What: Tennis and Sleep Study
Where: Triple Rock Social Club
When: 8 p.m., Thursday
A good backstory can do wonders for a new group trying to be heard over blog hype and 140-character album reviews. Bon Iver had the cabin; Girls had the Children of God cult and a Texas oil baron.
While some groups spend the rest of their time in the spotlight fighting against their own history, others are lucky enough to rise above it on their own merits. With their new album “Young and Old,” Denver band Tennis falls more into the latter category, which is lucky because their story is sweeping and adorable.
After graduating from the University of Colorado, husband-and-wife duo Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley sold all of their possessions and traveled to St. Petersburg, Fla., where they bought an old sailboat. They lived on the boat for eight months, sailing around the Florida Keys and the Bahamas, up the Eastern seaboard and finally to Baltimore, where they ran out of money.
“When we came home, we were so nostalgic about our experience, and we really didn't have a way to channel all of the emotions we were coping with,” Riley said. “We really couldn't talk about it with anyone.”
They recorded a small group of songs on a four-track in their apartment without intending to ever show them off. But after being encouraged by friends and courted by indie label Fat Possum, they released “Cape Dory.” The album is a collection of delicate pop songs that chronicle intimate moments and little adventures the couple shared at sea.
But since its release, Tennis has become more beholden to the narrative behind “Cape Dory.”
"It's gotten out of control at this point. It's almost turned into something mythical or something greater than us, even though it wasn't. It's something quite simple,” Riley said. “There's no real way for people to know what we went through, but I feel like if they did, they wouldn't be writing about it this much."
Tennis’ sophomore release, “Young and Old,” attempts to move past their backstory with new lyrical diversity and a deeper sound.
“We'd be playing in Manhattan at the Bowery Ballroom and singing about living on a boat in isolation, and it didn't make sense,” Riley said. “[‘Young and Old’] is written with the idea of a listener in mind."
Patrick Carney of The Black Keys produced the album. Riley said they sought out Carney because he understood Tennis’ do-it-yourself approach. Under Carney’s watch, the band’s sound has grown much more robust, moving beyond the slight instrumentation on “Cape Dory” and making “Young and Old” a more varied and rewarding listen.
The sessions for “Young and Old” went so well that Tennis is already planning another record with Carney and although the threat of being overshadowed by their adorable backstory is frustrating, Moore and Riley don’t want to put their adventure behind them. In fact, they’re planning another sailing trip.
“It’ll always be a part of us,” Riley said.