Tennis ready to play
Indie band hits road behind second album, ‘Young & Old’
Friday, April 27, 2012
If You Go
If you go
What: Tennis, in concert, 21 and older show.
When: 9 p.m. April 28.
Where: Doug Fir Lounge, 830 E. Burnside St., Portland.
Cost: $11-$13 through TicketFly.
Information: 503-231-9663 or Doug Fir Lounge.
A year after becoming one of indie rock’s biggest buzz bands, Tennis has what the band’s founding duo feels is a proper album out and is touring behind the record.
That’s not to say the band led by the husband/wife duo of Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore haven’t been on the road before. And Tennis caught ears with “Cape Dory,” its 2011 debut.
But that record, which detailed the six months the couple spent living on a sailboat, originally wasn’t intended to be heard by anyone else. “Young & Old,” the album Tennis released in February, definitely was.
“This was the first time we’ve written an album with the intention of playing it live and having other people hear it,” Riley said. “With ‘Cape Dory,’ there wasn’t intent about anything. It was documenting our experience. It was an album of what was going on in our lives. With ‘Young and Old’ we wanted it to be a more serious album and confront listeners with things that are more applicable to their lives.
“The thing about ‘Cape Dory’ is it might have had kind of a limit to connecting with people,” he said. “Not too many people saved their money for six years, sold their possessions and lived on an old sailboat for six months.”
Riley and Moore met as philosophy majors at the University of Colorado in Boulder and decided to move to the East Coast and live on a boat after school.
When they came back to Colorado after six months on the water, they wrote the songs that became “Cape Dory” and recorded them cheaply in home studios, with no intention of releasing them anywhere.
But friends in Boulder convinced Riley and Moore to put out the songs on a pair of seven-inch vinyl records on their small label. Shortly thereafter, the songs got out on the Web, Tennis became a buzz band, signed with Fat Possum and, last year, released the unintended record.
“‘Cape Dory’ wasn’t really an album,” Riley said. “It wasn’t really supposed to be heard. Alaina and I wrote those songs a long time ago. We wrote them as a kind of a diary. We weren’t planning on showing them to anyone.”
But “Cape Dory” connected, as did the band’s well-received tour. That was enough to convince Riley and Moore to give music a real shot.
“We decided we’d take it a little more seriously, that this could be a career for us,” he said. “I think we love it now. It’s a good place.”
Musically, “Young & Old,” which was produced by Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney, adds some old school soul to the “Cape Dory” vintage pop mix of garage rock, girl group and laid-back surf carried by Moore’s straight-forward vocals.
On “Origins,” there’s bouncing bass line and layered background vocals that bring to mind Motown. The rattling “Travelling” injects some soul into spare pop and “Petition” is full of spacious drums and lush, rich voices and guitars.
But most critics seemed not to have noticed the soul sounds when they wrote about the record.
“For some reason, everyone is still stuck on surf and beach music,” Riley said. “There’s a real Motown influence on it. That’s what we were going for.”
The more expansive music, even on the pure pop of “Robin,” requires more instruments and more complex arrangements than were found on the bare bones of “Cape Dory.”
“This album, we pulled out all the limitations,” he said. “With ‘Cape Dory,’ we didn’t want to be that band that didn’t translate live. We made sure it came down to three instruments -- organ, guitar and drums. With this record, we added so much we ended up adding a band member.”
The now-four-piece Tennis is back on the road, having left Colorado in mid-February for a tour that took the band to South By Southwest in March. After playing a bunch of shows at the Austin, Texas, music festival, the band is back on a road that will take it far and wide.
“We’re (doing) a West Coast tour,” Riley said, mentioning the current set of dates. “Then we go back to Europe, where we were in January. Then we hope to do a supporting tour in the summer. Then we’ll do another tour on our own after that. It really is endless.”
No wonder Riley and Moore took a short vacation before the current stretch of touring began.
“We were about to lose our minds,” he said.
That said, Riley is happy with where Tennis is and particularly with “Young & Old.”
“I think it’s going perfectly,” he said. “It’s really satisfied all our aims. We wanted to transition from ‘Cape Dory’ without leaving everything behind. With the songs, the mix and the production, I think we did that. I thought it could be good. But it definitely impressed myself. Now we listen to it and go ‘Who would have thought we could have done this?’ We sure as hell didn’t.”