Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley are a married couple who never anticipated becoming musicians, but a year-long sailing adventure on the Atlantic changed their plans. Inspired by their time on the water and new way of life, the songs seemed to come from someplace within… when they returned to land, they decided to turn their incredible experience into music, which would become their debut album “Cape Dory.” Both have a natural musical ability — in Alaina’s case, with classical piano training, and in Patrick’s case, with guitar. For their follow-up album, they worked with Black Keys’ drummer Patrick Carney, who brought increased percussions and a healthy dose of fuzziness to their sound. The added sonic layers do not detract from the purity of Moore’s voice, however, which has a childlike sweetness to it that is very unique and oh-so-pretty. We caught up with Alaina to ask her more about her music, personal style, and what’s coming up for Tennis.
Where were you when you wrote your first song and what was it about?
Patrick and I wrote our first song together in our living room, two years ago. It’s called Bimini Bay and it’s on our first record, ‘Cape Dory.’ Patrick randomly strummed a series of chords that reminded me quite vividly of sailing to the Bahamas together on our own sailboat, six months prior. We had lived aboard our boat for eight months, and explored much of the Eastern seaboard in that fashion. We had never really considered writing a song before, but as he played this chord progression, the melody and all of the lyrics came to me all at once. After 25 years of never writing a serious song, we had suddenly written one that we loved in about 15 minutes. That’s when I knew we were onto something, and we spent the next several months writing our first record together.
If your music was a place, where would it be?
The inside of my head! It is so personal that even when a song refers to an actual place, it’s only ever really about what is going on in our heads.
What is the meaning behind the band name Tennis?
I wish I could say something profound, but it mostly came from a joke we shared. If we had known our band would transform into something serious, we probably would have put more thought into it!
Where do you draw inspiration for your music?
My immediate experience. We live transient lives, full of change. I am always busy processing my ever-changing environment and circumstances. In light of constant discovery, it’s easy to feel motivated to write about it — to document it in some way.
If you weren’t making music, what would you be doing?
I would be in law school! In fact I had just applied to law school when Fat Possum offered to release our first album — which was fortunate for me because I didn’t get in to any of the schools I had applied to! But if Tennis hadn’t taken off, I would have certainly applied again, and my life would look very different right now.
If you could collaborate with any artist, dead or alive, who would you choose?
Patti Smith or Joe Meek.
What sort of music do you listen to? What’s on your ipod right now?
I am truly obsessed with Patti Smith right now. I have her entire catalogue on my iPod, and can’t get enough of it!
How would you describe your personal style?
I have enormous uncontrollable curls and a small childish body, so I usually avoid dresses or long flowy things that swallow me up. I like to dress in a way that makes me feel powerful and that tends to be more androgynous pieces. I am most interested in making menswear feel sexy. My style icons are Patti Smith, Katharine Hepburn, and Jean Seberg — and for more than just their style. Their demeanor, the way they carried themselves, contributed as much to their look as their clothing.
What are you working on at the moment? What’s next for Tennis?
We just released our sophomore LP ‘Young & Old’ in February and are touring in support of it. We will be on the road for the better part of the year, with a small break over the summer to write and record another 7″ — long periods of time away from home always make me restless to write again.
Tell me something most people don’t know about you.
My only previous experience with music was singing in Church as a girl. I had never really performed before, and it has taken me hundreds of live shows to begin to adjust to being onstage. Even now it feels very strange to be in front of an audience. I do my best not to pretend like I know what I’m doing. I always hope that being forthright and sincere will compensate for the fact that I am no showgirl!