Erase all notions of rackets, nets, and volleying rhythms - Tennis doesn't wear their pleated whites on stage or serve balls into the audience (...thankfully?). The Denver-based indie pop band brings soulful lyrics over wonderfully wistful melodies, most recently to the Music Hall of Williamsburg and SXSW Music Festival.
The name is derived from lead guitarist Patrick Riley's classic blonde uber WASPy profile - he could effortlessly be photoshopped into a vintage shot of John McEnroe verbally berating an opponent - and an inside joke about him playing tennis in college. However, his signature white pants and topsiders do rep the true inspirational roots of the band - sailing.
Lead singer Alaina Moore and husband/guitarist Patrick Riley were not dubbed Dolly and Tiller as tots and born and bred into pint-sized life jackets. The couple saved and scrounged for a few years to learn how to sail and bought a boat. They spent a year and a half sailing up and down the Eastern Seaboard.
First came the inspiration, and then came tunes. The couple had both been in local bands, but had never considered a career in music In a back-handed (and nominally congruent) way, the writing percolated naturally as a way of consecrating their experience.
Their first album, entitled "Cape Dory," is a buoyant compilation of nautical metaphors and literal remembrances - high tides, shifting shoals, and even keels.
When it comes to live music, I generally tend to curate my concert choices far far away from anything beachy and head-bobby (unless swimsuits are acceptable, sand is between my toes, and seagull calls are the only back-track). Any tunes that are mellow enough for me to be distracted by the inordinate amount of time spent on my post-work feet - count me out.
Tennis does have classic beachy qualities, but the driving drums, dueling keyboards and dance-friendly melodies are catchy without being kitschy and make for an awesome live experience. These are tracks that I could listen to on the way to work without the fear of being lulled into a low-fi stupor. Most build from a gauzy and carefree state to strong, soulful sing-in-the-shower melodies.
Apart from the fresh candor and appealing honesty of the music, the band's on-stage presence is just as engaging and gimmick-free. Toward the end of their set at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, Moore regaled the audience with a recent celebrity-esque publicity experience.
They were invited to do a photo shoot for a highfalutin fashion magazine (a glossy childhood dream of Moore's), but discovered mid hair and makeup that they would be doing an advertorial for Tic Tacs! Remarking something akin to, "Fuck that!" they left the set, with principals intact and band integrity maintained.
Must downloads include "Origins," "It All Feels the Same," and "Marathon."