Monday, February 27, 2012

Tennis Looks Inside On Young & Old

Most people wouldn't expect that two college students spending eight months sailing the Eastern Seaboard would result in a record. But guitarist Patrick Riley and his girlfriend (now his wife) singer/songwriter/keyboardist Alaina Moore did just that.

They set sail on a 30-foot boat and documented their trip musically, writing lyrics and songs about every experience and port of call. Never once did the duo consider a serious career in a music. They didn't even think anyone would hear those songs.

But people did hear them as soon as they posted a few on the Internet. They called themselves Tennis, and their accidental CD filled with breezy songs was titled Cape Dory. There was just enough spark to give them a start.

How the duo became a trio.

To support the album, Riley and Moore decided to hit the road and added James Barone on drums. The addition of Barone was a smart move because his confident drumming keeps the band moving ahead whereas before they shifted from foot to foot sometimes uncomfortably.

While they were on the road, they decided to write more songs for their sophomore effort, which they knew would be considerably different than Cape Dory. This time they were landlocked and so were their experiences. This gave them the chance to try new compositions during rehearsals and at sound checks.

When they were mostly settled with what would make the cut, the trio recruited Patrick Carney (Black Keys) to record the new album at Haptown Studio in Nashville. His involvement proved vital.

Carney helped give the band a less leisurely and more edgy sound, with a new emphasis on percussion. While the fuzzy guitars remain intact, the sonic edge stands out front.

"We felt like we were doing one thing well and we wanted to expand sonically," Moore says. "We wanted someone with a dirty, bluesy rock background, someone who was the opposite of our sound to help lend an edge to our music. We felt like Patrick would able to handle our songs well and he did."

The CD’s central theme and title are inspired by William Butler Yeats’ "A Woman Young and Old," which is a reflection on a lifetime of memories, good and bad, light and dark. Indeed, Young & Old is heavier, less carefree, and much more mature than Cape Dory. Here, the band delivers 10 soulful pop tracks.

"Patrick really channeled our ideas in the best way possible," Riley said.

Origins, perhaps the strongest track on the album, puts Moore in the driver’s seat with keyboards front and center and her warm voice adding texture. My Better Self has more of an R & B feel, and Petition showcases Moore’s voice, which has grown much stronger, perfectly appropriate for Young & Old’s more serious, somewhat melancholy material.

The central theme of reflection and introspection weaves the songs together.

"I didn’t want each song to be in complete isolation from the next," she said. "I wanted them to belong together. I felt like I’d done a lot of reflection personally while spending months on the road contemplating the transition I had made over the past year. I feel like each song is a vignette, a glimpse into a personal moment of mine spanning from childhood to womanhood."

Unlike some bands, Tennis doesn’t suffer from having stellar studio work and lackluster live performances or blistering live performances and mediocre studio work. They’re pretty consistent , for better or worse. Check out this clip of them playing live in Amsterdam.

Young & Old By Tennis Breezes In With 2.8 On the Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

Young & Old is a deliberate departure from the leisurely warmth of Cape Dory, but it is confident, strong, and marks a new maturity for the band. It also showcases Moore’s proficiency as a singer and hints of good things to come.

The band is currently touring the East Coast through March before heading west for shows in Utah, Washington, Oregon, California, and Arizona in April and May. You can find Young & Old by Tennis on iTunes or order the CD on Barnes & Noble (vinyl too). You can also find Young & Old on Amazon. Look for the band's latest updates on Facebook.
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