Tessio - Jude McCandless, left, and Callum Feeney
I was slightly nervous ahead of this week’s interview. Tessio had got in touch and arranged a meeting. Thankfully, it went smoothly (although I made sure to check the back seat when I got into the car, just in case).
Turns out the Tessio I met was Callum Feeney and Jude McCandless, a local band making waves in the Derry music scene since forming in 2019.
These last few months have seen them playing several high profile gigs, including opening for Hothouse Flowers in the Guildhall.
I met with them after a show in the Nerve Centre and we talked about how they came together, the evolution of the name and what lies in store for them.
Tessio formed at St. Columb’s College in 2019, performing their first gig in Bennigan’s at the end of that summer.
“It was before we were even Tessio. We were doing mainly covers and we were called Drake and Josh.”
After briefly going their separate ways for university, the duo got back into things during that quiet patch the world had in 2020.
“Over Lockdown we had a few songs between us that we wanted to put out, so we put out an EP called ‘EP 1’”.
Entirely self-produced, the EP was recorded in Callum’s living room and released through Distrokid. “The main thing is that it’s just the two of us and we just do it all ourselves.”
Still very much a group-in-progress, they say “We’re looking to keep developing the sound. The first EP is that kind of intimate, folky, there’s no percussion on it. It’s all very soft. Hopefully we can expand on it and develop the style as we go on, and now we’re getting more gigs with it and getting to play our own songs, new songs come with that.”
During our meeting, I had to ask about the name, and Callum and Jude told me about how it came to be.
“We had some awful, like really awful names before. We were Drake and Josh that first time, then we wanted to get an Italian-American sounding name. We’re really into the Greenwich Village folk stuff and we wanted something that would fit with that Gaslight Café stuff, so we were going through different names with the café theme and stuff like that and going down that Godfather route.
"We tried different names out of the Godfather. We were Clemenza for about a day, then we had Barzini and stuff like that, but Tessio was the best one.”
Talking about their future, they tell me: “It’s not like we have a grand plan or anything. We’ve no manager and it’s not like we have any ties with being signed so we can just put out stuff whenever we want. Both of us are in final year in Uni now so we’re a bit stressed for work now at the minute but I’d say once summer comes there’ll be more tunes.”
They say: “I think we’re going to come back in September and do a bit on the band. It’ll be nice to get together consistently.”
Up to now, they’ve yet to release music while both are in the same country.
“We actually put out the EP with him [Callum] in Manchester and me [Jude] in Derry. We are like a proper Lockdown band.”
Although releasing an album while in different parts of the world makes a good story, it’s not the same as actually being in the same room at the same time.
They tell me: “We’re thinking we’d far rather be able to just be together and get it sorted, because even when we’re practicing, coming up with new songs and stuff like that, it’s class to get a bit of freedom to be able to do that. It’s so much quicker when you’re trying to write. Instead of having to text stuff back and forward it’s like, instantly, you can just say ‘what about that'?”
Tessio draw inspiration from such harmonious (musically if not personally) groups as the Everly Brothers and Simon and Garfunkel.
They tell me of their continuing growth as a group: “You know you’re going to get stuff wrong, then by the next thing you’ll have improved on it.
“We’re not even too attached to the EP at all now anymore because we’ve got new songs looking to come out. We played them there at the Hothouse Flowers gig a few weeks ago and they went down really well.”
Tessio are playing St. Augustine’s with the 4 Of Us on May 27. They can be found on Instagram @tessio__
EP1 is available to stream or to purchase on iTunes
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