With another accaimed album, Tennis is ready to be a band again

Credit: Courtesy of Big Hassle

Credit: Courtesy of Big Hassle

Touring pays the bills, but the core duo makes albums “for the sake of our career.”

Tennis is an indie rock band that’s been covered in the media a fair bit over the past decade, the storylines often revolving around a small handful of themes.

The obvious one is that the band’s songwriting core, Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley, are married, in addition to being the creative partners in the group. As such, they spend a fair bit of time together and one of their avocations — sailing — has really been picked up on. Riley, in particular, has had a lifelong interest in taking to the sea. Together, they’ve sailed for long stretches, writing material on some trips, taking time away from music on others. “Cape Dory,” their first full album, was released in 2011 and is generally credited as being born on a lengthy sailing excursion.

Credit: Courtesy of Big Hassle

Credit: Courtesy of Big Hassle

During that period, too, the group was critically regarded as a bit of an outlier, embracing a decades-specific sensibility in both songwriting and production. Though overly-simplistic to some degree, each album seemed to find them plumbing a decade’s vibes, right on through to their current, ‘80s-centric feel.

But lost in the conversation, at times, has been the fact that the band’s remarkable sweet and lush pop songs are written and performed by folks who have a handle on every aspect of their career. “Pollen,” their latest album, is another release on their own label, Mutually Detrimental. With its release earlier this year, Moore and Riley fired up the engines on a tour cycle that will take up a large chunk of 2023.

“There’re a lot of strategies that we’ve been developing over the years,” the amiable Moore said in a mid-March interview, “especially now that we run our own label and manage our own release. We had one release with a major label and gleaned what we could from that campaign. The industry has changed so much, album cycles are so different from one to the next, especially post-pandemic. A lot of what we’ve learned is useless. Honestly, it feels like we’re working in tech, where everything you’ve learned is irrelevant one year later. But usually it’s all about creating a long, energetic campaign around releasing a single, always building it to the touring. And for a band of our size, it’s touring that pays for everything.

“Patrick and I have talked about the depressing sense that an album is a loss leader,” she said. “An album can be almost financially worthless. The tour is how we support ourselves and we use an album to promote the tour, announcing it simultaneously to the album and linking all of our social media to the tour.”

Luckily, they’ve found a way to make it work. For “Pollen,” that meant leading off with a pair of excellent singles, “One Night With the Valet” and “Let’s Make a Mistake Tonight,” each the type of immediately memorable, hum-along track they excel at writing. The balance of the album is equally pleasing, though these two songs are clear winners.

Credit: Courtesy of Big Hassle

Credit: Courtesy of Big Hassle

The album’s gotten some nice reviews since its release in January, with Pitchfork saying, “On ‘Pollen,’ Tennis’ latest, 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. Warbled and muffled pianos contrast with acoustic guitars, and a few zany synth choices set Moore up to knock out some vocal delights.”

AllMusic chimed in with “‘Pollen’ is yet more proof that Tennis make the kind of music that feels comforting and exciting at the same time.”

The praise for the new record is not only a positive thing for the support of the current tour cycle. It’s a nod in the general direction of the group’s focus in making albums a centerpiece of their life’s work.

“Patrick and I have conversations about this. Is there a good business sense in making an album, as opposed to an EP?” Moore said. “But our motivation has been to do albums for the sake of our career. We want to look back on a catalog and we want as many records as we can to establish our songwriting identity.”

With six albums, two EPs and a host of early-career singles to their credit, the band can now go out on tour with a goodly selection of cuts from which to choose, including a heady dose of the new album, “Pollen.” Discussing the touring ideals for 2023, Moore said that she wants the shows to retain a bit of mystery, so the twists they’re adding this round will only be revealed by the actual shows, not by previews, saying “it’s subtle, but there are some new things that we’ll be doing with this formation.”

What is definitely known is the duo will be joined by Ryan Tullock (bass) and Steve Voss (drums), regular members of their touring ensemble.

“We have a tacit agreement,” Moore said of the pair. “We love touring together, we feel like family. But they both have their own side work. Ryan’s a carpenter and Steve’s a video editor. They can, more or less, control their schedules. So we’re looking forward to a year of dates. We’re all ready to be a band again.”



8 pm. March 24. $27.50-$59.50. The Eastern at The Dairies Complex, 777 Memorial Drive SE, Atlanta. easternatl.com.