We caught up with LA-transplant band Tennis System at their first show of the year at Amoeba Hollywood presented by Converse Rubber Tracks. Coming off 2014 with heaps of positive press from major music platforms and a larger fanbase than ever before, Tennis System is being named one of “The Bands to Watch for 2015.”
Tennis System was founded by frontman and DC-native Matty Taylor in 2009, where he tells us they were coined “the loudest band in DC.” Fed up with the local scene misunderstanding the project, Matty decided he needed to make a change. His relocation to Los Angeles in 2011 has proven only good things for the project, where he got linked with bassist Zach Bilson and drummer Hector Gomez. Their latest release Technicolour Blind is a pleasant LA product with its lo-fi hazy shoegaze sounds, nostalgic dream-pop melodies, and hints of angst. As a follow up to their 2011 release Teenagers, its sound is different and more mature, demonstrating the band’s growth and ability to not be tied to one genre. They’ve also garnered a reputation for being a killer live act, which we can attest to, with shows that will leave your ears ringing 'til the next morning.
The Tennis System bandmates have a great homie bond which is probably a large reason for the band’s recent upswing. The trio’s chemistry is palpable, and was reportedly love at first sight. The first time Hector and Matty hung out they stayed up listening to The Cure records until 7 in the morning. And when they all began playing together instant musical chemistry ensued. During Zach’s bass audition he blew Matty away, and a line he wrote in their first ever session for “Here We Go” remains on the record today.
“My favorite moment was the first ever show we played together at Part Time Punks. The energy that was there, I’ve never felt that ever. And I’ve never felt that comfortable on stage; and it’s been that way every show since then. I just know that these guys have my back.”
Matty came to LA with a few tracks he wrote in DC, but the majority of Technicolor Blind was written in sun-soaked Los Angeles, which comes through in its sound. But a main component to the band’s success and chemistry is their live show and the energy that goes into recreating their recorded work for an audience. They are meticulous, but true to themselves.
Matty: “[Recreating a show] is always tough because a lot of people complain we’re too loud. It’s something that we always try to be aware of. Every room is different so we always try to we make sure we base our sound off of the room. Both Zachary and Hector’s ears are spot-on. So if they have a problem with something, they’ll bring it up which is really comforting. And now we have great shows because we pay attention to those things.”
It’s always interesting for us to see what visual components bands choose to employ to create a visible presence for the music. Their music videos have awesome texture and a nostalgic feel that is aesthetically compatible with the music; their latest for Memories And Broken Dreams below is a product of that style. Unlike bands who rely on direction from label professionals, Matty has a passion for art and hand-picks those who work on his videos and visuals. He even sought out the image for Technicolor Blind’s album art on Instagram.
Matty: “Whenever people follow us on Instagram I always try to check them out and I’ll like a picture or two. I was going through an Australian fan’s Instagram, and her photos were amazing, so I messaged her asking if I could use them for our album artwork. There is a hidden message behind that image for me; it’s a girl all alone in this huge fucking blue lagoon and there are out of focus people in the background - that’s kind of how I felt in this city when I first moved here. It feels so big living here and I felt like a little fish in an ocean. That’s why I wanted to use that image. It speaks volumes, it was perfect.”
Things have fallen into place for the three of them, Zach and Hector having come from several separate music projects and Matty working on Tennis System for so long. They’re riding a wave of positive momentum, having been signed to PaperCup Music, and they were recently named one of LA Weekly’s bands to watch for 2015. Additionally, they were recently asked to perform at Shaun White's Air + Style festival this weekend alongside acts like Kendrick Lamar, The Flaming Lips and Surfer Blood, to name a few. Along with an overload of positive press and hype, the guys are still trying to wrap their heads around all the encouraging feedback.
Matty: “It’s so surreal; I’ve been doing Tennis System since 2009. It’s just been a constant hustle to do anything I can, playing shows, videos, pictures, posters, anything we can. It’s really amazing to now have people willing to put money into us, to have that help and support because they believe in us. I couldn’t be happier, I’m so fucking lucky to be playing in a band with these guys, their company, their support, I couldn’t do it without them.”
The band will be opening for Creepoid and A Place To Bury Strangers at The Echoplex on March 15th. Catch a show, you won't regret it. Tickets are avail here. And in the meantime, check out their latest single "Here We Go".
What has been your proudest moment as a band so far and what is your definition of success?
