Smile Politely

Tennis: Live music only, no Macbooks

Tennis made this year’s Valentine’s Day a little sweeter with the release of their sophomore album Young & Old, just a year after a debut which landed them a solid fanbase and TV appearances, not to mention a slot on Lollapalooza’s 2011 lineup. Tennis’ lead vocalist Alaina Moore took the time to answer my questions, talking to me about the different experiences behind each of the band’s two records, having The Black Keys‘ Patrick Carney produce Young & Old, and the one thing that fans will definitely not see on stage. 

Smile Politely: You’re not on tour right now. What do you do with your time?

Alaina Moore: We’ve been spending a lot of time planning out our next release. We’re constantly writing new material when we are home, but now is the time when we have to figure out exactly what we want from it.

SP: Have you been to Champaign-Urbana before?

Moore: Not yet, but we have a lot of friends who went to school out there.

SP: The first time I heard your music was when a friend included “Marathon” on a mix CD. What songs does your perfect mix include?

Moore: Our “perfect mix” of songs is constantly changing, but at the moment: Laura Nyro’s Brown Earth,” Todd Rundgren’s “I Saw the Light,” Captain Beefheart’s “Zig Zag Wonderer,” Father John Misty’s “Nancy From Now On,”  Small Faces’ “Green Circles,” and Dirty Projectors’ “Gun Has No Trigger.”

SP: You and Patrick [Riley, the band’s other member] are married. When and how did you realize that you also wanted to be in a band together?

Moore: It was something we never talked about. We both had just dropped out of music school when we met, and neither of us wanted to talk about music in that way; we just wanted to listen to it. It wasn’t until after two years, living on a sailboat for seven months, then returning home broke that we began to write together. And even then, we didn’t want to be a band. We strongly resisted playing our first show and even releasing our music. You can thank a band called Woodsman for convincing us to actually be a band. 

SP: Patrick Carney worked on the production of Young & Old — can you describe that experience? How did it happen? Why him?

Moore: We really didn’t have anyone else in mind. Our plan B was to self-produce our album just like we did the first one. But Patrick surprised us when we contacted him. He said, “yes” almost immediately. We wanted to work with Patrick from the start, mainly due to his background in self-production, not to mention, The Black Keys did a really great job of keeping their identity through all the years.

SP: Who else would you like to work with?

Moore: That’s a great question, as we are trying to figure that out right now. I think our dream producer is more of an engineer than anything. Our new songs are taking a much different direction and we want to really pay attention to the sound we are creating rather than the organization or structure.

SP: Cape Dory was based on a sailing trip. What’s Young & Old based on?

Moore: The title Young & Old came from a William Yeats poem that strongly resonated with the themes we were taking on for the album. We wanted this album to confront broader issues that Cape Dory couldn’t possibly take on. Cape Dory was about our personal experiences while living an isolated life on a sailboat. Young & Old is about why we wanted to live an isolated life in the first place.

SP: What goals did you have for the record?

Moore: Our biggest goal was to exist. We stumbled into this lifestyle of playing/writing music for a living and fell in love with it. We have way too much music inside of us and don’t want to stop anytime soon.

SP: You recently tweeted about waiting tables. How long were you a waitress? What are some other horrible jobs that you’ve worked?

Moore: I was a waitress for six years, but was not cut out for it. Patrick valet parked on the graveyard shift for a few years. Pretty standard stuff.

SP: What should fans expect from your show?

Moore: Mostly live music. We can promise there will be no Macbook on stage.

SP: What’s your favorite song to perform?

Moore: We really love performing “It All Feels the Same” and “Deep in the Woods.” Both are really subtle songs with small tempo changes and volume changes that are fun to follow. We have a few new songs that are taking shape as we play them live, which is always a fun experience.

SP: What would you say to someone who knows nothing about your band?

Moore: Probably something self-deprecating.

SP: If you could curate a music festival, who would headline?

Moore: Easy: Kate Bush and Phil Collins co-headline/split set.

SP: If a fan asked you to name their pet, what name would you give it?

Moore: The pet name we’ve been saving for years but unable to use: Chipps Rafferty.

Tennis is performing with Dirty Projetors, Elsinore and My Werewolf Diary on Friday evening at the Urbana Outdoor Stage. Their set starts at 8 p.m.

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