Denver-based indie band Tennis (which includes husband and wife Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore, and drummer James Barone) has been on a roll these past few years. Their music career began with the release of their debut EP, Baltimore, and its infectious '60s pop throwback song "Marathon." Two full-length albums later, the band continues to push their sound and skills forward and having fun while doing it. Tennis was gracious enough to answer some questions ahead of their afternoon performance at the fifth annual Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, August 10, 2012.
It seems that a long time has passed since that sailing trip you took years ago became the inspiration for your first album Cape Dory. Did you ever expect that the trip would have affected your lives in the way that it has?
We knew the sailing trip would be a life changing experience, but we never imagined in this way. For years we devoted ourselves to other pursuits so music seemed like an unlikely outcome. I feel extremely privileged to have the opportunity to lead a creative life. I can only hope that being in a band results in even more unexpected opportunities down the road.
You team up with The Black Keys' Patrick Carney for Young and Old. What was it like working with him? How did it influence your writing/composing process?
It's hard to be objective about your own work—particularly when you are immersed in it. We sought out Patrick Carney because we believed he could provide us with some healthy perspective. He was able to motivate us, challenge us, and in some instances, force us to try new things—all while maintaining respect for our autonomy as songwriters. We constantly seek out circumstances that will force us to grow as people and musicians, and in that instance Carney was what we needed.
Your work can be described as comfort music. Even after going toward a more mature and varying sound this time around, what challenges did you face trying to maintain that core '60s pop-like throwback sound while also trying to grow as musicians?
That style of music is something we genuinely love; we don't consciously try to write that sort of music, it's just what happens. As we improve as musicians and songwriters, we are able to conceive of and create more complex and dynamic music. To be completely honest, it's hard for me to listen to our earliest recordings without a tinge of embarrassment, but that's how I know I am growing, so I guess I should be grateful for that.