Gut-wrenching lyricism and vocals wail amidst glimmering guitar tones that erupt gracefully into explosions of noise and distortion, coupled with an underlying dream-pop aesthetic that makes for the perfect storm of sound on Tennis System‘s newest album Technicolour Blind (PaperCup Music, 2014). The Los Angeles trio previously impressed and were praised by Grimy Goods staff for their high energy and hard-hitting live performances at Air + Style and opening for A Place to Bury Strangers, so naturally my ears perked up when I learned of their upcoming residency at The Echo. Now I’m no fortune teller, but I predict Los Angeles is in for the wildest and perhaps most pleasantly surprising whirlwind of post-punk/shoegaze/noise pop it has seen or heard in some time.
Interviewing vocalist/guitarist Matty Taylor made it clear to me that the band is genuinely ready and willing to absolutely melt faces, ears and hearts every single Monday in June at their Echo residency. Not only that, but we chatted with him to learn more about making LA home, boss local bands, record hunting and personal music collections, Kanye West, and more. Read on!
GG: Please describe the new album, Technicolour Blind, in three words.
MT: WHAT YOU NEED.
GG: What was the writing/recording process like on the new album?
MT: I wrote the majority of Technicolour Blind in the first month that I moved to LA. I didn’t have a job so I had a lot of time to focus on writing. The move was pretty hard on me and I had a lot to talk about. I’d never been so far away from my family, nor had I ever been in a town where I literally knew no one. So I took that and went to work.
The recording process was…well; it was hectic. As I said, I wrote most of this record when I was unemployed, so money was very tight. I traded and sold a lot of gear just to come up with the money to front the recording costs. So we’d go in the studio in blocks. We’d get as much done in the time we had enough to pay for, then save enough money to go back. It’s kind of weird not doing it all at once. there’s something about having an allotted time to really knock things out and run off of the creative juices that start flowing. Sometimes when there is too much time between, you tend to overthink things and then you can start to build clutter. It also means more time in the studio, which meant more money. So we had to be very concise not to overthink things and to be more organic.
GG: You guys have a residency at The Echo this month. What excites you about it the most?
MT: You know, one of the first shows I saw in LA was at The Echo. It was a personal goal of mine to play that stage. A few months later, I did. I’m excited to share that feeling with my friends. We get to play five Mondays in a row at our favorite venue with our favorite bands.
GG: Tell us about your process for selecting other bands to join you for the residency. Also, who are some of your favorite local bands, besides yourselves?
MT: The first thing we did was offer slots to our friends. After we confirmed them we asked our favorite local bands who weren’t already our friends.
Favorite local bands (pssst, they’re all playing our residency):
The Flash Hits – This is my big brother’s band. They bring a killer live show every time and are fucking great!
Teenage Wrist – We played Air + Style at The Roste Bowl with these guys and have been in love with them ever since. They just dropped their debut EP and it’s great!
Blood Candy – Think Shop Assistants meets Black Tambourine. Need I say more?
Night Jacket – The best Mazzy Star record you never heard!
Ass Life – High energy and punk as fuck.
GG: What’s the most memorable show you’ve been to (local or not)?
MT: Kanye West. Staples Center. Yeezus Tour. That was, hands down, one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.
GG: You’ve been known to put on some thrilling live shows. What would you say is the key to putting on a spectacular performance and making the album(s) come to life on stage? Any particular pre-show warm ups or rituals that get you pumped? Do you sing in the shower?
MT: Thank you! I feel the most important thing is to actually put on a show. It’s important to be a little different then what you can hear on the record. Music can be heard at your leisure, but you can’t feel that energy the same way you can when you catch a band live. We play loud, fast and if your fucking face!
Pre-show, just some stretches since we move around so much.
Hahahaha & Yes, I sing in the shower!
GG: You’re a DC transplant who has set some very solid roots here in LA. What’s the transition been like and does Los Angeles feel like home away from home for you? Are there any distinct differences you’ve noticed between playing shows on the East Coast vs. West Coast?
