When husband-and-wife duo Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore bought a sailboat and packed their bags for an eight-month voyage along the Atlantic coastline, they weren’t planning on turning it into a career in music. As seasoned musicians with a long list of obscure local bands to their credit (the most recognizable act being Riley’s stint in Tigers), documenting the trip in song just seemed natural. Now, back at home in Denver, under the moniker Tennis, the two have found that their Brian Wilson-meets-Daniel Johnston lo-fi pop has even broader appeal than they ever imagined—a lot broader: MP3s of the duo’s songs have turned up on Pitchfork, Gorilla vs. Bear, and a score of other national outlets, a surprising push for a band that seemingly came out of nowhere. A three-song 7-inch from Underwater Peoples is due to ship out from the label this Saturday, and the duo’s spending every available minute in the practice studio in preparation for a mid-August tour. With plans for a full-length in the works, Riley stepped away from managing the buzz to speak with The A.V. Club.
The A.V. Club: There’s a weird mystique about Tennis in Denver, with you receiving all kinds of attention nationally, yet nobody in town seems to really know who you are.
Patrick Riley: The Denver scene is weird like that. Unless you get into that loop of things, no one will really know who you are. It’s kind of easy to stay small in Denver. I feel like we know all those people who are in that scene. We have good friends who play in some of those bands. It’s kind of funny. Most of them don’t know we play in a band to this day.
AVC: With all the buzz surrounding your band, are you ever nervous that expectations have been raised to ridiculously high levels that you can’t live up to once you head out on tour?
PR: Totally. We’re not that nervous because we haven’t ever taken it that seriously. Even though everyone wants us to take it really seriously, at the end of the day this started as a hobby for us. This started as something really, really personal that we never expected to show anyone. Once we did start showing everyone, we were like, “Oh, we’ll just make records and we’ll never play live.” That would take too much time away from our lives, too much time away from our desire to travel and see the world. We’re intent on keeping it part of our kind of transient lifestyle.
AVC: Bands that receive a lot Internet buzz tend to treat it as if that means that they’ll be playing Red Rocks next summer, which is ridiculous.
PR: The funny thing about this now is that people are slowly starting to realize that bands can be overhyped. When they finally go on tour they suck or don’t have it together or play with, like, 40 backing tracks and have two people playing instruments, almost like playing karaoke to their music. You start to realize that there’s no substance behind it. It’s a weird time.
AVC: All the songs you’ve released and have planned for your full-length document your and Alaina’s sailing adventure. Do you intend to keep drawing on that for inspiration?
PR: I think we’re exhausting it on this album. Our whole plan—grand scheme or whatever you want to call it—is to take another writing sabbatical. I like calling it that. It sounds really professional. We’ve been working ever since we got back, so we have a little bit of money to afford another small sailing trip. I’m hoping that rather than documenting our experiences, we’ll be able to have a third-person overview of our life back in the States.
AVC: Going on an extended tour of the seas is no small ambition. How’d you make that happen?
PR: I started seriously saving for a sailboat about four years ago. That’s when I decided that I can’t go to concerts anymore because when I go to a concert, I want a beer. All of a sudden a $10 cover turns into $25 if I want a record or something. These last three years have really been about shaping our desires through a life of saving rather than destroying all our desires by wanting to go out and buy stuff. We didn’t really go to concerts for the last three years at all. We were on this hardcore saving plan, where every ounce of money was going into the bank or going into a mutual fund, just trying to get as much money as possible. Then we did it, and everyone was like, “Well, that was weird. How did you do that?” It’s not that hard if you just realize it. If you want to go backpacking in Patagonia for a year, if you want to live in Europe for a year, make a plan. It’s totally possible today.