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Friday, November 19,2010

New band and the sea

Tennis goes on boating trip, comes back with hits

By Eli Boonin-Vail
Born in Denver but birthed on the sea, Tennis’ lackadaisical approach to ’60s lo-fi surf pop has already garnered a large audience. The husband-wife duo’s recent eight-month-long sailing trip in the Atlantic inspired in them a powerful songwriting drive that produced material that quickly captured nationwide media attention on Pitchfork and even The New York Times. With a tour in full swing and plans for a full-length album looming on the horizon, Alaina Moore took time to answer a few questions for Boulder Weekly.

Boulder Weekly: Your band has really emerged out of nowhere. It seems like in the span of a few months, with just one EP released, you’ve managed to gather national attention. Does this sudden rocket to recognition ever make you fear you won’t live up to your own name?

Alaina Moore: Yes, actually. Although I don’t really know what anyone wants us to live up to. I think it’s more just attention out of nowhere than expectation out of nowhere. I’m really trying to keep it that way. At this point we’re just trying to ignore it. But you’re totally right to mention it. It is really strange. Outside forces kind of turned us into a band, if that makes sense (laughs). It was really just Patrick [Riley] and I messing around at home and recording stuff over beers after we got off work. We weren’t even taking it seriously enough to show our own friends. And then everything kind of got out of control in a couple of months’ time. But yeah, it is overwhelming. In complete honesty we’re on our way right now to do a West Coast tour and it’s weird. We’ve never played a single gig on the West Coast and there will be lots of people at the shows, and people all know our music already. That’s a really weird way for a new band to have their first time playing in a city. Normally you get your chance to tour dive bars in relative obscurity and get better as you go. We don’t really have the chance to do that.

BW: You wrote a lot of your first songs while sailing the Atlantic near Florida. How did this origin affect your sound?

AM: While we were sailing we were living in such a different environment that we wanted to listen to very different music that we normally wouldn’t want to listen to. We listened to stuff like girl groups and Paul Simon. Things like that were suddenly really appealing, and that really influenced the style of the music we started to write later on.

BW: What kind of music did you listen to beforehand?

AM: We listened to a lot of things. We listened to a lot more contemporary music like Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown, Grandaddy, The Walkmen and Handsome Furs. Then, while we were sailing, we were totally out of the loop of what was going on in music, so we started listening to older stuff, stuff that felt really well-suited to our environment.

BW: It’s funny. Even though you’re both from Denver, your sound is undeniably coastal. Do you ever feel like you don’t really belong in your hometown?

AM: Yeah, actually. We felt that way for a long time and that’s part of why we left in the first place to go sailing. We both really love Denver and it feels homey but it doesn’t necessarily feel like we belong there. I don’t think we were really sure where we belonged; we probably still don’t know that yet. I think we feel most like we belong on our boat. After that it doesn’t really matter where our boat is as long as it’s in water, I guess (laughs).

BW: Why did you choose to go sailing?

AM: That’s a good question. I had never even considered doing it before. I thought it was a completely archaic mode of transportation. I didn’t even know so many people did it for fun. But Patrick had been long in love with it and just got the notion that he wanted to live and travel by sailboat when he graduated, so he’d been saving up for it for years and when we met he already had the plan in full motion. He convinced me with the allures of tropical paradise and total isolation and pristine beaches and lagoons, so I was easily enticed. I had actually never seen the ocean before so it was a really dramatic change for me.

BW: What’s with you guys and geography? Almost all your songs are named after places. Did that just happen or did you plan on that?

AM: Well, it’s because when we were sailing we were always traveling to a new place. The reason why we mention locality so much is because we were constantly navigating and looking at the chart. I now have a very absurd knowledge of the Eastern Atlantic coastline. When we would start writing music it would remind me of an experience we had and I would naturally associate it with being in South Carolina or being in Bimini Bahamas or something like that.

BW: How did you guys get the name “Tennis”?

AM: It’s kind of a band name for a band that doesn’t really feel like coming up with a band name. We had a longstanding inside joke that we would start a small business and call it “Tennis Incorporated.” So when we thought of starting a band, which was also in our minds a joke because we didn’t really think we could have a band, we were like, “Oh, we’ll just call it ‘Tennis Inc.,’ ” which is why our MySpace is www.myspace.com/tennisinc. I guess this is all because we didn’t take it that seriously (laughs). It doesn’t mean much to us, but we like it. It’s a perfectly ignorable band name.

BW: In many ways this sort of lack of seriousness is really appealing. Do you think that’s why people like to listen to your band so much?

AM: I hope so. It’s definitely very escapist. That whole sailing trip was. We sing with a lot of nostalgia for things that are gone now. I think that that’s definitely conveyed in our music and I think that might be something that people connect to. Although, again, I’m not really sure what people connect with in our music. I’m constantly surprised that people do connect with it.

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