By Austin Henderson
Indie-rock darlings Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley performed as Tennis at 7 p.m. April 7th at the classic Iowa City venue Gabe’s alongside rising local act the Port Authority.
Gracing a stage once played at by legendary groups as varied as Nirvana and the Black Keys, the husband-wife duo performed their unique blend of soft atmospheric pop.
The Denver-based group, famous in some circles for their yearlong trip aboard a sailboat, traces their origin to meeting as philosophy students in college.
The couple’s musical journey stemmed from the existential malaise they felt entering the workforce after returning from their nautical adventure.
“We were recent college graduates, young people trying to be adults. We would come home after a 9 to 5, just looking for a way to express ourselves,” Moore said. “At first, we started painting, but we were horrible painters. Then music came in.”
Starting a band with her spouse was a first for Moore.
“I had grown up singing in church, but this was my first time being in a band,” she said. “Patrick had been in a few bands in high school, none of them very good, but he kind of knew what he was doing.”
With their unique style and a mix of introspective yet cynical lyrics, the band quickly gained attention, with their first album promoted by NPR.
According to a review in Pitchfork, recent album Conditionally Yours channels “the retro warmth of ’70s pop.” It’s a comparison the group has been blessed with or challenged by throughout its career. Moore said this backwards gaze is not intentional.
“Our music has often been compared to that time period, but it’s really the recording from the era we’re drawn to,” she said. “While we use digital, we really try to capture that analog sound.”
When asked for musical inspirations, the Moore declined to be pigeonholed.
“We really listen to a little bit of everything,” she said. “I listen to a lot of Beyoncé, and Patrick’s favorite band is Genesis. We really like all genres.”
Conditionally Yours combines a lot of different sonic directions, which Moore attributes to their creative process.
“We each wrote half of the album,” she said. “Patrick on the guitar and me on the piano.”
Despite this, the record maintains a sense of cohesion.
While the concert is part of a tour for the recent album, the two will cover other material.
“I know what I like to see at a concert, not just the artist’s last album but a combination of all the hits,” Moore said. “That’s what I want to bring out in the show.”
7 p.m. April 7
Gabe’s, 330 E. Washington
Prices vary, tickets available at the door or online