My Better Self: Tennis

"I want to dance more..."
Tennis.jpg
Tennis make pop songs – that much is obvious.

The band’s debut album ‘Cape Dory’ was chock full of them, with Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore famously sketching out material when sailing across the Atlantic. Fusing idyllic indie soundscapes with a Spector-esque sense of melody, it marked Tennis out as a band in thrall to the glories of the three minute single.

Yet onstage in London recently, it was clear to anyone in the venue that Tennis had evolved. Second album ‘Young & Old’ shifted beyond their debut, exploring new aspects of their sound. Pushed into the touring routine following the success of their debut album, the expanded four piece had a funky edge. Sitting down with ClashMusic after the show, Alaina Moore mused on her love of the pop song. “I feel like Patrick and myself definitely have a wider taste in music than just straightforward pop music, but it’s always been my favourite” she says. “The songs that stick in your head are the ones that you love your entire life and I guess that it’s just a goal of mine to learn how to make songs like that - and it’s really, really challenging. I feel like I’m still figuring out, but I guess it’s just a long term goal for me to crack the code or solve the mystery of what makes a good pop song. It’s really fun for me to investigate that every time.”

It’s often forgotten just how new the album format is – until the late 60s, the de facto form of pop communication was the 45 RPM single. “Actually it’s weird because I think we’re just going back to that period of time” Moore insists. “I actually feel albums are irrelevant almost now. No one even has the attention span in general - I know I actually don’t. My whole life I’ve kind of went more in the direction of just singles and I feel like the way we consume music now: one mp3 at a time and usually through a blog. People get tired easily and it’s funny because that’s how used to be really: 12”/7” singles and a b-side. Records were mostly a combination of hits or singles, instead of actual albums. I feel like, in this really weird way, that we’re returning to that now.”

Tennis - Deep In The Woods



- - -


A perfectly formed collection of pop vignettes, ‘Young & Old’ has a naivety which is difficult to place. Tennis are – by now – old hands at the pop game, yet their performances betray an admirably amateurish, ramshackle quality. Onstage in London, the band battled failing equipment to complete the show, earning their applause the hard way. “Everything was breaking! We’re trying to pretend that we’re professional and there are microphones just dropping out their stands for no reason at all, just plopping on the floor” she grimaces. “I just feel like that’s classic us. Which is funny, it makes me wonder if there’s like - it makes me feel like it’d be impossible to imagine us playing a huge theatre or arena, because I just feel like it’s our destiny to be so human on stage.”

Yet this doesn’t prevent Alaina Moore from displaying a love for classic pop divas. Dedicating their London show to the recently deceased R&B icon Whitney Houston, the Tennis singer recalls her teenage years – mainly spent singing into a hairbrush in front of the mirror. “I feel like my love for crazy pop divas doesn’t exactly come out in our songwriting; I definitely don’t sing like that or anything but I love it, it’s something I grew up on” she says. “I grew up with Amy Grant, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and Beyonce, and I really respect what they do and it was sad to lose Whitney.”

However this love for the classic diva definitely doesn’t intrude upon the band’s music. When it comes to singing, Alaina Moore has always been conscious that her voice – for better, for worse – is her voice. “I feel like I had this epiphany when I was literally seven or eight: I wanted to be in the broadway musical Annie because I love that play and I have giant curly hair normally - I straightened it last night but I have natural unruly curls!” she laughs. “I was like ‘I’d be perfect’ and I remember trying to sing those songs. and even when I was a little kid they were too hard for me. I think I’m a basically capable singer and I enjoy singing and mostly I love writing and writing vocal melodies and arranging them, it’s really fun for me. But I knew right away, I don’t have that crazy diva belting voice for giant range. It’s just not me, I don’t even care to try. But, I love listening to it.”

By nature quite shy, modest people, the Tennis live show isn’t exactly pyrotechnics and smashed up guitars. Bopping alone onstage, though, Alaina Moore manages a sweet kind of energy into their presentation that is seemingly informed by classic 50s and 60s hits. “I so love Beat music from the ‘50s and ‘60s. It’s so fun, you can bounce around to it, but it’s not groove; you can’t dance-dance...does that make sense? I also really love hip-hop for the sake of being able to dance to it. I don’t think we’ll ever be a hip-hop band, but our goal is to have tighter groove with more emphasis on bass lines and rhythm. Basically our goal is: I want to dance more. I want songs I can dance to on stage.”

- - -

'Young And Old' is out now.

Have your say

Sign in or Register to leave comments
-