Now a well-known part of their lore, the debut album from husband and wife pop duo Tennis, 2011’s “Cape Dory,” was inspired by a months-long sailing trip. And while Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley didn’t think their first real crack at songwriting would thrust them into new careers as musicians, it did.
After years of touring, and a pair of albums without amazing backstories, things have come full-circle.
The Denver-based couple’s new album, “Yours Conditionally,” finds the band once again returning to the open ocean for inspiration. Partially written during an extended sailing trip through the Sea of Cortez, the band’s first full length since 2014 was released in March.
Mixed by Spoon’s Jim Eno, “Yours Conditionally” not only marks a return to songwriting and the stage for Tennis, but it may have just been that album that saved the band.
Here’s what Alaina Moore recently told PACIFIC about it all:
PACIFIC: Sailing played a huge part in your debut as well as your latest album. Can you talk a bit about the parallels between the two?
Alaina Moore: When we wrote “Cape Dory,” we identified as sailors not musicians. We felt like sailors that wrote music. And now, I feel like I am an artist and a musician in my own right. I’ve spent all of these years of writing, recording, and touring, and I feel like I can actually, truly identify with that.
As we were really starting to flesh out Tennis and figure out what that could mean for us, we began to experience some burnout. We were on a quick turnaround for album cycles, and after “Ritual and Repeat,” we knew it was happening and writing was beginning to feel a bit joyless. And that’s not the way we came to Tennis. We just knew we were doing something wrong if being in a band with your life partner felt like it did. So we decided to take a break and go back to that first experience that bonded us and led to this station in the first place.
It was a much more ambitious trip than the first one. We were really just learning to sail on that trip. This time we were 100 miles off shore in the Pacific in the Sea of Cortez. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve never pushed myself, or our boat, so hard in my life. And we really didn’t write the whole time because it was so demanding. The whole experience was focused on sailing.
But once we got to the Sea of Cortez, they had an anchorage where we could pull up for a while. We found we were anxious to write music and really missed it a lot. So we ended up writing five songs in about 10 days. We coupled them with a few we had written at home and realized we were looking at a new album. We didn’t plan it. We let it happen spontaneously.
We were both OK with the idea of just letting it come when it did and not forcing something that should be so joyful and meaningful. And by giving ourselves permission to re-assess it like that, we were able to reconnect with what we love about music, what Tennis stands for, and our relationship.
And this album has just been an incredibly joyful experience. We’ve said yes to more tour dates than we’ve ever been able to do in the past because we’re having fun again. I love the record, I love my band mates, we’re proud of what we did, and it’s a totally different feeling than last cycle when it felt like we had to do everything.
Tennis with Local Natives
When: 8 p.m. Apr. 17
Where: The Observatory North Park, 2891 University Ave, North Park
Do you think because the trip was so rigorous, that, in turn, it fostered the strong messages of the songs?
Absolutely. I pushed myself beyond my limit multiple times on this last sailing trip. And every time you go that far forward, you realize just how far you can go. It made me realize that I shortchange myself and quit or say I can’t do something before I’ve even tried. I’m capable of doing much more. And that’s one of the things I like about sailing - it’s not really optional. Once you say yes to being out there, you have to take whatever you’re given.
It’s awesome that one begets the other. Seems like it’s always a good thing when real life challenges can inform art.
That’s our connection to sailing. And that’s the part of it that I feel that connects and informs the rest of our lives. And it didn’t have to be sailing. That’s just the nature of it. And the character traits or mental state that I need to write, create, and tour checks all of those things - that inner sense of disciple you need to be the captain of your own ship, your own record label, your own tour manager, and your own boss.
Spoon’s Jim Eno mixed “Yours Conditionally” and you’ll be touring with that band for some dates on this tour.
Jim has been an amazing friend and mentor to us. We’re very grateful for everything that he’s done. And we loved having him work on the record. It was very fortuitous, actually.
Pat and I were recording alone and didn’t tell anyone. Jim texted us one night, “if you ever make a new record, I want the first shot at mixing it.” We were like, “how did you know? We’re in the final days of recording right now and you’re the first person to reach out.” So we sent him a song and he had mixed it by the next morning.
Thanks for taking the time and see you in San Diego soon.
Of course. Thank you. Take care.
Scott McDonald is a writer, on-air personality and consultant with 15 years of experience in the San Diego music scene. He has interviewed hundreds of artists, from the legendary to the underground, for print and television. Follow McDonald and his melodic musings on Twitter @eight24_ or Instagram @scotteight24. Send your music musts to firstname.lastname@example.org.