Husband and Wife, Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore, better known as two thirds of the band Tennis, never had any real intentions of making music for a living. The story of how the band came to be though, is in fact as simple and refreshing as the music that they now create.
The then couple from Denver, Colorado, who met Senior year at the University of Colorado in a philosophy class, actually never even shared with each other that they were musically inclined until years after dating. While music wasn’t ever a significant dynamic in their relationship, the ingredients were indeed present, as Alaina had studied classical training on the Piano as well as singing in Church choir, and Patrick had spent years playing guitar in local experimental rock bands. But after exercising their individual musical talents in misguided fashions, along with not fairing so well in their college music theory courses, they both at some point throughout those years had essentially given up on any potential music-related future.
The inception of the band Tennis that we know today, began with Patrick and his childhood dream of sailing the ocean at some point in his life. After six years of working average jobs, the now married couple decided to take a leap and do just that. They took six years worth of saved up money, quit their jobs, and purchased a 30 foot sailboat. They then targeted the Eastern Atlantic Seaboard, and embarked on an eight month journey, sailing everywhere from the Bahamas, to Florida, South Carolina, and eventually concluding all the way back up somewhere around Baltimore. While they will be the first to tell you that when they began their adventure they weren’t all too knowledgeable about the art of sailing, they spent the first three months in the water teaching themselves the ins and outs of it and eventually became quite skilled. In the midst of their travels they were solely focused on taking as much out of the experience and new lifestyle as possible, and in turn, began to compass a larger appreciation for the simplicity of everything around them.
While music wasn’t a huge presence throughout their trip, when they got back to land, they were longing for the proper outlet to illustrate all of their experiences, and as Alaina explains “It was a huge letdown going back to regular life and not being able to express things.” “We felt so inspired by the experiences that we wanted to invest it all into something, and we chose music.” What they initially saw as an opportunity to become more in touch with themselves and the world around them through the sailing dreams of Patrick, ended up becoming the catalyst for the creation of a specific style of music that would become their livelihood.
When I first heard Tennis’ music a couple years back, a feeling of nostalgia was instantly prompted, as the core of their sound reminded me of some of the music my Father used to play when I was much younger. I grew up on oldies music such as The Beach Boys, Jan & Dean and Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, to name a few. The format of oldies music is so very simple in every facet, from its lyrics, to the melodies, all the way to the chord progressions. Whether intentional or not, Tennis’ music carries a distinct hint of the beach/surfer genre from the 1950’s and 60’s and stays true to the purity of the style from that era. Alaina’s voice is clearly the most compelling dynamic of the band though, as traces of Ann Wilson (of Heart) and Cyndi Lauper reside within her fragile inflection. It is evident that her lyrics on their first album, Cape Dory (2011), are literal portrayals of the time they spent at sea, as you can distinctly hear the compassion for everything from her genuine calmness in the presence of mother nature, to the undying love and appreciation for her husband amongst their nautical endeavors. Tennis’ second and most recent album, Young & Old (2012), which was produced by The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney, takes on a bit more bold of a style, with a matured approach to their song writing along with heavier guitar riffs from Riley and commanding drums (played by the third band member, James Barone) throughout, but still successfully stays within the boundaries of the sound they created on their inaugural release.
As the calendar slips into the Autumn and Winter seasons each year, there are feelings, memories and thoughts that all of us hold on to, to keep the idea of Spring and Summer nearby in the back of our minds. Tennis’ music effortlessly accommodates you in that process, as no matter the time of year, their tranquilizing catalog of tunes temporarily take you to a place where the chaos and stress of everyday life is non-existent. Exactly what I assume the state of mind to be, while sailing the open seas.
Tennis currently has two studio albums out: Cape Dory (2011) and Old & Young (2012). You can follow their eventual tour dates and new projects HERE. Follow them on Twitter HERE. They also have a detailed blog that they kept during their time sailing, that is still open to the public. Read that HERE. Below is a live performance of theirs from KEXP, and a few music videos from their two albums.
Cape Dory (Live on KEXP)
Origins (Old & Young)
Pigeon (Cape Dory)
My Better Self (Young & Old)