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Tennis Pro: Somewhere Between Borg and McEnroe

Posted by May 6th, 2005 No Comments » Interview: Tennis Pro
Q & A with David Drury, Phil Peterson and Sean Lowry

Tennis Pro are just the type of good-time alt-pop band Seattle needs. Smart enough to write catchy, clever songs that get stuck in your head like a really good commercial jingle without annoying the snot of you, talented enough to make music that rivals the band’s admitted idols Fountains of Wayne and Weezer without sounding exactly like either, and cool enough to throw in a largely unnecessary 70s-retro-tennis-schtick for good measure.

If not for the fact that Seattle has turned into a haven for jaded hipster-doofi who take themselves way too seriously, Tennis Pro (which features Sean Lowry on drums, David Drury on guitar/vocals and Phil Peterson on bass/vocals) would probably already be the biggest thing the city has seen since the Presidents of the U.S.A. first showed national audiences that Seattle wasn’t only about the grunge.

While Seattle gets over itself, Tennis Pro seem relatively content with their slowly-rising local fame, continuing to play fun, engaging live shows and working on the follow-up to their excellent debut album Happy is the New Sad. Which kind of Tennis Pros are you, the Pete Sampras kind or the “Washed Up 35 Year-Old Never Was Working as the Tennis Pro at the Local Club to Get Access to Underage Girls” kind?
Sean Lowry: I like to think we’re somewhere in between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe – Borg’s incredible fashion sense and intensity and McEnroe’s racquet smashing attitude.
David Drury: I actually met a guy once who introduced himself as a “tennis pro.” I have trouble believing his high school guidance counselor pointed him down this career path. Unless you are a legitimate star, what does that even mean? It sounds so self-important.

NM: I think it’s kind of like that episode of Seinfeld with the guy that wanted everyone to call him “The Maestro” because he conducted the local Army Reservist band.
DD: I’ll tell you this much, I know a whole lot of “guitar pros” and they all work at Guitar Center and their bands all suck.

NM: Speaking of bands, you guys are in one. What’s that like?
PP: Well, it definitely interferes with my tennis schedule.
SL: We’re all competitive as individuals. I feel like we push ourselves on the stage with the same intensity we push ourselves with on the court. Often I meditate on the tennis greats while I lay down the beat.

NM: Wilson or Prince?
PP: Definitely Prince, he wrote some amazing tunes.
SL: I’ll always choose Prince too, unless we’re talking about my threads and then I’m a big fan of Head.
DD: Whichever one splinters more easily against the skull.

NM: You guys kinda look like rock stars (which is to say you are totally stylish and foxy) but you don’t act like pretentious, condescending dicks. How does that work?
SL: Really? I TRY to act like a pretentious, condescending dick but I guess that just goes to show that I’m NOT good at some things. Thankfully I’m good at selecting my wardrobe.
DD: It’s Freedom. Instead of actually being giant pricks, we can play the part of huge pricks in front of the camera and laugh it off later. We don’t have to defend our rock star personas. We can enjoy the show along with our fans.

NM: Which member of the band pulls the most chicks?
PP: Sean.
SL: Phil.
DD: Actually, Sean pulls the most dudes and Phil pulls the most chicks who think he pulls dudes.

NM: Which affected you more, as individuals, the explosion of the challenger or the announcement that Arthur Ashe had contracted the HIV virus?
PP: I’m actually friend’s with his cousin.
SL: Naturally, the Ashe situation hits pretty close to home for us. But in this profession, this lifestyle, it’s a risk we all live with.
DD: My therapist says not to talk to you anymore.

NM: Which of the band members is seeded the highest?
DD: You’re looking at him.
SL: Yeah, David’s got mad court skills. I can give him a work out though.

NM: Does performing in smoky rock clubs affect your respiratory endurance on the tennis court?
SL: Definitely not. I think smoky rock clubs offer the ultimate in respiratory workouts. I attribute both my personal smoking and the copious amounts of second hand smoke I take in with giving me an additional edge behind the net.
DD: Another thing that contributed to the Tennis Pro Theoretical Construct for me was that I once saw a man smoking a cigarette while playing tennis. He had the serious tennis look going, the grip, the crouch with weight on the balls of his feet, the whole bit. But he was puffing away on a Marlboro Red. When the serve was coming at him, he’d tuck the cigarette under one of the racket strings. No joke. It was like he was the Slash of tennis or something.

NM: That’s hot. Do you prefer grass or clay?
DD: Grass.
SL: Yeah grass, hands down.

NM: Your excellent debut album, Happy is the New Sad, is chock full of smart, clever pop songs. From where did you glean these influences?
SL: As a drummer, I find bands like the Pixies to be hugely influential. Also I’m a pretty big fan of Midnight Oil strangely enough. My other favorites include Fountains of Wayne, Weezer, and Built to Spill.
DD: I am influenced by the sassiness of the Violent Femmes, the humor of Fountains of Wayne, the pure rock of the White Stripes, and the songwriting of both Weezer and Supergrass.
PP: I listen to the Thrills, Dandy Warhols, Dolly Parton, ACDC, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, and many more.

NM: And finally, what is the Tennis Pro message?
DD: 1) Your Ego is Still a Big Ugly Problem and Tennis Pro is Here to Remind You Why and 2) Happy is Still the New Sad.

NM: Anything else?
PP: Look for our next record, Cassidy’s Junior Varsity Make-Out Squad, on it’s way shortly.

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