Tessatura: the Song Remains the Same for Musical Sisters

Brandon Hensley

“It’s been a long time since I rock and rolled.
It’s been a long time since I did that stroll.
It’s been a long time, been a long time, been a long
lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time.”

Almost 40 years have passed since those words were first sung by Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant. In that time span, rock ‘n’ roll has undergone numerous transformations, from metal to punk, glam rock to grunge, and alternative to the now popular “screamo,” putting kids in tight jeans wearing makeup stolen from the Adams Family.

For some rock ‘n’ roll purists though, it has indeed been too long since their heroes of yesteryear stood on stage, once upon a time sending those good vibrations from their guitar strings into the souls of men and women, evoking the attitude of a generation that still has the desire to rock as fierce as the flames dancing from Jimi Hendrix’s burning guitar.

Tessatura has seen enough. They’re bringing it back. All the way back, save for the drugs and promiscuity.

“Every band has something. They either drink together, do whatever. We pick on each other,” said Tessa Clarke, lead singer and bassist for the Burbank based band.

Tessatura, taken from the Italian word tessitura which is Italian for “a range of melody/pitch and musical composition,” is sending out a message of unity and togetherness.

“We want to reach everybody,” said Clarke. “Unite people. Help them appreciate the world and just forget about their problems.” She is the embodiment of the ’60s, calling that generation’s music “more soulful, more meaningful. It’s powerful music.”

Clarke, 22, is backed by guitarist Mike Huezo, 19, and the drummer, her younger sister Anissa, an 18-year-old freshman at Glendale Community College.

Together, the trio has been playing a powerful, eclectic mix of rock music since 2005, when Huezo joined the group.

Each member brings a unique style to the table, but the band will only define their music in one word.

“Rock and roll. That’s what my sister says,” Anissa said. “It’s alternative, classic rock.”

The sound is definitely retro, featuring extended guitar solos (where did those go anyway?) and thumping bass lines rolled into a package that’s part 1990s girl angst, part Up with People.”

“We try to bring in different styles, different genres, and whatever we like, that’s what we do,” said Huezo.

What they haven’t been doing, however, is playing shows. It’s been over a year since they’ve been on stage, and on this Oct. 23 night, they gather at the Clarke residence in Burbank, preparing for next week’s show at The Terrace in Pasadena, eager to spread the gospel of Tessatura.

The music can be heard from just outside the two-story house, something some of the neighbors have enjoyed, some not so much.
Inside, past the front door, straight ahead is the band. They’re not in a garage, or a private studio. Instead, they take up space at the intersection of the kitchen and family room.

There’s Tessa on bass, her fingers plucking the notes, making it look like a spider dancing on the strings.

There’s Huezo jamming on the guitar seemingly in his own world.

Then there’s Anissa. Only, she is not seen, only heard.

That’s because she’s in a box, a four wall sound barrier built by her stepfather Eddie. The door on the box is open, and she is plenty audible. She is aligned with her sister so they can make eye contact, Tessa being the one who gives orders on which song to go over next, and how she would like them to sound (“you gotta make that sound pop on one,” she tells both of them. “Really pop.”)

Tessa has gradually learned to be more of a team captain for the band, instead of overbearing. “Early on, I didn’t know how to control in a positive way,” she said. But nobody in the band takes any umbrage to each other’s actions or words. This is Tessatura after all. Let the good times roll.

After their rehearsal, the band is ready to wind down and go over the set list for next week. Tessa and Anissa’s mother Victoria is present, and if she seems like the kind of person who would offer strangers a soda and a bowl full of Halloween candy, well, that’s because she does.

Victoria used to manage the band, but called it “tough. That’s why I don’t do it anymore,” she said laughing. She will still help package them, as she has experience working for different studios.

As they cool off, the personalities of the band take center stage. Laid back but completely driven, each one has the desire to go as far as possible with their music.

Tessa and Anissa are originally from Seattle, but Tessa’s dreams of making it in entertainment brought the family to Los Angeles…eventually.

Anissa was 3 when Tessa and her mom came down to the Southland, and Anissa stayed behind. “She stayed for a while until my mom and I got situated in California,” Tessa said.

Anissa stayed in Seattle with her father. “I was 3 years old,” she said. “Every girl needs a mom, even when you’re little.”
The sisters have different fathers, and Anissa doesn’t communicate with hers too often anymore, who she says lives in Northern California. “The distance is hard.”
Even though there is an age difference, both Tessa and Anissa say they are as close as can be, and don’t even consider each other half-siblings.

