Editors’ Notes “I don’t think anyone would’ve put their money on Tennis being one of the bands that would last,” Tennis vocalist and co-songwriter Alaina Moore tells Apple Music. “A lot of the bands that we came up with have moved into other things or they’ve broken up since then.” Coming up on ten years as a band, the Denver-based Moore and her husband/co-songwriter Patrick Riley wanted to make a sustainable career in music—starting their own label, producing their own albums, and releasing them themselves so they could manage things closely. “The bands that we looked to for inspiration had been around for a long time, working bands who hit their stride mid-career,” says Moore. “I didn’t want to pursue a path where everything came at once, so we tried to make as many career choices as we could that could lend itself to that.” Swimmer, their fifth album, represents that milestone, a turning point in their lives that is also a celebration of their ten-year marriage. “Patrick and I just felt like we’re leaving our youth behind but in a really profound and meaningful way where we have more wisdom and experience,” says Moore. “I had never been in a band or made an album, or been on tour, so I had to use Tennis as my way of learning and gaining experience over time.” Read on for Moore’s track-by-track guide.
I’ll Haunt You “It was the last song we wrote for the album, although it ended up being the first track. The first line of the song [‘As the sun slips over my shoulder, I can tell I’ve been getting older’] was the first line I wrote. The song frames that I’m coming at this album from a different place than when I was 24 when we put out our first album [Cape Dory]. I don’t know if anyone else who’s a musician who writes with their life partner would feel the same way, but I would not make music without Patrick. I’m just not interested in doing it. I love music and the work, but if we weren’t writing partners in the band together, I would be doing something else.“
Need Your Love “Patrick had written just the drum beat and he showed it to me one night. He asked if I had any ideas, and I started playing a piano progression over it that I had been working out on my own but it wasn’t going anywhere. And then it started taking shape really quickly. It felt like the song was very assertive and not really aggressive, but forceful in a way. I knew right away it wasn’t going to be a love song or about anything of that nature, and I just went ahead and dipped some anger that I had been ignoring. It’s not really an emotion that I like to let myself feel. I avoid it whenever I can, but I just dove headfirst into that feeling. It’s one of my favorite songs we’ve written, and it felt like it was pouring out of me.”
How to Forgive “‘Need Your Love’ was me venting, and ‘How to Forgive’ is me just putting that to bed and taking a long hard look at myself, seeing which part I play in that emotional state. It was really fun to write. I really wanted to channel Madonna in my vocal take in her earlier records, where she sounds really girlish and her voice is as high up as possible. We changed the key so I could really sing it. It’s hard to sing, but I got that girlishness that I was after.”
Runner “‘Runner’ took a long time to finish because there’s so much melodic information in there, especially if you do a headphone mix. There’s almost like dueling hooks all the time, even like really quiet in the mix. It took a long time to sort out a bunch of disparate melodic information into a coherent song. But that was really Patrick’s baby—he wrote the guitar progression at the beginning first, and he also programmed the drums. We were very attached to it being the first song we wrote for the record. I feel like it really set a high bar for our writing.”
Echoes “I had a death scare while we were on tour. I had the flu and was incredibly ill, powering through the tour in the dead of winter. It was below zero degrees in the Midwest. One morning, after a week and a half of shows, I was sick and lost consciousness inside a Whole Foods. I had a seizure—I wasn’t breathing and my eyes were wide open. Patrick thought I was dead. It scared the s**t out of him. I felt I had this completely out-of-body experience where I couldn’t see or hear anything properly, and I felt disconnected from my body. And then I woke up and started screaming involuntarily until it jarred me back to my senses. Patrick was holding me and screaming for a doctor, and the paramedics came and took me to the hospital. We had to cancel a couple of shows until I recovered enough to continue with the tour. We held each other and cried all day long, and I knew that as soon as I could think straight I was going to write a song about this. It was the most bonded I’d ever felt to Patrick.”
Swimmer “This album is ordered pretty intentionally. One week after I had the flu, Patrick’s dad suddenly passed away while we were still on that tour. It was an extremely devastating moment for us. Later that summer, we ended up sailing out on the sailboat that Patrick and I have with his family. We scattered his ashes at sea. But while it happened, I had that whole moment of just bobbing around on the water on this beautiful day and pouring the remains of my father-in-law into the ocean while people on the shore were swimming and surfing and having a vacation. It was such a weird juxtaposition. I felt it searing into my brain even as it was happening, and I decided I would write about that.”
Tender as a Tomb “It’s a companion song to ‘Swimmer.’ It’s sort of a manic, fractured love song that’s very disjointed and nonsensical. For me it was like thinking, where do you put all your love once the person you loved has died?"
Late Night “The guitar songs are Patrick’s babies and the piano songs are mine. He played the guitar part and just tracked it straight through, and I sang straight over it all the way through. It’s one of those rare moments where he and I can tap into the same source of inspiration even though we’re bringing different material to the song. Lyrically, it’s about framing my identity as a woman in the context of no longer having faith, which was a huge part of my life growing up. I grew up in a very conservative family where faith was at the center of everything, and as I grew up I shifted away from that. It’s been something I have been coming back to that really makes its way into my songwriting all the time. It’s isolating, because I love my mom so, so much and have so much respect for their faith and the way they raised me. It’s painful to me, and it’s just something that I hope to keep working out in my song lyrics until it doesn’t hurt anymore.”
Matrimony II “It’s becoming a thing where I write Patrick a song as an anniversary gift. The first ‘Matrimony,’ on Yours Conditionally, I also wrote for Patrick for our eight-year anniversary—describing my wedding day. I wrote ‘Matrimony II’ for our ten-year anniversary, and in that one, I wanted to describe the way it feels to love someone when you’ve loved them so deeply and intimately for so long and you’ve watched your whole relationship shift into something I always imagined. It’s like going from a spark, like a flame of love, that turns into something more like gravity—that’s much less flashy and immediate but more profound and informative to your life.”
I'll Haunt You
Need Your Love
How to Forgive
Tender as a Tomb
9 Songs, 31 Minutes
February 14, 2020
℗ 2020 Mutually Detrimental marketed and distributed by Thirty Tigers
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