Tennis serves up pop style that bloggers love

by Mike Osegueda

McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

16 November 2010


FRESNO, Calif. — Tennis is a band that never was meant to be a band, playing music that was never intended for other to hear.

The fact that the duo — husband and wife Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore — is even touring and performing is a testament to the power of music blogs.

Like a new-age FM dial, today’s music blogs introduce new artists to a music-listening public that passes around MP3 files like people once shared cassette mixtapes. Bands of the moment — like Tennis was this summer — are introduced weekly. Some hold on, some don’t.

Their success is an example of one or two small bloggers sharing a song, and the big taste-making blogs (Pitchfork, Stereogum and the like) jumping on it and co-signing them as a band everybody should like.

The band’s actual story is much more lo-fi than that, though. They were just two people making music that reminded them of a special time together. In their case, it was vintage-sounding pop songs that made them feel like they were at sea again.

First up was the song “South Carolina,” which got them some attention, then came “Marathon,” the song they’re best known for. Now, the band’s full-length debut album, “Cape Dory” is due Jan. 18.

We talked to Moore to learn more about the band’s background, the effects of the Internet and, of course, tennis.

Q: I’ve read a bunch of stuff about the band’s genesis, most of it involving a sailing trip and you two only playing music less than a year. I’d like to hear you tell the story.

A: Patrick and I decided to do an experiment and try living on a boat and sailing for as long as we could afford it, living as simply as possible. We did that for eight months, then we needed to find work again. We moved back to Denver.

It was really hard leaving the boat and leaving the ocean behind. It made us very nostalgic for being on the boat, so we started writing all these songs as reminders. It was just for fun, something we did at home. We both had 40 hour-a-week jobs. We really liked them, so we started writing more songs.

All of the sudden, we were a band, I guess, playing shows and sharing our music with people. It kind of happened spontaneously.

Q: When the blogs promoted the music, was it one of those things where it just took off one day and completely blindsided you guys?

A: We in no way tried to share our music with anybody. I actually didn’t even understand music blogs or how they worked.

I had a really good friend who contributes to a really small music blog. He asked if he could post one of our songs (“South Carolina”). It wasn’t even mastered. Then some other blogs started pulling it from his website. Then all of the sudden this unmastered song was all over the Internet. We gave (“Marathon”) to one friend who posted it in one place, then four days later it was on Pitchfork.

Q: “Marathon” took off over the summer with its sort of surfy, vintage pop vibe. Is that what people should expect from the album?

A: The album definitely has that kind of feel. That’s the style of music that we associate with being on the sea and being on a boat.

Q: It seems like there are a lot of couples music duos these days. I could see that being great, and I could see it getting messy. What’s the best thing about it and what’s the worst?

A: It’s awesome because we didn’t decide to get married until after we lived on the boat first, so it absolutely forced good communication. We know we work really well together. We’ve been through harder things than being in a band and playing shows. Actually, being in a band is really easy.

There is one bad thing — (being a couple) is one little fact that allows people to make little assumptions about you. I think it’s really easy to see it as a cliche. It’s one more way for us to be lumped into a group that we don’t necessarily fit with.

Q: Silly question: If you guys played a tennis match, who would win?

A: Patrick would destroy me in a tennis match. He used to play tennis a lot growing up.

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