When they were younger, “we would just fight about stupid stuff, like, ‘you took my sweater'” Anissa said. Both can’t recall any hard feelings toward each other in their relationship.

Tessa recognizes that Anissa is the one most likely to quell any potential uneasiness. “She always keeps that good mood. She’s personable, and cute, and that really helps break up [tense] situations,” Tessa said.

“She’s a dork,” said Huezo, generating laughter. “In a good way! She’s funny, outgoing, perky.”

“A lot of people stress about things,” Anissa said. “I’m trying to be a peace maker.”

Anissa has been playing drums since elementary school, and while she doesn’t seemed to get too stressed about anything herself, she’s found drumming can be a good outlet.

“If you hit hard enough, anything can be your stress reliever.”

She recalled a time where she was playing and hit the rim of the her snare drum. “I hit my hands so hard on the rims, I left bloodstains…it was hilarious.”

An odd choice of words for Anissa, but considering her personality, not that surprising.

Anissa’s schedule is something that can cause stress. She says it takes an hour and a half to get to school on the bus from Burbank, and her hours at Glendale are long, including being the secretary of the music department and taking a three-hour mass communications class on Fridays.

But, she said of mass communications, “I love it. It’s my favorite class.” She is interested in magazine writing, specifically for Seventeen magazine. “I’d do anything [working for them]. Even if they told me to write about…horses.”

“College is my main focus now,” she said.
But if Tessatura has a chance to really take off, Anissa would continue with the band. “Because we’ve worked so hard…I’d have to not just think about myself but my band, although they could always find another drummer.”

But there’s only one Anissa, as evidenced by her knocking over two glasses of water on the table during the course of the evening.
“She is a [klutz] for sure,” said Tessa.
“This is just a regular day for me,” Anissa joked.

Anissa talked about her own goals for the band. “I just want to get out there and play and let people know that we have this music…this may sound corny, but a good song can make your day. When everything sucks…and your song comes on you’re like, ‘this is my jam!'”

Anissa let it be known she’s susceptible to stage fright. “I love it when there’s all the bright lights, and you can’t see anyone. It’s awesome. When you see people you start to freak out,” she said.

For Tessa, she participated in pageants as a child and appeared in the film “Not Another Teen Movie” as well as music videos for Matchbox 20 and REM. She was late to rehearsal on this night because she was at an audition for Trivial Pursuit. Only in Hollywood.

Tessa is the idealist of the band, citing Bono as much a possible. “I want to be the queen of rock.”

She is focused on making Tessatura a big name. Performing is in her blood and she wants to use that as a means to get a message across.

“The bigger you are the more change you can make, like Bono and other guys,” she said.
“If we don’t make it we’re gonna be a U2 cover band,” Anissa said, teasing her sister.
But the sisters haven’t forgotten about Huezo. “He’s our brother now. We’re very much a family,” Tessa said.

Huezo has the ultimate go-with-the-flow persona. He’s the hard rock/metal influence in the band, citing Atreyu and Avenged Sevenfold as some of his favorite artists.
His goal for the band is to “just keep going, as high as it can go.”

He plays a signature guitar modeled after Synyster Gates, Avenged Sevenfold’s guitarist. He also has a Gibson Les Paul, a beauty of a guitar, but it’s not serviceable at the moment.

“It broke. My friend broke it. He snapped the neck in half,” he said. He later explained that his friend tried to sling the guitar over his shoulder and that’s how it broke, teaching an important lesson in the don’t-try-this-at-home department.

Song inspiration can come from many things, Tessa explained, like working around the house, or coming up with some notes on her bass. One of their songs, the inspirational “Beautiful Song” came from Heuzo.

“It’s about being carefree. Mike actually gave me the idea. He said ‘write a song just about life’,” Tessa said.

Tessatura may send out messages of peace and love, but one thing you won’t see them do anytime soon is get political.

Tessa said she can understand why some bands like Green Day get political, but said “I feel like sometimes it’s almost shooting yourself in the mouth.”

Come again?

“Oh, how does that saying go?” she said with a “what-did-I-just-say?” look on her face.

She eventually got it right, and maybe that’s why they don’t speak out too much.

