Progress Report: Husband and wife duo turned trio put the finishing touches on their Cape Dory follow up.
Cape Dory — the debut album from Denver-based duo Tennis — was one of early 2011’s most charming success stories. Not only was the record a sweet listen — 10 tracks of snappy indie-pop steeped in girl group nostalgia — but it came with an interesting backstory as well. Crafted by real-life married couple Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley, the record itself was a clever musical document of an eight month long sailing adventure the couple embarked upon immediately after graduating from college. Now, many months and lots of tour dates later, the band are busy wrapping up a proper follow-up. I chatted with Alaina Moore to find out how Tennis learned to be a band and just how they plan to conquer the whole “difficult second album” thing.
ALAINA MOORE:Hey this is Alaina. I’m in Tennis!
STEREOGUM: Hey! How’s it going?
MOORE: I’m doing well thank you. How are you?
STEREOGUM: I’m good. I’m in New York, where are you at?
MOORE: I am in Leadville, Colorado, which is actually why we had to change our interview time with you today. We were on tour during our anniversary so this is our belated anniversary getaway. We planned on having this week off to ride our bikes through the Rocky Mountains, so we’ve had no cell phone service, but we’re finally in a city. Well, a very tiny town-but we have cell phone service now!
STEREOGUM: Congratulations on your anniversary.
MOORE: Thank you! Unfortunately we are profoundly out of shape from sitting in a tour van for months. I feel like I am in an embarrassment to Coloradans who are so athletic all the time.
STEREOGUM: Yeah. Coloradans love to hike and bike.
MOORE: There’s huge bike rice going on today and I only went 20 miles but I felt like my heart was going to explode.
STEREOGUM: Yeah my Aunt lives in Boulder and every time I go there it’s like that. Let’s ride a bike down to boulder creek and eat breakfast and then go on this hike with the dogs for three hours … when all I want to do is sit by a tree and eat an organic brownie or something.
MOORE: Totally! Oh my god you’re so right. At first it annoyed me but now I think it’s so charming and whenever we’re here we just really want to be outdoors. It’s like a fever and when you catch it you just want to pretend you’re really athletic when you’re not.
STEREOGUM: That’s good though. You guys live in Denver right?
MOORE: Yeah we do but it’s not nearly so … I mean, it’s the city. Luckily it’s very close to the mountains but you can grow up in Denver and never do an outdoorsy thing in your life.
STEREOGUM: Yeah that was the kind of thing that blew my mind in Boulder. You have all the benefits of city stuff but within five minutes you could either be on a hike or shopping somewhere.
MOORE: I know and it’s why we never move honestly because there’s so many other cities that we truly love and although Boulder and Denver are quite small it’s just that the amalgamation of city life with complete remote country living side by side that is so appealing.
STEREOGUM: How long have you been off the road for?
MOORE: We’ve been back about a week and a half now. It feels good!
STEREOGUM: Were you surprised at all how things went with Cape Dory? Were you on tour longer than you expected to be?
MOORE: Yeah. Well, I couldn’t not be surprised because I didn’t really know what releasing an album and supporting it would entail. I had never been in a band before so everything was a surprise really, but it was all a pleasant surprise. I’m the kind of person who has no expectations whatsoever, but it was all very pleasant.
STEREOGUM: What is the status of things now, have you been working on new material?
MOORE: Yeah! Actually this is a good time to have this conversation because we finally have news. We did quite a bit of touring for Cape Dory which was really fun and we learned how to be a real band and what touring means — a lot of work — which was all awesome. Then pretty much right on the heels of that, last month we went to Europe and then came back and made a second album. We recorded it in Nashville with Patrick Carney who is in the Black Keys. He was really amazing and down to help us out. It gets really hard being married and the sole songwriters in a band. We felt like we needed a third person to settle our disputes. It’s pretty cool that we both bring something very different to the table when we write a song — it’s just every once in awhile we’ll be at complete odds musically or with the song structure so we felt like we really wanted to bring somebody in who could have the final say when we were at a standoff and it was really amazing having Patrick. So we just finished that a week ago and just got home from that.
STEREOGUM: Cape Dory had such a cool backstory to it — being about your sailing adventures — how was thing one different? Was it harder to work without some kind of guiding conceit?
