TENNIS MAY BE the last of a dying breed: a band that got its big break through Myspace. To be accurate, it wasn't the dying social network site itself that drew so much attention to the band. But after the married duo of guitarist Patrick Riley and singer Alaina Moore uploaded a few of their compositions onto the wheezing Myspace site, French music blog Delicious Scopitone got wind and re-posted one of the songs, which was then picked up the very next day by the Gorilla vs. Bear and Weekly Tapedeck blogs. A few short days later, Tennis was on Pitchfork, and independent record labels were knocking on their door.
Now only a few months later, Tennis is a full-fledged band, with a drummer in the form of James Barone and a debut full-length, Cape Dory, just released on the Fat Possum label. "We didn't really have any say in what was going on," Riley admits of their speedy rise to prominence. He's speaking from a bar in Glasgow, sounding a little road-shocked and tired from the late nights of touring. "Deep down inside, we're morning people, I think," he laughs.
"Our whole band was created out of thin air. We didn't have any ambition to be musicians or to do this full time. I had a career in Denver and I was planning on staying there for years. We just wrote these songs, and people just took it and ran with it for us. It's all super, super flattering, but on the other side of things, we weren't planning for it," Riley says. "And because we weren't planning for it, it's been hard to adjust to some of the aspects of living the life. But we get to pursue something creative that we absolutely love and we're passionate about."
It's not surprising that the songs of Tennis have provoked such an instantaneous reaction: They're guileless creations filled with echoes of pop's past, led by Moore's glowing and immediate vocals. The songs were written in the aftermath of a seven-month sailing trip Riley and Moore took together, and Cape Dory wistfully looks back to that particular period, its lyrics full of direct references to the places they visited. As a result, the songs are ripe with a palpable nostalgia of warm sea breezes and ample sunshine, a relatively carefree existence where the only concern is making it through bad weather to the next port of call.
"Alaina and I kept dreaming about sailing and about our trip and everything that had happened," Riley remembers. "Living in Denver, it's pretty hard to communicate with other people what it's like to, you know, sail through a gale or something. When we got back to Denver after living on a boat, we really couldn't escape those feelings or experiences, so one day I just started writing music, and Alaina contributed and wrote all the vocal parts. We really liked it, but again, we didn't think it was going to go anywhere. We thought other people would just hate it. But we wanted to show our parents so we put it on Myspace."
Those original four-track tapes have been completely re-recorded for Cape Dory, using vintage Fender amps and ribbon mics, but otherwise Tennis steered very close to the uncomplicated sound they started with. "As far as this album's concerned, it gets the whole story across," says Riley. "The biggest thing for us is that the album is as honest as it could possibly be. It was a really pleasurable experience, just to finally have the songs the way we want them."