The name Tess has very special connotations, closely related to Thomas Hardy’s unforgettable heroine played brilliantly by Nastassia Kinski in the Polanski movie. Yet the days of this exclusive association seem to be numbered: there is new competition in the shape of another Tess – a singer rather than a runaway, but fully as pretty and moving as her predecessor.
In the pop cloud of modern female artists, Adele, Ellie Goulding, Hannah Reid (London Grammar) and Héloise Letissier (Christine & The Queens) have left only a tiny space – almost a mouse hole – for the expression of a very contemporary sensibility: the carefree nature of youth touched by the gravity of these difficult times. That space seems made for the dark, 22-year-old siren from Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean. We first heard Tess’s slightly anguished, mysterious voice on a track from the Choke Industry label (Lilly Wood & The Prick, Burning Peacocks). That song, Endlessly, wove a spell that smoothly transmuted fresh originality into promise.
With its subtle electro, pop and sometimes R&B arrangements, her debut EP turned that promise into certainty, showcasing the singer and melodist’s talents perfectly. It is high time that everybody got to know her better…
Tess Océane Joffroy was born in Saint Denis de la Réunion in 1994. Her first love was dancing, which she began to practice at the age of four, only putting this initial passion on hold to continue her studies. Subsequently, one attraction replaced another as she became fascinated by the music that shaped her entire generation. From Rihanna to Coldplay, Radiohead to Lykke Li and Major Lazer to Drake, Tess built up a playlist that she mainly intended to be interactive. A few years of classical guitar lessons developed her gift for making the songs of others her own, infusing them with the caresses, seasoning, and spices of a radiant personality touched by the breath of the trade winds and warm ocean waters. She filled her YouTube and Facebook pages with covers revised to suit her own style and sung in perfect English. In 2013, Pierre Guimard and Matthieu Tessier (founders of the Choke Industry label) came across her version of a piece by Lilly Wood & The Prick and invited her to Paris for an audition. A successful one, since it led to her first record, Endlessly, whose 2016 re-release featured the American R&B artist A.CHAL. The track stirred the waters of the faintly stagnating commercial pool of sighing formatted pop princesses. Two remarkable stage shows followed in Saint Denis de la Réunion, experiences that confirmed her conviction: “I want to do this and nothing else!”
Now, Love Gun and I Will Follow You have proved that Tess’s gifts as a singer-songwriter enable the perfect expression of a vast pallet of emotions. Taking contrasting approaches but with the same loving sincerity, she is defensive and troubled on the first and brilliantly unconstrained on the second, her boundless passion reflecting the spirit of that other, movie Tess. Subtle production values allow her to embrace the aesthetics of a now global contemporary pop. And on Live For Now, Tess celebrates a present-day urge to seize the moment where the past and future with their attendant hosts of regrets, sorrows, and torments are banished by an imperative of immediate pleasure to be grasped without delay, an urgency that reflects her thirst for songwriting. The young woman works constantly and already has a repertoire of over thirty titles, some of which will appear on her impending first album. “Camus said that charm is when you’re told ‘yes’ without asking for anything,” she muses. And in her voice, there is something indescribable: a disarming, delightful ambiguity that captivates the listener. A quality that immediately says ‘yes’ to Tess.