Q&A with Tennis

by Dominic Yamarone

Q&A with Tennis

Tennis is Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley, a husband and wife songwriting duo from Colorado. Their fourth album, Yours Conditionally, is out now on Mutually Detrimental, featuring a return to writing while living on a small boat. The release shows a new direction for the band, embracing the identity of the modern woman. WRBB had the chance to talk to Aliana about landlocked sailing, being happy, and self-producing.

**Catch Tennis live at The Sinclair in Cambridge tomorrow, 3/14**

[three_fourth]Mark Yamarone: Let’s talk about the new album! Yours Conditionally came out today and it is fantastic. I only got a copy last night and I must’ve listened through five times already. I know I already have a few favorite songs, but I want to know what your favorite songs to listen to are from this album.

Aliana Moore: Weirdly, my favorite song on the record is just kinda deep buried in the middle there. It’s called “Baby Don’t Believe”. I like it because, I think, sonically it’s just exactly the mood of a song I wanted to write. It came so naturally. Patrick and I wrote the whole thing in a day. It was the very last song we wrote before we mixed the record. We didn’t even record it in the studio because we were done with our studio time. We were home, so we recorded it in our apartment. So yeah, I don’t know; it was kind of just a special moment. It was a nice way to conclude the record.

M: The tone of this album seems to have changed from your previous album, Ritual in Repeat. I’m sure there are a lot of factors to this, but I really liked your answer to a Reddit AMA from earlier this year, so I’m going to ask a similar question. How has the current political landscape changed your songwriting and the music scene as a whole?

A: It’s kind of scary actually. There is one thing that I really like, which is that I think there was a tendency, even within myself, but just generally for people to think of indie music made by my generation..like millennials more or less, as a little bit vapid–kinda like music that is just like escapism; not really standing for anything. And that has really changed. The people who used to be seen as the example of escapist millennial indie music are the most vocally outspoken political activists now. They’re going to rallies, marches, and protests and mobilizing their fans to vote. I think it’s kind of a new discovery for myself and for a lot of my peers. I’m very proud of the way that people have risen to the occasion and that actually when tested we are living out our values into the world.

I have been you know, dipping my toes into the water of being more vocal about my political views and my activism, which is very personal. I’m probably not gonna be writing any political songs, like overtly as in something like voting. But my politics, at the same time, are kind of an essential part of my identity, as a woman, as a feminist. So, I feel like if I’m not being true to those things in my writing and in my day to day life, then I’m being dishonest. I don’t know, I have a little bit of cynicism. I don’t really think that music could change the world, because if it could I think we would have a different outcome post 60’s. I think it’s good for uniting and bringing like a common sense of identity and purpose to a group of people who already share the same views and congregate around shared aesthetics and musical tastes and things like that. But as far as like converting outsiders, I don’t really know if music or art can do that. I’d like to be proven wrong, and I just don’t know if I’ve seen that in the world yet.

M: So you lived on a sailboat for almost two years writing this album, and this isn’t the first time you’ve done this. You also did this for your first album. I have two questions about this. First of all, why do two people from Colorado decide to buy a boat and live on it not once, but twice?

A: I think about this a lot. Really, the only reason we went sailing ever is because Patrick went once when he was really young and he literally never got over it. He went when he was 11 or something and he was like, “This will be my life, I’m going to live on a boat. I’m gonna make it happen.” So when I met him, he was already saving and he had a whole coffee table stacked with, I’m not even kidding, like 30 books. He had learned how to sail from landlocked Colorado. One of the things that I love about Patrick is that he just commits to something and sees it all the way through to the end, no matter what the conclusion is. It could be a disappointment, it could be a disaster, whatever, it’s just like he really commits. Which is amazing, because I dream really big, but I am horrible about manifesting it into reality and he is all about making that stuff real. So we’re a good team.

It’s really just a connection that he had as a child, that’s the only reason we went sailing. And I’ve been realizing more recently that it could’ve been anything, it just happened to be sailing. His parents could’ve taken him on an epic camping trip and then he would’ve wanted to backpack. You know what I mean, it could’ve been some other thing. It was a family vacation and they went on a day sail for like 2 hours and he never got over it. It’s something that’s lasted his whole life and now we’re both captains of a sailboat. Who knew that that would be happening in my life.

