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- Posted on Apr 22nd 2011 2:00PM by Dan Reilly
You and Alaina started the band after taking a long sailing trip in the Atlantic. How did that come about?
It was my idea. A while back when I was like 12 years old, my parents took me out on my first sailing trip. I grew up in Arizona so it was kind of a big deal. We rented a boat in San Diego and that was all it took. From that day forward, I created this fantastical dream that I would save up money and buy my own small boat and sail away to my own paradise. It's been years and years of saving and devoting myself to this idea, years of sacrifice and working overtime and finally making it work.
Alaina, I met her two years to the departure -- we were both studying philosophy at the University of Colorado -- and she also thought it was a great idea and decided to come with me. She was always helping me save and now we had enough money to buy a modest sailboat and we set sail. We saved up $25,000 US and that was supposed to last us for two years, including the boat and the trip. She actually hadn't seen the ocean before so it was a bit out of her mindset but she still thought it was an interesting idea.
Did you run into any scary situations out on the water?
Yeah. The majority of the songs are about the difficulties with our trip. 'Longboat Pass' documents our first departure from the dock. We almost ran into a bridge and on the way we totally thought we were going to lose the boat like five times. Then like a gale came in out of the west and we were stuck in the anchorage for two whole days. The winds were like 40 knots and we'd never experienced anything like that before, so were scared s---less.
Did you name the boat?
The boat was named before. Its name is Swift Ranger. It's some kind of allusion to New York Yacht Club or something really yuppie, white Anglo Saxon.
You and Alaina wrote the music for the album after your trip. Had you been playing music together before this?
We hadn't. That was kind of weird because before we started studying philosophy, we were both music majors. I dropped out of the music department because I was so sick of everyone. It seemed like the kids who went on to get a job in the music industry hated it and like two years down the road they would just quit and work in a coffee shop. Also, the bands I was in were terribly unsuccessful and we didn't have anything together. I played in a typical Built to Spill-like indie rock group, just the whole gamut of trendy sounds at the time.
Alaina had a similar experience -- she got funneled into playing really singer-songwriter stuff. She grew up in a really religious background so I feel like she got funneled into playing Christian-rock type of stuff, which wasn't her favorite. We both swore off music for a bit and had no intention of ever playing music together. It came way down the line. We couldn't stop thinking about our sailing trip and we wanted a creative outlet for it, so that was the nearest outlet.
So it's almost a way to relive it?
Absolutely. We were both having dreams about our trip pretty regularly, once every couple of days. We really couldn't escape it and there was no way to communicate it with our friends. Our friends back in Denver don't know what it's like to sail through a gale because they live in Colorado. It came about so naturally too. Once we decided to start playing music, songs poured out pretty quickly.
How would you compare touring to this trip?
It's the exact opposite, to be honest. There's a parallel to it in the sense that you're traveling a lot and you're going from place to place. The real difference is that when you're at sea, there's no opinion, no judgment, no other person out there that's perceiving you. It's a totally natural world that doesn't care about you in the least. The ocean doesn't give a s--- if we sink or if we swim, but the music industry, perhaps right now, cares more than ever. People probably read about music more than they listen to it. At least that's how it is in our hometown.
Was it a romantic experience?
It took a lot of different faces. The first two months of the trip were quite a bit of struggle and disappointment and loss of ambition. We were learning everything and we just got beaten down a lot. It felt like every other day we almost lost the boat and we didn't have insurance because we couldn't afford it. I can't tell you how much I said "no" to things to be able to do this, like no to going out, no to buying this, no to having a car, no to having Internet or a cell phone. There would just be times where we would almost lose the boat and it was like all of that saving, all that hardship would be erased really quickly. The first few months were just anxiety-ridden.
Then it evolved into a really pleasurable experience, one where we started to understand our vessel, to understand the elements like wind and water and how it affected everything. It was like a form of Taoism where you have this complete understanding of everything that surrounds you and it's utopian, in a sense. At the end of the trip, we started running out of money and we were living off of beans and rice. We were like "What the f--- are we doing here? Are we just homeless? What's the difference between us and a guy who lives out on the street?" We said, "We have to head back and get jobs," and sure enough, the recession is at its peak and there's no way to get a job.
How did you decide on the name Tennis?
Honestly, it's just a joke. It really seems like everything we're doing looks really WASPy, really Anglo. I drink scotch a lot and wear loafers. I've been wearing my grandpa's shoes for the last 10 or 20 years, and we studied philosophy and I did play tennis at one point and we sail. We're like the WASPiest people and we're really white, too. I have blonde hair. It couldn't be worse. Our blog is like that too. It's called White Satin Gloves.
Cape Dory is available now via Fat Possum.