and video, “Do You Pray?’”.Following years of international touring and a lengthy list of collaborations with Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Anton Newcombe in recent years (most recently the duo’s self-titled 2018 LP), the track is the third to be lifted from her incoming solo album, ‘And Those Who Were Seen Dancing’, due out May 20th on Fuzz Club Records and Hand Drawn Dracula in Canada.
Recorded over two years between 2019 and 2021 but with songs, lyrics and ideas dating back over a decade in some form, the incoming ‘And Those Who Were Seen Dancing’ is an album full of moments, people and places. Taking constant inspiration from interactions with those around her, “Do You Pray?” is a perfect case in point. On the track, Parks recalls: “My friend Annie just asked me one day out of the blue, ‘Do you pray?’, and I thought, ‘Wow, yes I love that and yes I do, every day.’ The song is a mix of two traditionals: ‘My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean’ and ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’. This is one of a few songs on the album where my dad can be heard playing my grand-fathers old piano.”
Describing the video, she adds: “Mark Wagner is seen whirling like a dervish, a sacred dance derived from the ancient Sufi practise, ritual and meditation of the ‘Sema’. The dance is trance and euphoria-inducing and offers a sense of connectedness and expansiveness among many other virtues. I have been a fan of Mark Wagner for years now. I can’t even remember how I came across him, but I would always watch his videos and be absolutely mesmerised.
I messaged him late last year and asked him to dance in this video and I said he could choose wherever he wanted to in the whole world to film it. Our correspondence was no more than a few e-mails back and forth, not even a phone call. He sent me this video and I was actually speechless. Not only had I been unaware that he was based in London, but we had shot outtakes for the 2018 album cover with Anton [Newcombe] at the exact location that he had chosen. Mysticism at its finest!”
“In my mind, this album is like hopscotch”, Parks says of ‘And Those Who Were Seen Dancing’, her first full-length solo offering since her much-loved debut album, ‘Blood Hot’, was released back in 2013: “These songs were pieced together over time in London, Toronto and Los Angeles with friends and family between August 2019 and March 2021. So many other versions of these songs exist. The recording and final completion of this album took over two years and wow – the lesson I have learned the most is that words are spells. If I didn’t know it before, I know it now for sure. I only want to put good out into the universe.”
A creeping disillusionment with the state of the world paired with an injury that stopped Parks from being able to play guitar and piano for months meant the album was nearly shelved. “I really felt discouraged to complete this album”, she recalls: “I stopped listening to music for honestly about a year altogether and turned to painting instead. I really had to convince myself again that it’s important to just share whatever good we can – having faith in ourselves to know that our lights can shine on and on through other people and for other people. The thought of anyone not sharing their art or being shy of anything they create seems like a real tragedy to me. Even if it’s not perfect, you’re capturing a moment.”