Ever since Matty Taylor transplanted his band Tennis System from his hometown Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles, they have been growing and reshaping, while staying true to Taylor's vision. Transitioning from a much larger band down to a three piece, and then finding their footing amongst the contrast from the grungy east coast to the populous scene of Los Angeles, none of this has held them back. Now, Tennis System have found the comfortable rhythm that comes with experience in the industry.
Since their formation in 2009, Tennis System have put out two feature-length albums: 2011's self-released Teenagers, and the most recent, Technicolour Blind in 2014. Since then, Tennis System have spent the time honing their live act, with their energetic shows being so stellar that it got them picked for L.A. Weekly's 15 Bands to Watch list.
It’s been a busy year so far for Tennis System: a full U.S. tour with Partybaby and Potty Mouth, a showcase at SXSW, another tour with Envy On The Coast, and a feature on Last Call with Carson Daly. Now, they are topping it off with the new single "Lackluster," which is out today via MDDN Records. Tennis System have teamed up with AXS to exclusively release the new music video for "Lackluster." Ahead of the debut, Tennis System took the time to talk to AXS about the song, what it was like filming for Last Night, and the inside scoop on their creative process.
AXS: Having spent most of 2017 so far touring, what have you been doing in your off time to unwind and rejuvenate your creativity?
Matty Taylor: Me, personally, I run everyday, and that helps me a lot. It helps me kind of clear my head and focus on things. As a band, we get together 3-4 times a week, whether it be to rehearse, work on new music, or just hang out. I also write a lot in my free time, and that keeps me going, keeps me creative in other endeavors. Always creating is important when you’re trying to do this.
Garren Orr: I’ve been getting into yoga. Since I primarily drum, I’ve been trying to play guitar and keys. Doing things outside of your normal routine to stay creative.
AXS: Can you describe your songwriting process?
MT: We kind of go about it a couple of different ways. Sometimes I’ll have something, and I bring it into practice, and we build off that. That goes for all three of us, sometimes one of us will have something, we bring it in, and build on it. Sometimes, we’re just in our space, and we start noodling around, and build on something like that as well. It’s definitely become more of a group effort, which is a nice thing because we all sort of do something at once and build on that. It’s a nice thing because there’s no pressure on one person. It’s a team effort, if you will.
AXS: How long did it take you to construct “Lackluster” in particular, and what role did each band member take?
MT: Lackluster took about a day. I had a basic structure for that and brought it in, and we kind of just worked it out and built it to be what it is.
AXS: What was the inspiration behind the song?
MT: Musically, I had just gone to see Dinosaur Jr. and I had always wanted to write a song that kind of had a Dinosaur Jr. vibe to it, so that definitely inspired me - like older Dinosaur Jr., Bug era, so that’s sort of my ode to that record, if you will. Lyrically, it was just kind of what was going on in my head at the time, with a situation relationship-wise. It’s kind of to do with that.
AXS: Tell us a little bit about going into the studio.
MT: It’s awesome. We somewhat dissect our songs and, similarly to what we do when we are writing, build on it as best we can with what’s available studio wise. We always try to add different things, try different things as far as harmonies, or maybe instrumentation, swapping parts. It’s all about building the song to be the best that it can.
AXS: How was your experience shooting the new video for “Lackluster”?
MT: It was pretty rad. We went around to a lot of different places, then we cumulatively got together at the warehouse space downtown. It was just awesome, being in that space, and getting to do essentially a show for our video. We’ve never really had a performance, in that regard, like in the video, so it was really good.
AXS: It looked like you had a lot of fun!
GO: The filming process was just very organic, very fun and very professional, take after take after take. In terms of focusing on each member, getting the best and most intense shots as possible, and I think it came out really, really well; and speaks to how dedicated the team was, and how dedicated we were, to making the best video possible.
AXS: What was it like having your show at the Troubadour filmed and aired on "Last Call with Carson Daly"?
MT: It’s crazy. I don’t know, it’s still this thing where you think about that, like “Oh man, being on TV, that’s so rad.” I grew up watching late night TV, like Conan and Jay Leno and all that stuff. Not to mention, being a kid in the 90’s and seeing Carson Daly on TRL, so to kind of combine two birds with one stone, it was pretty rad. I’m a little disappointed that he doesn’t paint one nail anymore, but overall it was a really phenomenal experience, and it's really cool to be able to look back at that, and to have that as something we did that we are all really proud of. It’s exciting.
AXS: Did it feel any different going into that show than a normal one that they maybe weren’t going to have cameras filming you for TV?
MT: No, we, whether it’s one or one thousand people, we always give it the same. We go as hard as we can every show, we don’t ever miss a beat, so to speak, because our whole thing is to put a show for you. Regardless of cameras or not we are going to go 100 all the time.
AXS: Finally, is there anything you’d like to share with your fans while they wait on your forthcoming EP to drop?
MT: Get ready for something different! We’ve been growing a lot, and we’ve been spending a lot of time writing and working on these new songs. So, I think that we’ve really explored how to work with the dynamic of a three piece. Before, on the other albums, there’s been 4-5 people, so there’s been a lot more going on to where a lot of space could be filled. Now, it’s just the three of us, and we’ve definitely explored - I don’t know if explored is the right word - but we’ve definitely kind of stretched the boundaries, and gone above and beyond, to make sure that we can do everything just the three of us. That way, when you see us live, it’s the same thing you see on the record, but also gathering and capturing that intensity of that live show on our record. It’s definitely been an awesome process, and a lot of fun as well.
AXS: It sounds like it would be fun for you guys to put out a live album, then.
MT: Yeah! Well, we did before, we did the Part Time Punks EP, that was all done in one take and it definitely captured that, but in the sense of it being a live recording. So, this definitely has the polished sound of a studio recording, but also captures the intensity that you would get when you see us live. Not to mention our songwriting has gotten better, we are always learning and improving our abilities. It’s nice to show growth within an album.
AXS: Definitely, I think your fans will certainly be looking forward to that as well.
MT: I certainly hope so!
AXS: Anything else you guys want to add?
MT: No, we’re just excited to get new material out to our fans. We definitely are looking forward to a new release, as far as the single, and the body of work as well.
Tennis System are Matty Taylor (lead singer/guitar), Sam Glassberg (bass) and Garren Orr (drums). The band is slated to release a new EP late summer/fall and currently have the new single “Lackluster” out now. Check it out at the links below: