There are bands that are celebrated either for their romanticized stories or their idyllic music. And then there is Tennis. The Denver-based indie pop band is comprised of husband-and-wife duo Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore. What is more mellifluous than the sound of their music is the story that precedes the band’s origin. Alaina and Patrick met while studying philosophy at college. It was their mutual wanderlust that led them on a seven-month-long sailing expedition. After returning, the duo began writing music based on their experiences at sea and contrived the melodiously infectious album “Cape Dory,” which garnered the attention of bloggers all over the world. Within a short time frame of fewer than four years, the band has managed to release two studio albums with a third one on the way, performed live on both “Late Show with David Letterman” and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” released a number of covers, and gained an enormous following.
On April 7, I had the opportunity to conduct a phone interview with Moore, the band’s keyboardist-vocalist, who was gracious enough to answer some questions despite my thickly accented syllables thwarting her every effort. Moore, who called from San Diego, has just finished working on the band’s latest album and is ready to start touring in May. This is also the band’s second project working with Patrick Carney of The Black Keys.
The band’s atypical moniker, which was initially suggested as a joke about Riley playing tennis, eventually stuck. According to Moore, the band does not care about their name as much as they do about their music, especially since the duo never thought that they would ever reach the public ear. After releasing their first EP, the duo’s music quickly drew comparisons to Phil Spector’s wall-of-sound production formula and gained eminence for their characteristic sunny-pop sound and raw vocals.
The band’s music has often been deemed “comfort music” possessing a charming “’60s pop sound.” However, according to Moore, no matter what their music gets labeled as, the band feels like they are constantly evolving and transitioning into new styles. Whether or not there is a perceptible difference between their ventures is something that only their listeners know best, according to Moore.
When asked about their collaboration with Patrick Carney, Moore said that Tennis was having a “great time working with [Carney] … with whom the band has a history of trust.” Moore also alluded to the musical transition and novel experiences that the band has gained with Carney.
She went on to talk about Tennis’ upcoming album to be released this spring. The album is not mastered because the band was “more interested in the engineering and auto-correction techniques” to make the music sound more compelling.
I inquired if she found performing live more challenging than the actual recording. “[Performing] live has its own issues. But if the song is the best version of itself, you can play it any which way you want,” Moore said.
Furthermore, she added that the band’s style has changed a lot lyrically. As a musician, she is constantly trying to read about and listen to other female musicians who sound like and fascinate her. In her distinctive feminine voice, she proclaimed her fondness for girl groups and male-fronted bands and how she delves into a different world while listening to her favorite artists.
I asked Moore about the band’s biggest influence. The band, much like their sound, has a strikingly distinct list of influences including Captain Beefheart, Lauren Nyro and Shuggie Otis, among others. But according to Moore, music “comes and goes with moods” and thus their style will be ever-evolving.
I asked Moore if her marriage to Patrick influences the band’s music to which she enthusiastically replied, “So much!” The duo’s relationship has evolved with the band and their music. While earlier the two worked collaboratively, Moore and Riley soon realized that they had to work independently to constantly adapt to their altering musical journeys.
Finally, I asked Moore about Tennis’ tour across the country with HAIM in May. While the band has never played with HAIM before, they have met the three sisters and their drummer, and the duo are very excited to start touring with them. Tennis is coming to Philadelphia’s Tower Theater May 14.