Husband and wife duo, Tennis, were born out of a sailboat on the Atlantic Ocean and have since progressed into a three-piece indie pop unit with three studio albums under their belt. Brightening up a rainy Monday, we received a call from guitarist Patrick Riley to discuss the band’s latest album Ritual in Repeat, out last month. The band is set to play a sold-out show at the Great American Music Hall this Friday October 24.
Hey Patrick, thanks for the call. We’re really excited to see you in SF this Friday.
We’re actually very excited to play there. We don’t like to say it a lot but, SF is our favorite city to play in. The crowd always knows our music so well and connect to us while performing.
Oh really? That’s surprising; we would’ve thought that playing back home in Denver would be the best.
There is just more stress in Denver since you’re performing in front of all your friends who know you for who you really are and they know that you’re not this rock star. They’re supportive and everything, don’t get me wrong. Some of our friends even come on tour with us, like my good friend Oliver from Portland, and some other friends that come out from Denver and LA. It’s pretty nice.
How long is the current tour going to last?
Well, the US leg of the tour is going to last about 40 days and then we plan on going to the UK and other parts of Europe to perform. Who knows how long we are going to be gone? Things always come up.
How is the experience touring and then coming home finally after so long?
We love performing for fans around the world, but ultimately we are not the kind of band to write a song in the back of a van. Our home is a creative environment where we take all the experiences and ideas from tours and what-not, and funnel them all into writing. It’s very special to us.
What’s your production process?
Well, Alaina and I go off into isolation and each write songs and contribute to the sound of other songs. For the most part it’s a lot of arguing but James is there to break up all of those. Sometimes he just goes, “Nah Patrick, Alaina’s got you beat on this one,” and that’s the end of it.
What was the thematic or musical motivator for Ritual in Repeat?
Alaina really focused on identity issues and post-religious strife in the new album. Even through the picture for the album cover there are clear identity issues at the base of this new work. For the most part we wanted to create something we had not done before which was a very upfront and honest album. Our previous work always had this documentary type style or some haze that would hide who we were. It’s really a nerve racking process and exposing ourselves was much harder than we expected.
How do you feel like your audience responded to the change and to seeing the truth behind you guys?
I feel like they’ve accepted us for who we are. It’s so nice to hear them request and connect to songs like “Bad Girl” and “Needle and Knife,” which are the more personal and self-exposing songs Alaina wrote.
How do you think Jim Eno (Spoon), Patrick Carney (The Black Keys), and Richard Swift (The Shins) contributed to the new sound?
Alaina wrote this album before we took it in to them. They definitely put their own touch on each part of it, though. Richard came in for some of the aesthetic aspects and Patrick brought in his heavy sound and then Jim Eno came in with this eye for microscopic details that he uses for Spoon. Overall we were pleasantly surprised with the result. I mean, we had some minor disagreements, but it’s a painful process in the studio anyway when you have to stretch out every song completely and fine tune it.
Where do you see the future of your music going?
You know, that’s always hard to predict but Alaina definitely wants to write more personal and exposing songs. We’re thinking about just going home and writing a shit ton of music though. We may even release an album or EP soon. In truth, we are worried about the look and the sound that we put out to our audience. It’s very scary to watch our music change and hope people will follow you and change with you. You never know if people will just move past you one day.
Who would you guys like to work with in the future?
To be honest we really just dream of working with ourselves. We’re self-recorded and self-produced for the most part and we really come together and create great things. I mean I went to recording school when I was younger and I didn’t know what the fuck was going on, mostly. Coming out of that and just diving into this project with Alaina and James gave us this pseudo-education that’s enough for us to take on the challenge ourselves.
Article by Arnav Chaturvedi