It was spring 2011 when I first heard the band Tennis, sitting on a picnic table outside Carma’s Café in Charles Village, where my friends and I would smoke wistfully, blasting the underground on our then iPhone 3’s, waiting in vain for Victoria Legrand to stumble up the hill and ask us for a light.
The closest I ever got to Victoria was at a small, pre-Valentine’s day show at an intimate Mt. Vernon venue, with a boy that would forever remain more entranced by her sultry voice than by my own poetic delivery. But it was the same person who introduced me to Denver duo Tennis, and for this I will forever be thankful.
“Baltimore,” the first track that compelled me to the husband-and-wife duo of Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley, startled me as an eerily precise depiction of my time spent in in that charming, eccentric, and often cloudy city; Moore sings, “Can we get a job? How is one meant to survive when one is over-qualified?” over a surfing and earnest indie-pop sound. In the four years I spent in this two-mile stretch of brilliant cookie-cutter heterogeneity, “Baltimore” became the lighthearted anthem to my millennial demise.
Arising from the couple’s seafaring expedition post-philosophy class introductions, the rest of Cape Dory followed in similar suit to “Baltimore;” it was an album that harked back to the simple, doo-wop sounds of the early 60’s, with a nostalgic context. It felt innocent, the way all experiences feel in retrospect, when the actual moment has been forgotten.
Cape Dory carved Tennis a premiere spot in the indie-music scene, and in 2012, the band released the follow-up record to their first success, Young and Old. The album was produced in Nashville, by the Black Keys’ Patrick Carney, whose love of the city spilled over to Tennis; with what Moore tells me is a “deep, romantic obsession with the South,” the band decided to move to the 12 South area of Nashville for eight months. Though she sees herself as a true westerner at heart, and the group has since returned to the rolling mountains of Denver, she views Nashville as a second family, with an appreciation for living in a “full-blown city, with dead quiet and pitch black nights.” The experience of living in Nashville also led to new influences in Moore’s musical exploration; she found herself drawn to strong female singer-songwriters, like Bobby Gentry, with bold identities in their musicality and lyricism.
This month, Tennis has released a five-song EP, “Small Sound.” Thematically, the album is much more implicit than their previous work; Moore calls it “internal and ambiguous.” She found herself crafting songs reminiscent of a kind of poetry, an implicit language for self-discovery and the exploration of her identity, both personally and musically.
Moore tells me of the group’s musical evolution, “We’ve had a sort of chronological progression, sonically. When we began we were so innocent and naïve, and we were making music reminiscent of the 50’s; what happened in popular music was a sort of self-awareness and maturity, and now we’re somewhere in the late 60’s, early 70’s, exploring whatever is on the fringes of rock n’ roll.”
Produced by Richard Swift (The Shins), the EP is certainly reminiscent of a greater self-awareness, reflected in both the texture and implicit language of the five tracks. Moore says the EP was created in such a calm and relaxed manner; guided by Swift’s passion for music and clear focus, they were able to create some of the songs in just five to six hours.
The EP is a beautiful and necessary extension from the group’s previous work; a calm and cohesive collection that leaves us in high anticipation for their spring album release.