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Cosmic Fairy Tales

photo by Courtney Chavanell
Photo by Courtney Chavanell

There’s a luring, mid-20th-century California cool to Natalie Gordon’s voice that sounds like it should be tumbling out of a poolside record player — part-Rosemary Clooney and part-Nancy Sinatra with the contemporary lilt of Shirley Manson and Amanda Palmer. 

These bewitching vocals make Gordon the perfect leader of the fledgling Austin, Texas, band Tele Novella, which rose from the ashes of the “Victorian punk” outfit Agent Ribbons, known for songs “Oh, La La!” and “I’m Alright,” as well as touring with Cake and Camera Obscura. After a bad car accident, Gordon says, Agent Ribbons broke up, but the band’s label still wanted Gordon to perform at South by Southwest 2014. 

“We kinda just formed a band on the fly in a month,” Gordon says over the phone from a pit stop in Amarillo, Texas. Tele Novella debuted at South by Southwest. “Two months after that we went on our first tour ever. It was really kind of a hustle,” she says, adding, “I’m the kind of person who needs assignments to keep me prolific. The hustle has made me a far more organized, productive person.”

If you liked Agent Ribbons, you will like Tele Novella. There are, of course, Gordon’s vocals and a similar dreamy ’60s reverb, which can be heard on the band’s 2014 EP Cosmic Dial Tone. But Tele Novella has some new inspirations too: Os Mutantes, Belle and Sebastian and fairy tales. Gordon says that the Brazilian psychedelic rock band Os Mutantes, famous for the 1968 hit “A Minha Menina,” is a favorite of everyone in the band — bass player Jason Chronis (of Voxtrot), drummer Matt Simons and keyboardist Sarah La Puerta.

“The psychedelic flourishes within the structure of a more hooky pop song,” Gordon says, describing the Os Mutantes influence. “We’re also a really lyrics-oriented band that puts a lot of emphasis on the words” and “smartly written ideas,” like Belle and Sebastian, Gordon adds. 

As primary songwriter, Gordon says she likes to interpret life through a surrealistic lens when writing music. “Books are a huge inspiration — classic fairytales,” she says. “That contrast of innocent kidlike fun with sort of dark, sinister themes.”

Tele Novella plays 9 pm Saturday, Aug. 30, at Luckeys; $5.