Colorado indie-pop husband-and-wife duo Tennis are back with their latest EP, Small Sound, which blows wind into their musical sails with its breezy fluidity (oddly enough, they sail, too). Frontwoman Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley create a sound that is best paired with a convertible drive down to the lake, an image conjured in the first few seconds of "Mean Streets": "Suuuummerin' in the Caaaatskills, baaaaby." And the matching lyric video is a bit of a snicker – delayed closed-captioning rolls across like ticker tape, a bit of a sly dig at tele-translation (remember that Obama interpreter fiasco?). Below, Moore explains how American singer-songwriter Laura Nyro and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective were unlikely inspirations for the project.
"I've never summered in the Catskills but Laura Nyro did, and the song 'Mean Streets' is about her. Laura is one of my favourite songwriters. She has influenced my writing so much in the last year that I endeavored to write a song about her. The song – and that lyric 'Baby it’s true / they’ve got nothin’ for you'– is about the pressure Laura Nyro felt from her label to write hits and seek out fame. But that wasn't her. She wrote music as a form of pure expression; sometimes she wrote hits, but mostly she wrote experimental, challenging piano ballads. She was never comfortable with success and I respect her for knowing her boundaries and refusing to be changed by an industry that loves to commodify you. Laura is a legend – and her name has certanly been said half a million times. The song's my way of paying tribute to someone I deeply respect.
For the lyric video, we wanted to imitate closed captioning, so we used the same font and latency. Delayed subtitles are comically frustrating to me. We thought it would be interesting to create a lyric video with that in mind. We didn't mean it as a commentary, but it is something we've noticed – the way closed captions are so poorly done. I can't think of anything in particular, but I did get the idea after watching Ace Ventura: Pet Detective at a bar on tour one night. The sound was off and I had to follow the plot by reading the subtitles – which was basically impossible.
I am most excited to be active – to see our own growth. We made some important discoveries while writing the EP that I think will benefit the next record. Everything has changed since we wrote Cape Dory. We aren't the same people, we aren't the same musicians. It took some time to figure out what the next step was for Tennis and this EP was our way of working it out."
Small Sound is out on February 3 on Communion Records
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