New band and the sea

Tennis goes on boating trip, comes back with hits

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

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

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 I guess this is all because we didn’t take it that
(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.