Michael Keaton, Barbara Streisand & Steve Martin Are All Discussed: A Conversation With Tennis

By Randy Nieto
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For years Tennis has been making lovely indie pop that harkens back to the groovy times of the 60’s and 70’s, but rather than focusing on psychedelic jam outs Tennis has brought us beautiful songs with melodies that caress the heart and soothe the soul. Lead singer Alaina Moore’s voice is nothing short of angelic, as she and her husband Patrick Riley rival throwback contemporaries by writing music that exemplifies restraint, love, hope, and promise. Tennis are playing this Sunday May 18th at Lincoln Hall as well as opening up for HAIM at the Riviera Saturday May 17th in Chicago, and have been kind enough to answer some questions for the Minimal Beat before grooving us into a blissful oblivion this weekend.

The Minimal Beat: Are you guys currently working on a new record? Is there a specific songwriting process? Do you ever try change things up when writing new songs, or stick to what works?

Alaina Moore: We just finished mixing and mastering a new record…which is an incredible thing to say. It’s been such a long time coming. In the last year, we completely altered our writing style. Nothing we wrote felt like a true step forward for us musically, so we kept experimenting for months until we found something that worked. I created a pretty regimented routine that I stuck to every day, as did Patrick, in which we worked separately for most of the day and then brought our ideas together to share with each other later in the afternoon. Then we would swap projects and work on each other’s ideas. Writing autonomously has allowed us to explore new directions musically, without any self-consciousness. Sharing those new ideas with each other after they are mostly formulated, keeps us focused, and usually solves any musical problems we encounter. 
The Minimal Beat: Touring can be tough on some bands. What are your most favorite/least favorite aspects of going on tour? 

AM: The greatest difficulty in touring is lack of sleep. We play a late show, check into our hotel by 1 or 2am, and have to hit the road again by 9 in the morning to drive to the next city. Weeks straight of long days and sleepless nights start to destroy us. Right now as I’m writing this, I’m so tired I can barely form coherent sentences. Sorry about that. The best part of touring is being with each other. I love our bandmates/crew. They are my adopted family. We care about each other, we laugh together all day. The shows are pretty special, but they only last for one hour out of every day. When I look back on tour my memories consist mostly of countless hours spent in a van with people I love. 

The Minimal Beat: Have you been starstruck by some of the bands or musicians you’ve met while on tour or playing festivals? Is there anyone really cool you’ve met or would like to meet? 

AM: All the time! I’m starstruck by my own friends. Right now we are on tour with Haim. I’ve met the girls a couple of years ago and loved them instantly. But knowing them before they were famous doesn’t make me any less impressed when they take the stage in front of thousands of screaming fans and just start shredding. 

The Minimal Beat: How do you feel about the nature of music being available to everyone on services like Spotify and Pandora? Are you concerned that it is detrimental to bands trying to make a living in the music industry? 

AM: I’m pretty torn on this subject. I don’t want to be the stubborn, outdated generation that keeps wishing they could turn back time to the good old days. I think streaming is the future of music consumption, despite the fact that it hurts artists. I think embracing it will force the industry to adapt, and new ways for artists to make a living will be found. My fear is that the only ways for an artist to earn will be through corporate sponsorships, licensing and branding. That is a less authentic way for an artist to make money from their art than just selling their art. Having to cozy up to corporate giants in order to support themselves will inevitably change the way independent artists write music. To me, that is more worrisome than spotify. 

The Minimal Beat: What is your dream line-up? If Tennis could play a show with any 3 other bands, who would they be? 

AM: Multiplicity-era Michael Keaton, Death to Smoochie-era Danny Devito, and Steve Martin in his Knottsberry Farm balloon animal-banjo-playing prime. 

The Minimal Beat: Have you ever bought a record just because it had a cool album cover? What record was it? 

AM: All the time. I bought a Barbara Streisand record recently that is actually really bad just because I loved the cover. 

The Minimal Beat: You guys covered the Zombie’s “Tell Her No”. (Which was awesome by the way!) What do you think would be cool for Tennis to cover? Anything in the works? 

AM: I’ve really wanted to cover something from Patti Smith’s “Horses” days. I think it would feel really good to spit out her passionate, devestating lyrics over some 70’s guitar power chords. 

The Minimal Beat: What bands/music are you guys listening to right now that you are really into? Were there any records you were listening to that helped inspire Young & Old and Cape Dory? 

AM: We go really deep into niche, 60’s and 70’s rock when we’re writing. Recently we’ve listened to a lot of Shuggie Otis, Funkadellic, King Crimson, Carole King, Judee Sill, Laura Nyro…too many to name. It’s important to have a rich listening life when I write. I feel like I need to consume the whole history of music in order to write a single song. –

Thanks again to Tennis for taking the time out to answer some questions. Buy tickets to their Lincoln Hall show HERE! And don’t forget to preview their new album on the Tennis Hotline! Below are the rest of their tour dates and the video for South Carolina off their 2011 release Cape Dory. Check it out!

5/10 Brooklyn, NY – Music Hall of Williamsburg *

5/11 New York, NY – Terminal 5

5/13 Boston, MA – House of Blues

5/14 Philadelphia, PA – Tower Theater

5/15 Toronto, ON – Kool Haus

5/17 Chicago, IL – Riviera Theater

5/18 Chicago, IL – Lincoln Hall

5/19 Minneapolis, MN – First Avenue

5/21 Denver, CO – Ogden Theater

5/22 Salt Lake City, UT – Urban Lounge

5/24 Vancouver, BC – Malkin Bowl

* sold out headline show

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