Colorado's Tennis is the husband and wife team of Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley, and drummer James Barone, and on the trio's second disc, "Young and Old" the three create a sophisticated sugar-sweet pop that embraces everything from 1960s girl groups to 1980s New York soul and beyond.
While the band tapped The Black Keys' Patrick Carney as producer to lend "Young and Old" (on Fat Possum Records) a rock and roll edge – something he accomplished – the disc is, at the same, also more symphonic and dreamier than its 2011 predecessor "Cape Dory."
As Tennis prepares to hit Turner Hall on Aug. 2 to open for Sharon Van Etten – Milwaukee's own Yellow Ostrich is also on the bill – we asked keyboardist and singer Moore about the band, the record and their experience with Brew City.
OnMilwaukee.com: Part of the recent record's charm is that it is sweet, catchy pop but it's never saccharine. Was bringing in someone like Patrick Carney an effort to make sure that there was still an edge?
Alaina Moore: Absolutely. I've noticed that in some instances, if your music doesn't come from a dark place, then it's easy for certain audiences to dismiss it as cloyingly sweet, which I think is unfair. We weren't writing an angsty record, so we thought collaborating with someone like Carney would help us stay mindful of other perspectives. Besides, we wanted to channel more straight up rock and roll vibes live and who better to look to than The Black Keys?
OMC: Is there a parallel to be made about sweet music with an edge and being married and being in a band together? Does one relationship (spouses/bandmates) sometimes put stress on the other one (bandmates/spouses)?
AM: Sometimes it seems like one world – either our marriage or our band – keeps intruding on the other. We work hard to maintain distinctions, but it's never easy. I've accepted that this tension makes us who we are, and our music what it is. I can't imagine it being any other way.
OMC: Did bringing in James Barone during that first tour change the dynamic onstage and off?
AM: It was hard to include someone in such an intimate endeavor, but somehow James has adjusted to being The Third Wheel to end all others. He takes the weirdness of touring with a couple in stride, and has become indispensable, as a friend and bandmate.
OMC: Is there a lot of music that you love that doesn't seem to end up distilled in your own music?
AM: There are other musical worlds for both Patrick and me, that don't ostensibly make their way into our songwriting. For me, it's late '90s early '00s R&B. For Patrick it's prog-rock like Genesis, Yes and King Crimson. We are, however, toying with the idea of integrating our less obvious musical influences in our third record. We are finally ready to start taking some risks.
OMC: Have you guys played in Milwaukee before?
AM: We have never played Milwaukee before. All I know of it is based on the scene from "Wayne's World" in which Alice Cooper explains the history of the name "Milwaukee" to Wayne and Garth. So, obviously, I already love the city.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.