Music Festivals

Tennis Is Playing Coachella, but Don't Expect T-Shirt Cannons or Fireworks

Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore, the husband-and-wife duo known as Tennis.
Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore, the husband-and-wife duo known as Tennis. Luca Venter
Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore, the husband-and-wife duo known as Tennis, have been to Coachella before. They just didn’t know each other at the time.

It was twelve years ago. Radiohead was headlining, still riding the wave of success of Kid A and Amnesiac, which dropped in 2000 and 2001, respectively. Years later, Riley and Moore pieced together that they had been standing within a few feet of each other at the show.

They will return to Coachella this year – this time as performers – with Radiohead headlining once again.

“For us, it’s a full-circle event,” Riley says. “We definitely didn’t see ourselves in this position when we both went to the festival twelve years ago while not knowing each other. It’s something that we keep talking about.”

Tennis began in 2010 after Moore, who’s from Aurora, and Riley, an Arizona native who was working at the Museum of Contemporary Art at the time, met, fell in love, sold all their possessions and decided to sail the Eastern Seaboard together. The seven months they spent on the sea inspired the lyrics of their first album, a dreamy indie-pop collection with song titles like “Take Me Somewhere,” “Long Boat Pass” and “Waterbirds.”

In the nearly ten years after that trip, the band has released two more albums, toured the U.S. and amassed a big enough following to get an invitation to play one of the most high-profile music festivals in the world.

“Every year, Coachella seems to gain importance, and I think there’s always this thought, like, ‘Oh, next year is going to be the last year,’” Riley says. “But yeah, playing it is a huge feat to us, especially at this point in our career, where we’re releasing our fourth album. It’s just hard to know if people are getting tired of your music or are even as excited about it as they once were.”

Riley says that the pair goes to extreme measures to make music unadulterated by outside influences. Last year, the two holed up in a cabin and recorded that fourth album, Yours Conditionally, which drops March 10. “We both learned that isolation is the only way that we can work effectively,” Riley says. “Whenever we try and write under certain parameters or write for other people, it just doesn’t feel right. Alaina and I are our own harshest critics, so we don’t need that many more people to have opinions on what we’re doing.”

Tennis isn’t going to change its approach to live performances for Coachella. Riley and Moore might bring on additional voices for backing vocals or invite a fun guest performer on stage, but, Riley says with a laugh, “We’re not much of a production band, so to speak. I don’t think you’ll ever see fireworks or a T-shirt cannon at a Tennis show."

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Ana Campbell has been Westword's managing editor since 2016. She has worked at magazines and newspapers around the country, picking up a few awards along the way for her writing and editing. She grew up in south Texas.
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