For the rest of the night, the band riffed on several topics, from Power Rangers, including Huezo trying to play the theme song on his guitar (he failed, by the way) to Halloween candy.

“We don’t have any good Halloween candy,” Tessa said, citing the lack of Butterfingers and Almond Joys. But one thing was for sure; the band was ready for next week’s show.

It was the day before Halloween at The Terrace in Pasadena, and half an hour before Tessatura went on, they were outside getting their equipment set up.

Anissa had a piano midterm earlier in the day. “We were stressing out because we hadn’t had time to practice at all. I was like, ‘piano or drums?'” she said.

“I’m nervous and a little stressed, because everything needs to go as planned. [Tessa and Mike] call me the heartbeat of the band. But it should go well. I’m more worried about getting everything all set together.”

That would turn out to be a bad omen, but first, Huezo was ready to rock. “Hell yeah,” he said. “New equipment,” as he pointed to his new Marshall half stack amplifier and new wah pedal, the same one guitar icon Slash uses.

Anissa was dressed in different shades of purple. She had on fishnets and those checkered Vans shoes that define the pop-punk style.

Tessa was color-coordinated as well, with her pinkish belt and shirt, not to mention those boots. “I’m a boots girl. Always boots.”

She also had on a scarf with musical notes printed on, which she will later tie around the microphone stand in true Aerosmith fashion.

Huezo had his style down, wearing one of his many fedoras, and a black shirt and jeans. With his facial hair, he could be looked at as a young Carlos Santana.

The band brought their friends to the show, and by the time Tessatura got on stage (20 minutes late, through no fault of their own), the crowd was ready.

Tessa was the show woman, inviting the crowd to dance and get loud through the whole set. The venue was small, a long, rectangular shaped building, and the stage itself is tiny, eliminating the freedom of movement Tessa and Huezo like, which affords them to interact more with each other.

They roll though their set though, and Tessa’s fiancee Chris was one of the more vocal supporters of the night. Tessa channeled her inner Robert Plant as much as she could, her eyes widening as she emphasized a specific lyric.

A stand out song of the night would be their psychedelic cover of James Taylor’s “You’ve Got A Friend,” a complete 180 degree turn from the original. It’s loud, fast, and uses a lot of wah-wah pedal.

‘The wah-wah is what makes it psychedelic,” said Tessa.

During the show, Anissa was on an island by herself, pounding away (even harder usual because her drums weren’t miked). She’s furthest from the crowd, but maybe she likes it that way. Her hair kept getting in her eyes, and if it that wasn’t enough, she was wearing glasses. Vision wasn’t the problem for her though.

During the set, her drumstick broke, she had to replace her kick drum, and her cymbal kept sliding down, the last of which finally fell to the stage floor when she hit it on the last note of the night. How’s that for rock and roll?

Afterward, Anissa was half amused, half frustrated. “Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. My stick broke, second song, third song my peddle broke. I’m exhausted. I played so hard because I felt like no one could hear me.”

Outside, friends and family gather as the band’s first show in a year was over with. Victoria was pleased with their performance. “I saw a lot of energy on stage. That’s what I like.”

Chris has been impressed with the band’s growth. “As they mature as a band I think they can definitely get to that level where bands are looking up to them.” He added, “Who doesn’t like classic rock?”
A discussion turns to a possible new sound for Tessatura. “Country rock is exploding right now,” said Victoria. “If they just put a little twang…”

Anissa’s boyfriend Andrew cuts in. “You want them to sell out?” That gets the biggest laugh of the night.

Andrew, who was twirling Anissa’s broken drumstick in his hand, is set to go on a Mormon mission next spring, which would take him away from Anissa for two years. It’s tough, they both say, but Anissa seems to be accepting of it. “She wouldn’t put herself first,” said Andrew.

Anissa, who is a Christian, said “I would love to do that. Just sacrifice everything else. Just for God.”

Andrew also plays in a band called The Royal Fetuses. Who does he like better? “I would say they’re better than us.” he said, saying Tessatura has more experience.

Another hard days rocking has come to end, but the band is excited as the year draws to a close. They will play more shows in the near future, giving Tessatura a chance to spread it’s message of peace, love and rock ‘n’ roll.

“I want people to come to our shows, and relax, and have a good time, and have this positive attitude and forget that they could be dealing with all this junk,” Tessa said. “Its about having a good time and being at peace with yourself and others.”
For those about to rock, Tessatura salutes you.