Music: A Q&A with Tennis

November 27 2013, 8:08 AM

After a national tour and brief relocation to Nashville, musicians Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley are back in their cozy Denver apartment. The husband/wife duo are two-thirds of indie band Tennis, which released the dreamy, ’60s influenced album Cape Dory in 2011.

Now, they are experiencing a creative burst with the release of two full albums, an upcoming LP, and a more mature sound. Want to hear the transformation? They will play the final show of their fall tour the day before Thanksgiving in Denver (November 27, Bluebird Theater, 9 p.m.). We talked with Moore about the agony of recording the new release and why she’s staying put in the Mile High City.   

5280: You’ve said before that Cape Dory wasn’t meant for anyone but you and Patrick to enjoy. Who do you write music for now?

It’s still for me. It’s still for Patrick. At the end of the day, the song that we’re writing has to feel good to us. You’re the one that has to commit to it and stand behind it and ultimately sell it. The only difference is that now there’s an awareness of people who will experience it and potentially consume it and there was no awareness of that before. I feel like now it’s an exercise in tuning that out and trying to go back to that place where it’s just you. I think that’s where the best music is made and I think that’s the only way you can really mean what you’re saying or playing. 

5280: What was recording in Nashville like?

We moved to Nashville for about eight months of the last year thinking that a change of environment would be really good for our writing. And it ended up actually being really hard to write there. But only because we were in this place where we were thinking about it too much. This is the first time we really agonized over anything, but I’m still really glad we did it, because we are learning things about music, and song craft, and approaching songs, and being much more meticulous about voicing of parts.

I think we felt this pressure to leave the city [Denver] because Patrick and I both grew up here. But I think we’ve proven to ourselves.

5280: You’ve made some significant changes in your sound since Cape Dory. What has that transition been like?

What we’ve always been interested in is an amalgamation of toughness and the indulgent, immediate pleasure of pop music. We always imagined the first songs we wrote—especially on Cape Dory—we always thought we were part of the lo-fi movement. We would have, essentially, a ’50s-style short little pop song that’s buried under a sheet of distortion and it’s almost inaudible.

I always liked making something really beautiful and then ruining it, making it a little ugly. That’s always been something we’ve been interested in. Our decision to work with Patrick Carney (The Black Keys) came out of that same desire to have something really beautiful that’s also a little tough, maybe a little rough around the edges.

5280: What’s it like to have a bigger fan base outside of your hometown?

I don’t really mind that I feel like I still need to win over my hometown. I will always feel more nervous walking onto a small stage in Denver than walking onto a bigger stage somewhere else.

5280: What are your favorite spots in Denver?

We’ve played at Larimer LoungeMeadowlarkHi-Dive, Bluebird, Chautauqua, and Fox Theatre in Boulder. Our standby favorite is the Hi-Dive. Half of our band lives on South Broadway and that’s kind of our homie neighborhood. It’s a great dive bar and we really love playing there. 

5280: What did you miss about Denver while you were away?

The number one thing I missed about Denver is biking everywhere…. [W]hen we left I missed it so much, I missed biking to the grocery store. I missed playing outside and seeing everyone sunbathing by the Platte River on a warm day. It was so strange to not have that in Nashville. 

—Image courtesy of Sacks and Co.