Publicity photo courtesy Luca Venter

Anyone for Tennis?: Feminism as dreamy indie pop

Text Gary Chun

Thanks to the eclectic mix that is my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist, the occasional new gem pops up, and such was the case this week with "In the Morning I'll Feel Better" by the husband-and-wife duo Tennis, off their new album Yours Conditionally.

Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley have been making music together for about a decade and have an interesting back story, first meeting as philosophy college students in Denver, and as a couple, made a couple of inspirational sailing trips to refocus on their relationship. It was never their intention to make music their livelihood, but they've stuck with it, and have made a name for themselves as purveyors of some of the dreamiest indie pop around, deftly executed with a knowing wink.

The basis for their music was founded on the sound of girl groups of the 1960s. In a 2012 interview with the Huffington Post, Moore said "While Patrick and I were sailing, we found ourselves at a divey, tiki bar in the Florida Keys. The song 'Baby It’s You' by The Shirelles was playing. We hadn’t been listening to music much at the time, so we were quite taken with the song. We found ourselves so excited by the way it was mixed and recorded. Every instrument had so much character. I asked him why no one recorded to simulate that aesthetic anymore. He told me he didn’t know, but that we should try it. I guess that was the moment our band and our sound was born."

Tennis has since moved on to taking their cue from the pop aesthetic of the ’70s, as you can see and hear in their latest videos on their website. Along with the aforementioned "Morning" song, the video for the deceptively gentle-sounding "Modern Woman" has a feminist attitude that's been coming more to the forefront over recent years from the lyricist Moore.

In a interview with W magazine, Moore said most of the new album's songs focused on how she defined herself in relation to the men around her, and to her audience. It was only with “Modern Woman” that she began to examine her relationship with other women and with herself.

“As a feminist, where does my power, my toughness, my assertiveness, all of those things, not settling for certain conventions, where does that begin?” Moore said in the interview. “What sort of tropes of femininity are okay to embody because I want them, and which ones should I abandon?”

As for working in a band with her husband, Moore said in the 2012 Huffington Post interview that "Being married and working together presents its own challenges, but it doesn’t make being in a band harder. The most important thing is to preserve a distinction between our working life and personal life. It’s difficult, but it prevents those burdens from heaping up on each other. Whenever the stress from the band becomes too much, we know it’s time to turn off the working relationship and spend time together as a couple instead."

To see more of Tennis, click here to link to their in-studio performance for KCRW earlier this year. And check out this video short co-created with record-of-the-month club Vinyl Me, Please featuring Moore and music from Yours Conditionally.


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