For us, it’s the thing that we found to ground us and reconnect us with a world that feels very, very distant and amorphous when you get mired in the industry. Writing music is one thing, but all the other things you have to do in order to have a successful band, it’s not odious or anything–but after a while you start to be like, “Where’s the art? Where’s the music? Why am I doing this?” Even like, “Where did my brain go?” So it could’ve been anything, it just happened to be sailing. That’s all I can say.

M: And is that grind, the getting caught up in the industry, what led you back out to the ocean for this recent album?

A: It is, and it’s also why we self-recorded, self-produced, and self-released the record. We just decided that if we were gonna do it again, we wanted it to feel as close to us as possible. To have final say over everything–which means you can’t take money from anyone. So, if we let anybody fund this record, then they obviously have a say and a stake in it. And we just thought, “I don’t care if it’s half as successful or not successful, I want to do it alone so we can really truly do what feels right to us.” I don’t want the responsibilities of trying to help carry a label or like anybody else. If it’s just mine and Patrick’s, then the only thing we need to do is to keep ourselves happy and hopefully, our rent paid. It’s a lot simpler of a project, and a lot more work. It’s been, physically, a huge weight lifted.

M: I think that self-authenticity really shines through on this album. I think it makes it even more enjoyable for me to listen to, to feel that authenticity behind it.

A: Thank you, I really appreciate it. We were just happy making this record. That’s like all it is, just happy.

M: I read that you stationed your boat for about four months in Cabo de San Lucas. Did living in, or more like near, Mexico for that long allow any of the culture or music to find its way into the music on this new album?

A: I wish I could say it did, but we were only in Cabo San Lucas for like three days while we were at customs. We spent most of the time in totally remote places where there were no people. We spent a month in La Paz, which was amazing, but in general, we were totally alone in nature…so there wasn’t really a big cultural influence beyond the landscape, I suppose.

M: I only have a couple more questions, and they’re kind of easy and fun questions. First off, who is your dream band to play/tour with?

A: Well we’ve played shows with the Walkmen, which was amazing. We have always been huge fans of the Walkmen. We also toured with Haim, which was incredible. I learned a lot about being on stage and, I can’t feel it yet, but they just own the stage. It’s just awesome to watch them. I don’t know…it’s hard to say. We haven’t really done a lot of tours with other bands, but Haim for sure. I was just like, “Wow, that’s how you do it.”

M: Had you guys been making music before your first album? Or was that your first venture into being a band really?

A: That’s my first venture into making music or being in a band, definitely.

M: Wow that’s amazing that you guys were able to do that.

A: Well I’ve had a really huge learning curve.

M: Okay, last question. Your sound is really unique nowadays, so who are your musical inspirations? Where do you get your style from?

A: Patrick and I channel different things, but I’ve been mostly listening to singer songwriters like Carole King, Judy Fjell, Lauren Nyro. Mostly because it’s women who compose on the piano, which is how I primarily write, so that’s what I was looking for. I call them my patron-saints of songwriting.[/three_fourth]


Listen to Yours Conditionally here, and catch Tennis on tour:


Mar 14 The Sinclair

w/ Parks Cambridge, MA (Tickets) Mar 18 Underground Arts

w/ Rolling Blackouts… Philadelphia, PA Mar 19 9:30 Club

w/ Rolling Blackouts… Washington, DC Mar 21 Bowery Ballroom

w/ Rolling Blackouts… New York, NY Mar 22 Bowery Ballroom

w/ Rolling Blackouts… New York, NY Apr 06 The Riot Room

w/ Dreamgirl Kansas City, MO Apr 07 Mission Creek Festival Iowa City, IA Apr 08 Rose Music Hall Columbia, MO Apr 09 Mission Creek Festival Iowa City, IA Apr 10 Trees Dallas, TX Apr 11 The Mohawk

w/ The Greeting Committee Austin, TX Apr 12 White Oak Music Hall ~ Upstairs Houston, TX Apr 14 Coachella Indio, CA

Thanks to Aliana for the opportunity to interview, as well as Joe at Sacks & Co for coordinating.