Break point

Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore — the married couple behind Denver indie pop act Tennis — didn’t expect much to come of the humble band the two formed after a seven-month sailing trip; they expected nothing, to be precise.

“When we were starting out, we didn’t have any plans or ambition to turn this into a career. It was just something fun to do and an honest creative release for us,” Riley said. “That’s been the hardest thing, figuring out how to get in the same mindset that we were in starting out and writing music thinking no one would ever hear it, writing like your finances don’t depend on it.”

The band took off soon after its 2010 formation, releasing its debut, Cape Dory, to rave reviews on NPR, The A.V. Club and more in early 2011. The band followed that up with Young & Old, produced by The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney, just thirteen months later, cementing the shift from playful diversion to serious business.

“At this point, we are incredibly dedicated and spend an insane amount of time to progress,” Riley said. “Now, we want nothing more than to figure out how to keep doing this for as long as we possibly can.”

Tennis is certainly doing just that, returning with its Small Sound EP in late 2013, a precursor to the band’s third full-length album, set to see the light of day in early summer. Riley thinks Small Sound boasts some of Tennis’ tightest songwriting to date, specifically in “Mean Streets” and “Timothy.”

“[Small Sound] perfectly illustrates what I like about pop music; it’s simple but complex and heady at the same time,” Riley said. “You can interpret on multiple levels, and it can be background music or foreground music. To me, that’s the definition of a great pop song.”

The EP combines the dreamy, lo-fi sensibilities of Cape Dory with the more folk rock flair of Young & Old and adds some R&B undertones. The full-length will take all that and up the ante, with Riley describing the album — which is now fully written — to be more grandiose than anything the duo has done to date.

“If anything, we’ve learned there is no pattern, no one right way to do things or write a song,” he said. 

“We used to think we had a writing routine that worked, but we’re definitely at the point now where we’ve learned that songwriting isn’t a normal thing to do and everyone is different. Some of these new songs were written together with us in the same room, and some of the songs were written in complete isolation from each other and married together after the fact. Every song calls for its own writing style, and we’ve just been allowing ourselves to follow our gut in regards to that.”

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Joshua Boydston

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