MT: The transition has been pretty challenging. We went from opening for really big acts in DC to begging for shows here. It was like starting over. Like were were a new band again. DC never understood what we were doing. We were pretty ostracized in the scene there. LA definitely is home. It still amazes me when we play to a full room.
The biggest difference is the number of shows going on in a given night. Back in DC there’d be one, maybe two at the most, big shows happening on a given night. Here, there could be six different great shows in one night.
GG: You guys have played various festivals, from Air+Style to SXSW to Culture Collide. Which was your favorite? How does the festival experience compare to the club experience for you?
MT: Air + Style was definitely my favorite with Austin PsychFest coming in close second. Air + Style was the first festival we played where we were treated like hard working musicians. It was the first time in my life where I felt like the hosts actually cared we were playing. I’ve never been so respected in my life.
There’s no comparison. Don’t get me wrong here. I love playing in clubs. There’s just something about the high you get from playing on a big stage with big production. There really is nothing like that.
GG: A limited edition vinyl release of your previous album Teenagers was made available this year for Record Store Day. What does RSD mean to you?
MT: Record Store Day, to me, is a day to celebrate your local record shops. You should support your local record shops every day. They are the building blocks of cool.
GG: Vinyl or not, currently what are your top 3 favorite albums in your personal music collection and why?
MT: This one is super tough, but here it goes. In no particular order…
Lilys – In The Presence of Nothing (vinyl). There are two different pressings of this record. One on Spin-Art, with a proper printed sleeve and one on Slumberland, that each one is different in that the screen printing varies. I was able to get my hands on the Slumberland one. This is one that is super rare and is one of my favorite Lilys records.
My Bloody Valentine – Loveless (cassette). I know this seems cliche but there’s more to this one. When Loveless came out, my brother and I would listen to it almost every day. That year for Christmas, my brother bought me the cassette. I have had it ever since.
The Cure – Wish (vinyl). This is one of my favorite records of all time and not a very easy score. I spent several years trying to get a good copy of it. One time I ordered it off Discogs and the seller sent me just the record in white sleeves. I was so furious. The guy gave me hell, then finally agreed to let me return it, so I sent it back. Unfortunately, he never refunded me. Then a year later I found a copy in really good condition for half the price!
GG: Recently, you released a short but touching and creative music video for “Ungrown” that was produced by Erica Terenzi of Be Forest (of Italy). Tell us about how you guys came to be friends and join creative forces with Be Forest. What was it like collaborating on the music video? Would you say it was easier or more difficult than writing the song itself?
MT: We recently did a West Coast tour with Be Forest. We hit it off right from the start. Erica and I were talking about art and she was showing me her work. I was blown away and I asked her if she would be down to make a video for us.
It was a real pleasure collaborating with her. Erica is an amazing artist on many levels and I was really stoked to work with her. When we discussed the video I told her she could pick any track off of Technicolour Blind. She then asked me for the lyrics to every song on the record and picked “Ungrown.” When she sent me the video I was speechless. To me, it’s perfect.
I would imagine it easier than writing the song itself…at least for me, haha. I sent her the lyrics and then she created what you see. I wanted her to have complete creative control.
GG: LA Weekly recently included you guys in the “15 LA Bands To Watch in 2015.” Post-residency, what do you guys have in store for us later this year and/or in 2016?
MT: A many thanks to them for that. I still cannot believe it. We’d like to be touring more. It’d be really awesome to be tour support and also be a part of the festival circuit. We’ve been doing a lot writing and are hoping to have the new record written by the end of the year. Then start recording in the beginning of 2016.
GG: In your downtime, apart from playing music what do you guys like to do?
MT: I’m usually out buying records, eating pho, listening to records and watching movies. Sundays we usually get together at my place and cook, listen to records and catch up.
Words/Interview: Emily Saex
Tennis System – “Ungrown”
Tennis System – “Memories & Broken Dreams”
Tennis System Technicolour Blind Track Listing:
2. Call It Home
4. Memories & Broken Dreams
5. Technicolour Blind
6. Such A Drag
7. My Life In
8. Try To Hide
9. Hara Kiri
10. Dead Honey