MOORE: Actually, it’s really weird. In some ways it felt more authentic because this record we wrote it for the sake of being a record. We meant to make music to share with other people. Whereas when we wrote Cape Dory it was really just for us, something we did at home to kind of commemorate one of the most significant experiences in our lives together. And so it was kind of weird sharing that with other people and it was really weird promoting it too. It was fun and a lot of people really resonated with it and it was amazing but it did feel weird sometimes to promote since we didn’t really set out to do and it just ended up working out that way. It would be weird to be in New York — playing a show in this very cosmopolitan city — that’s all about the eight months we spent with no electricity in the middle of nowhere. And so it was weird to expect that to always translate and the sincerity to always be there night after night conveying the same thing. Once we realized that we wanted to be a band and that we really liked doing this, which we did early on, it was really fun to make the second album purposefully and write the songs from start to finish. It’s still us, it’s still our music, but now this is meant for someone else’s ears and not just ours. I think it actually made the whole experience of recording everything much more pleasurable.
STEREOGUM: It’s always weird to make something and then spend two years talking about it as if it was brand new, especially something so personal.
MOORE: Yeah that’s exactly what it was. I mean it’s the difference of someone stumbling upon your diary and reading it and liking it and you being like, ‘Well I guess it’s cool that you read my diary’ — as opposed to writing a short story that was meant to be read. That’s the difference … and it felt really good to me.
STEREOGUM: It’s interesting that you say you guys decided that you liked being in a band. Was touring so much and playing the songs live the thing that changed your perspective on it?
MOORE: Well I just felt like it took awhile to get used to that. We live very private lives and I haven’t fantasized about being in a band since I was, like, thirteen –- which is when everybody wants to be in a band –- I felt like I’d kind of grown out of that idea and so to do it now I felt really out of my element and it took a long time to adjust. So I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy life on the road with my husband and our drummer. It just took awhile, but it’s actually really rewarding. It’s the kind of work that you’re always proud of. Even on a bad night you’re still like, “I really did something.” You’re also your own boss and only accountable to yourself which is amazing. I’ve learned to really love it.
STEREOGUM: Cape Dory had such a consistent vibe to it musically. Do you feel like the new record is a departure from that?
MOORE: Yeah, I don’t quite know how to describe it. We just heard the finished album like two days ago. It’s very different than Cape Dory. One thing that might have been easy to misunderstand about our band initially is because it was so precisely one sound and one kind of memory and experience. In some ways a very limited emotional range was there because we were only trying to recount one specific period of our lives and nothing else. So I think it makes sense that, as soon as we made music intentionally, that it would to include a variety of influences. That surfy 1950s style music is not the only style we like, it’s just the thing we chose to represent our eight months of sailing together.
STEREOGUM: Does the drummer you tour with play on the record?
MOORE: Yeah he does. He initially joined for Cape Dory after we had wanted to just record it ourselves. Then we ended up needing him to drum as well and be our live drummer. Now he’s a real band member, so when we made this album he was integral to the songwriting. We’d run our demos by him and he’d be like, “Yeah, that’s the right direction.” He also wrote his own drum parts for this album whereas we wrote them before for Cape Dory. It’s been a really nice transition from a two-piece to a three-piece.
STEREOGUM: How long did it take you to record the record?
MOORE: We were only in the studio like 10 days.
STEREOGUM: Not very long, but there’s kind of a freshness to that I think.
MOORE: I think so too and it’s kind of cool because I feel like we would have agonized over things if we had a lot of time and would have just kept tweaking and changing things. You know, just overanalyzing. I think it’s better to be like ‘We have this much time and it needs to be done.’ Just go make it and then walk away.
STEREOGUM: When will the record be out?
MOORE: I wish I could tell you, but I have no idea. We really hope for early 2012.
STEREOGUM: So what happens next?
MOORE: We plan on doing some touring in the fall. Just staying on the road and trying to break in some of the new album. We actually already feel like recording new material again. Something about recording this time around made me feel really inspired still after getting home. So I think we’ll be quite busy doing that.
STEREOGUM: It’s often really hard to slow down again after you’ve been on the road for a while. It takes some getting used to.
MOORE: It is really weird. The last bit of touring we did for Cape Dory we toured with La Sera for awhile and I got to be good friends with Katy Goodman, which was awesome because she has so much experience on the road from Vivian Girls and her own projects. When we were touring together we’d have a day off and La Sera would just go and play her own show and I was like, “You’re crazy! You’re going to run yourself into the ground!” and she was like, “I hate days off, I always want to be working.” And I was like, “Really? That’s insane I’m always looking forward to my days off, wherever I am.” But by the time I was done with the tour I felt like I totally understood where she was coming from and it’s true you really get this sense of momentum and if you stop everything will stagnate and it almost turns into this fear that keeps motivating you to be productive.
STEREOGUM: Well, I’m really looking forward to hearing the new stuff. And thank you for taking a minute to talk to me. I’ll let you get back to your vacation now. Enjoy!
MOORE: Thanks! I will.