Tennis - Interviews - Soundblab


by Tom Risen Rating: Release Date:

"I just want everyone to know, LA Drumz is not the name our next album," says Tennis guitarist Patrick Riley, chuckling on a couch with his wife and co-songwriter Alaina Moore.

Tennis' music plays like a bobbing sailboat or a drive down a sunny coastal highway, so making joke names for a second album to follow that whimsical tone feels right. It's also appropriate that the bright, 'away-we-go' feeling of a Wes Anderson film evoked in their music was inspired by a yearlong sailing trip down the East Coast. Cape Dory, Tennis' breakout first album of day -ripping songs has led to even more travel on a nationwide tour.

On the heels of that tour they are ready to try something new to inspire their second album, which is a sort of rite among artists. The couple plans to take another sailing expedition to conjure music, this time in the Caribbean. "We've talked about the Southern Virgin Islands," Riley says.

During a concert at Rock N Roll Hotel in Washington, DC, the two are dressed like they just walked off the dock at Cape Cod. Riley is dressed in a short black shirt with khaki pants and white boating shoes. "Patrick dresses like his grandpa," says Moore, who is wearing a loose fitting blue denim shirt and jeans that looks like she's come on the sidelines of a regatta.

The couple says their shared style united them when they first met in Denver. "Denver is a very young city. No longstanding identity," says Riley, crediting that as an influence for their Northeastern yachting style.

Surrounded by Rock & Roll Hotel's décor, matching a 70s era hotel a touring Led Zeppelin might have stayed at, Riley and Moore talk about what bands from decades past they tried to channel. They call Vampire Weekend "an obscure influence" since they share that same New England seaboard spirit in their music. "I love the girl groups of the 50s; singers, I love Wanda Johnson and Brenda Lee," Moore says, her own singing voice not quite at its prime that night because she has a cold.

Leaning toward the mic of her keyboards while on stage she asks the packed bar, "Can two people come help me sing the 'Oh's for 'Marathon'?" Two girls bound onto the stage, and sing like backup singers from one of the girl groups Moore admires, leaning in to a single microphone to croon the chorus to Tennis' hit song. Moore glides her hands across the keyboard and the easy sound of floating bubbles fills the air like waves crashing against a keel of a yacht on an open sea . At times the band members all have their eyes closed while even tempos flow from the stage, maybe flashing back to their ocean voyage.

Despite Moore's cold, her and Riley are in high spirits after the show, cheerful as their music is. Yet for their second act to follow the Caribbean voyage, they want a whole new sound. "Just because we're going to the Caribbean doesn't mean it will be calypso or island-y; it will be more garage-y," Moore says. "There will be more hard songs. I love our music, but we want (to sound) more engaging."

The two did Cape Dory almost completely on their own, so one change they have planned is more work in a studio. "The only thing we had help with the first time was the mastering," Riley says. "We're incorporating more outside people this time. We're trying to get more high fidelity. I wish we could do as much analog as we did the first time. Doing it on tape is great since you need to get it in one or two tries when you do it. That makes for some small mistakes and nuances which give character to a track."

When asked what his influences were for studio music, or for going in-depth lyrics he might seek out for a second album, Riley just smiles. "Music is a matter of taste, not inherent value," he says. "That profundity comes later."

Photo courtesy William Alberque

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