Denver-based husband-wife indie pop duo Tennis (with whom we last spoke in January of 2018) have played many of our favorite Philly venues over the past 10+ years, although not necessarily in a logical order… They’ve headlined Johnny Brenda’s, Union Transfer, Underground Arts, MilkBoy, Underground Arts again, and Union Transfer two more times… in that order… However, this Friday, March 24th, they kick off their US tour behind their recently released sixth studio album, Pollen, in Atlanta, and March 30th they’ll be playing their biggest headlining show in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection to date at The Fillmore.
During a recent phone chat with Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley, they tell me that their jaunts these days feel very different from when they were touring their debut (2011’s Cape Dory). Or, at least for the most part… “Other than still being in a van. We thought we’d have a bus by now, but no,” Patrick tells me, laughing, before Alaina adds, “We’re extremely hands-on on the road. We started as a DIY band and continue to keep that ethos… Pat tour manages and I’m sort of like Band Mom.” They even tell me that on days off they like to rent an Airbnb and make dinners for the entire crew.
Tennis’ latest dropped February 10th on Mutually Detrimental, the band’s own label. Pitchfork says of the album, “Their persistent melodies quiver with the same earnestness as always, and their self-production continues to hit its stride. Against the stately hush of Moore’s voice, Riley’s bass thunks satisfyingly, and their songs groove harder than ever,” while Paste proclaims, “Pollen shows that the band is well aware of music’s expansive territory and that they are excited to expand their sound yet again.” Although, when I ask if they’ve had any personal favorite reactions, Alaina playfully tells me, “It’s been getting some really good puns: ‘I could never be allergic to Pollen,’ and ‘I’ve Pollan and I can’t get up!’” But, on a more sincere note, Patrick says that the most satisfying thing about continuing to put out music is just the fact that they still have an audience: “People still come out and see us… And a lot of these rooms are bucket list rooms, like the Beacon Theatre in New York, the Fox Theater in California, The Fillmore in Philadelphia…”
Pollen follows up Tennis’ milestone fifth LP, 2020’s Swimmer, which was written as the duo spent four months sailing the Sea of Cortez in Mexico. The album went on to produce hit singles “Runner” and “Need Your Love,” and was followed by their biggest tour yet. When I ask the group how they feel like Pollen compares to Swimmer, and their back catalogue in general, they tell me that this one (in addition to its visuals) was inspired by field and cityscapes, or “Earth Things,” as opposed to the sea, but Alaina also makes a note that each of their releases builds on the previous to a significant degree.
“We’re both convinced it’s a step forward as far as songwriting and production goes. After each album we have a period of reflection about what we think is working best. Time passing is a good filter. It allows us to focus on what works best and expand on it.”
Similarly, Moore and Riley tell me that their live show, as it continues to get bigger and bigger, also builds on previous experiences. “With Swimmer, the tour around that was our first time having a proper light show. We used to be like a garage band,” jokes Patrick, while Alaina tells me that fans can expect to hear a lot of music live for the first time: “We’re not going to be playing the entire new album, but we’re excited to play a lot of these new songs.” However, they assure me that longtime fans will hear a lot of their favorites, as well. And, not only that, but that the band allows their fans to dictate what portions of past releases they play, as much as possible. “It’s mostly just about the fans and the feedback they give us,” says Patrick, while Alaina goes on to say, “It often surprises us what songs from our back catalogue no longer resonate anymore. It’s funny because sometimes it’s like a huge hit! We’re fine with it though, because we’ve probably played it like 3,000 times.”
Opening the first-half of Tennis’ US tour , including their stop at The Fillmore, is Richmond-based “retro-leaning folk pop musician” and friend of PHILTHY Kate Bollinger, who put on a stellar performance last June at Johnny Brenda’s. Although at the time of our chat Tennis tell me they have yet to see Bollinger live, they tell me they are fans and they’re excited for their audience to get to see her and to have her as part of their touring party: “We chose her! We’re so excited! We always like to get a little bit of variety, and we like to have another woman on the road!”
*Get your tickets here.