There's a certain serendipity that follows Alaina Moore (vocals/guitar/keyboards) and Patrick Riley (guitar/bass) of Tennis – the ongoing project of two people who first met as classmates, then became friends, and finally a married pair. Moore describes the band as an extension of their relationship, one that began as a series of casual encounters.
Growing up in Denver, Moore and Riley were in a loop of synchronicity. "It turns out we had gone to a lot of the same shows growing up in Denver. I waited on him at this little deli that I worked at called Zaidy's, and I sold him clothing when I worked at American Apparel. We definitely had a lot of those moments where I feel like the universe kept giving us so many chances to meet and I'm thankful that we had so many opportunities to because I would have hated to have missed it," explains Moore. The pair eventually transitioned from simultaneous music school dropouts to sailing on a boat together, and the rest is Tennis.
Tennis' first two albums, Cape Dory and Young & Old, were released by Fat Possum, which is where the band's first leap of faith occurred: emailing Patrick Carney of the Black Keys to request that he produce their record.
"He helped us out of musical crutches that we had, things that you want a producer to do, but at the same time [he] respected the sanctity of our sound and our autonomy and our vision for our band," Moore says. It's not so much the final result that is so satisfying about this story for outsiders – they were riding bikes when Carney called to accept their invitation, and when it was clear he would be working with them a bit of excitable exercise occurred, jumping up and down on the side of the road – but the journey to the conclusion, of nonchalantly emailing an artist whose work you admire in the hopes that they'll help you with your own.
Moore writes in her artist notes for Tennis' newest album, Yours Conditionally, that working with talented professionals on their past records gave Tennis the confidence to go forth with their own label, Mutually Detrimental, and to record and produce the entirety of the new album on their own in a rented cabin in Fraser, Colorado. Moore relates how this decision affected her creative process: "We're able to find more creative expression in things I feel we wouldn't have any say over before or had any involvement with. I don't have the pressure to present myself in a certain way. We can say 'no' to what we want to say no to. We can completely steer the course of our work and our art."
Moore carries a carefully crafted vision. Not only did the frontwoman pen her band's bio, but she makes it known that the casual pop sounds of the album are not to be dismissed as girl pop fluff. Rather, Moore has chosen soft, casual tunes as a way to feel comfortable when playing music. "I am always, always looking for things to mellow me out, lower my heart rate, and calm me down," she says. "Whenever I'm making music I'm looking for catharsis and calm. I'm not looking for explosive energy because I feel like I'm a trembling little heartbeat of a bird all the time. I want the opposite in the work that I make."
The journey and the humbling aspects of working with her life partner seem to be what keeps Tennis going. "We just played a show in Columbia, Missouri, at this little club, and it sold out and they gave us this little trophy that said, 'Sold out, fuck yeah.' I was like, 'This is a little achievement that I am really fucking proud of.'"