How Tennis went from wet to cool
Record Sails: Tennis Interview

When a hot new American band starts blipping on UK radars it’s often after a lengthy period of growth back home: a couple of albums, a few personnel changes, countless live shows then, eventually, a tentative toe dipped into British waters.

Tennis are different. They didn’t form at art college or rise from the ashes of several obscure old bands: they’re a married couple who found musical inspiration while escaping life’s hassles on an eight-month boat trip. Dreamy oceanic soundscapes, then? No, lo-fi Sixties pop. So how did that happen?

“While we were sailing,” recalls Patrick Riley, “we found ourselves one night in a bar in the Florida Keys, and heard the song ‘Baby It’s You’ performed by The Shirelles. Not only did we love the song, we felt like the aesthetic resonated perfectly with the atmosphere of sailing. The sun, the wind, the clear water - it seemed like Phil Spector had pioneered that sound just for us.

That’s what motivated us to write music of that particular style.” The boat trip was a long-held desire of Patrick’s, as he “grew up wanting to be an explorer or something,” explains wife Alaina Moore. “When we met he had already been saving to buy a sailboat for six years - he made it sound too perfect.” In January

2009 they dropped everything and spent six leisurely months sailing from Florida to Baltimore, followed by a few months in the Bahamas, then finally back to Denver, where Tennis was formed. Alaina jotted ideas in the ship’s journal along the way and these would eventually inspire the lyrics for the new band.

Demos were made and played to friends, who put them on blogs, which alerted a couple of small labels (including the aptly-named Underwater Records), and that trickle of interest quickly became a torrent. Tennis are now a transatlantic concern, with a UK deal and everything. How are they coping? “It does make us want to escape to our boat!” laughs Patrick. “It’s a little overwhelming to find ourselves in the music industry so suddenly. Even touring, especially the huge amount of touring we’ve been doing, has been hard to adjust to.”

“In some ways it takes the innocence out of the whole project of Tennis,” he concludes, “but we’re working hard to stay grounded and remember why we started to make music in the first place. If we ever feel like we’re beginning to lose what we love about Tennis, then we’ll sail away and not look back.” He means it, too.

Tennis’ first UK single ‘Baltimore’ is out now.

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