Zach: For me it’s been these past couple of weeks - I joined the band in June, when we were doing DIY stuff, just getting out there on the road and putting in a lot of energy. It’s been really fun and a hell of an experience to be a part of. These past 2 weeks between the KROQ attention and the LA Weekly list, then recording with Converse and playing at Amoeba… it’s been a hell of a time. As far as success goes, I kind of just want everyone to be happy and hope that everyone is doing what they want to be doing in life. I know for me it’s to make music and be able to live on that and touch people. We just want to make a record and make people cry and shit. If I can make someone cry, that’s my definition of success, haha.
Matty: My favorite moment was the first show we played together at Part Time Punks. As far as success goes, we’re just like every other band. We just wanna tour, make music and keep playing shows… if somebody wants to back us and put some money behind us to help us do that, then thank you so much and bring it on because we’re ready - that’s all we want to do.
Hector: For me it’s been this month so far. We came back from tour and started getting some recognition, like on KROQ, that’s been really cool. Our first show really was a defining moment for all of us. Regarding success, it’s writing something that you really love, and if I can get by doing that that’s all I need. I don’t need to be making a ton of money but being able to be on the road and doing what I want to do, that’s pretty much all we’re asking for.
Matty: Just put us on the road, man.
How was your recent tour with Be Forest?
Matty: Amazing, funny you should ask that, but yes it was amazing. They’re some of the sweetest kids we have ever met.
Hector: They’re absolutely wicked live as well.
Zach: I’ve never toured with another band where I literally watched them play every single night.
Who and what are some of all of your biggest influences today?
Matty: I came from a background of a lot of electronic and experimental sound, Hector is into a lot of post punk music, we all trade music together a lot and listen in our van. We’re just super big music nerds, we listen to The Cure obviously, Brainiac, Drake, a lot... We really listen to everything, I know that’s the worst answer in the world…
Zach: It’s funny, people will tell us we sound like Ride or My Bloody Valentine, but I don’t think we’ve ever just put on My Bloody Valentine, haha like, while I really love that band, there’s just a lot of stuff you listen to. like you get really into Led Zeppelin as a kid when you start getting into rock music and you go on to different pastures but still revisit it every once in a while. But with that being said, I do listen to Led Zeppelin a lot of the time, haha.
Current projects / plans for 2015?
Zach: We’ve been writing a lot, and there’s going to be the SXSW tour… we’re playing with A Place to Bury Strangers before SX… and we’ll see what the rest of the year has in store. Hopefully we’re able to do a fucking record, and for the first time it’ll include songs that the 3 of us have written together, like, Tennis System 2.0. Should be a good year, 2015.
Matty: Hopefully a lot of touring because we really love being on the road.
Favorite LA venues?
Matty: The Echo, Echoplex…
Zach: The Troubadour for sure…
Matty: Never played there, but one day soon.
Guilty pleasure music?
Matty: Pop punk… Taking Back Sunday, Saves The Day…
Have you guys been to Emo Night?
Matty: This is the fucking heartbreaker….
Hector: We were in Philly and we went to an emo night, so we thought we had to bring one to LA…
Matty: And then we came back and literally 2 weeks after we got back from tour, we heard that Ian Cohen’s doing Emo Night! Dammit! They stole our idea! Haha
Zach: I grew up on Sunny Day Real Estate, Glassjaw, all that kind of stuff, we would’ve crushed that shit…
Zach: I heard the dude from Senses Fail DJ’d a set last week…
Matty: Buddy!? Fuck! I love Senses Fail!
What do you guys like to do outside of music?
Matty: I really like to get together and cook food, hang out, listen to records and nerd out. That’s one of my favorite things to do, just hanging out with these guys.
Zach: I love cats. I love hanging out with cats... Shout out to my homie Floppy. I’ve kind of just been hanging out with cats since I was a little kid and now I take care of cats as a part time job. I know that sounds wack, but it’s become a passion of mine. And then I record music by myself as well, and love biking, cooking for sure... We all really like cooking.
Hector: Running is fun. Sleeping, that’s a big one...
Matty: We all love pho as well. We’re very passionate.
Favorite brunch spots in LA?
Matty: Millie’s in Silverlake, that’s really good. Cliff’s Edge? In Silverlake? It has this tree inside the restaurant…
Hector: There’s a pho restaurant right off the 5, that’s really tight
Matty: Pho 87?
Bloody marys or mimosas?
Matty: Bloody mary, bloody mary, bloody mary…
Hector: Mimosas for me, I hate tomato juice
Zach: Matty has really eclectic taste sometimes… like, beer at 8 in the morning?
Matty: Hey, sometimes that just happens…