Tennis are an indie husband-wife duo hailing from Colorado, America. The pair met in college and proceeded to sail the Eastern seaboard for seventh months, before settling back on land to write and record their first LP, ‘Cape Dory’ which was a loose documentation of their experiences at sea.
With a love for the pop sounds of the 50s, 60s and 70s, the duo has maintained a modern lo-fi feel with glassy guitars and soulful melodies à la Carole King and The Ronettes. After rigorous touring with such notable acts such as HAIM, and establishing their own label ‘Mutually Detrimental’, the duo is set to release their fourth LP, ‘Yours Conditionally’ on March 10th.
Backyard Opera’s Lester Daniels had a chat with singer and keyboardist Alaina Moore about the new album, their evolving sound and the creative processes behind their latest musical efforts.
What can we expect on your forth coming LP, ‘Yours Conditionally’?
Yours Conditionally was written on land and at sea, in equal parts. Lyrically, it is a consideration of my relation to the world as a woman, as an artist whose work is transformed by another’s experience of it, and the conflicting needs that arise from these intersections. How much am I willing to belong to the ones I love? How much am I wiling to belong to an audience that I don’t know but need? I question the limits of my devotion and conclude that I am yours conditionally.
Fifties and sixties pop was your aesthetic aim for your first works. What about this music drew you to it? In accounting for this sounds revival in music scenes today, what do you think are its more timeless elements?
We were first attracted to this style of music for purely aesthetic reasons. We admired the production and felt like contemporary music could benefit from the sounds and recording techniques of that era. Of course we have evolved since then. You can only listen to certain genre for so long before your curiosity takes you elsewhere. We've slowly journeyed forward in time and landed somewhere in the early 70s.
It’s important to keep things fresh, not just for your audience but for yourselves as artists. How did you approach the writing of this record? What tune came first?
Our writing process was long and disjointed since some of it took place at home in Denver and the rest on our sailing trip in the Sea of Cortez. I think the first song we wrote was Ladies Don't Play Guitar. I had written the lyrics while touring a previous record and they were just waiting to be put to music. We completed 5 songs at home before heading off to sea. Our only goal was to write one song at a time. As we worked a unifying theme began to appear, but we didn't construct one in advance.
Your music is quite stylized. Do you meticulously outline how to achieve your sound prior to heading into the studio? How far do you allow yourselves to deviate from your ‘pre-sets’?
We try to do whatever the song wants, even if it's something we've never done before. We don't strictly adhere to anything. Budget constraints, the limitations of certain pieces of gear and our own individual tastes naturally shape our sound in the studio.
Every record has its own achievements, its own identity in terms of what it does best. What do you feel are the achievements of your latest record? In what ways have you refined and/or evolved your sound?
We've finally learned how to please ourselves. That is our greatest achievement.
Was this an easy record to write? What helps you get creative?
There were some obstacles as there always are, but in general this album came easily. It was a joy to create.
Since ‘Cape Dory’ your sound has definitely found more depth in that on subsequent albums it seemed you were seemed to be gearing the sonic qualities of the songs to fill larger spaces. Was the addition of Pat Carney’s drum sound critical to this ‘depth’? Do you write songs keeping in mind the physical spaces they will occupy?
Rhythm and drum tone are the backbone of any song we write. We almost always start with the beat and its sound quality then build the song from there. I definitely think Patrick Carney influenced this tendency within us.
As your popularity is growing confidently you’re definitely finding your way into larger venues with larger crowds. Do you prefer more intimate shows? How does change your experience of the performance?
Different sized venues have their own appeal. I enjoy the connection I can have with the crowd in a smaller show, but its easier for me to lose myself in a big venue.
Would Tennis consider some collaborative work down the road? Who’d be the ideal?
As far as songwriting goes I'm not one for collaboration. The appeal of writing is that it's personal and internal. Patrick and I write mostly alone and help complete each other's work in the final stages. We did have the opportunity to play in someone else's band recently and that was incredibly fun. I'd love to do more of that. The experience of playing a show is so different when it's not my own band.
And finally, if you could see TWO gigs from any time period which would you choose?
I would have loved to see Judee Sill play a solo set before she died. She is hugely influential to my songwriting. I'd also love to see Patti Smith live. Fortunately, it's not too late for that.
Check out the bands latest singles from ‘Yours Conditionally’ below: