This past weekend in New York, Tennis entertained students of the pop blogosphere while opening for Haim at New York’s Terminal 5 and headlining Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. But the group’s new favorite audience has even shorter attention spans than the typical buzz-band connoisseurs: the husband-wife duo of Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore recently shared tracks from its still-untitled third studio album with Kidrockers, a child-centric concert series aimed at the first grade-and-younger demo.
“It’s the perfect crowd, because they’re impressed by anything but also so easily distracted,” says Moore. In Riley’s words — “They’re the best A&R guys you could have.”
Tennis performed a brief set for the rugrats, followed by a Q&A session that featured submissions like “What’s your favorite color?”, “Where’d you learn to sing?” and “I like your voice.”
“And one girl was like, ‘I have a band,'” Moore says. “‘What’s it called?’ ‘Frozen.’ Another girl insisted she wrote the songs from ‘Frozen’… If you wanted to pander to that audience, you just make a ‘Frozen’ reference.”
Grown-up crowds are a little trickier, especially when your career path has been full of Internet-era deviance. Tennis gained a following in 2010 through online support for their debut EP “Baltimore,” and kept the blogs’ attention for the next year’s great full-length “Cape Dory.” But because of the warp speed hype cycle, Tennis’ growth was stunted; they weren’t experienced live performers when they bubbled onto the Internet, and Moore didn’t yet know how to write songs on her own.
Riley estimates that Tennis had only played as an opener five times before the Haim tour. “Someone from Terminal 5 looked at me and said, ‘Let me guess — this is your first big tour,'” Moore remembers. “I just walked in and said ‘Hi’ and he was like, ‘You’ve never done this before.'”
Tennis say they’re “excited to learn from the pros,” after meeting the Haim sisters several years ago at Hollywood’s Sunset Sound Recorders studio. It’s a great look for Tennis to be opening for Haim with their third studio album, a so-far-untitled effort on Communion Records, due this Fall. Moore has learned to write songs on her own (as opposed to laying vocals over Riley’s guitar), and a trio of producers — Patrick Carney (The Black Keys), Jim Eno (Spoon) and Richard Swift (The Shins) — brought the songs to life. They also took their time: Tennis’ first two albums were recorded in three months, while this one took a year-and-a-half to make.
“I finally learned how to write melodies as a singer,” Moore says. “I feel like each part is a response to the one before. They feel like fully fleshed-out songs to me.” Adds Riley, “Stuff before where it was like ‘Oh that’s cool, it gives it character,’ has become, ‘No, let’s make that better.'”