On Stage Spotlight: Ryan Tennis is home for the holidays

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By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times

Ryan Tennis

Ryan Tennis is a Philadelphia musician — a globe-trotting Philly musician.

He is a singer/songwriter/guitarist who in last two years has mounted successful tours through Switzerland, Germany, Ireland, Colombia, and Argentina.  He spent February 2017 doing a massive tour in Colombia from Bogota to Barranquilla and from Cali to Cartagena.

Tennis frequently plays local venues when he’s in town. His latest international run of shows was a six-week tour of Europe.

“I was in South America three times this year and I just got back from a tour of central Europe last night,” said Tennis, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from his home in West Philadelphia. “I’ve been doing all these tours with the drummer from my band – Joseph Keim.”

Tennis’ band is the Clubhouse Band, a rollicking his seven-piece ensemble known for its dance-inspiring polyrhythmic music.

According to Tennis, “Our live shows have been getting more rhythmic, more energetic, and more danceable, and the shows I’ve done with groups like El Caribefunk (from Colombia) and Bakithi Kumalo (Paul Simon, Graceland) have really rubbed off on me. We want people to move in their chairs, or even better, get up out of their chairs when they listen to this album.”

The album is Tennis’ upcoming EP, “Two Days on the Fence.” The spirited CD Release Celebration, with special guests the West Powelton Drummers and Ginger Coyle, will be held on December 9 at MilkBoy Philly (1100 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, 215- 925-6455, www.milkboyphilly.com).

“Two Days on the Fence” will be official be released January 12, 2018, following a pair of special “Graceland” performances in Philly (January 5) and Washington, D.C. (January 6).

A few months ago, Tennis presented a very special show at the venue in Ardmore – “An All-Star Tribute to the 30th Anniversary of Graceland, featuring Bakithi Kumalo.”

“Graceland” is the classic album released by Paul Simon in 1986 – an album that featured Simon’s appropriation of South African township music. Kumalo, who was born in Johannesburg’s Soweto Township, is a bassist, composer and vocalist. He has worked with artists such as Harry Belafonte, Herbie Hancock, Cyndi Lauper and Gloria Estefan and was the bass player on five of the 11 tracks on “Graceland.”

Recorded in the expansive Germantown live room Rittenhouse Soundworks and co-produced with Tom Spiker (Calvin Weston, Sun Ra Arkesta, G. Love), “Two Days on the Fence” features live studio performances with his rock steady Clubhouse Band ― Joseph Keim (drums), Shaun Hennessey (percussion), Elliot Garland (bass), Maxfield Gast (sax), Nate Graham (keyboards), and Christopher Farrell (guitar) ― and draws heavily on “Graceland” influences, as well as rhythm structures from South America and South Africa.

“We did the initial session a year ago for a few days at Rittenhouse Soundworks in Germantown with Jim Hamilton,” said Tennis, who grew up in Bryn Athyn in Bucks County. “The studio has phenomenal gear. It’s a huge room with a lot of analog gear. I also worked on the album with tom Spiker at his place in Fishtown.

“It’s a five-song EP and it definitely has a live feel. I’d call it folk-soul with Afro-Caribbean influences. It’s a world music take on the singer-songwriter sound.”

Tennis was a highly-acclaimed football player when he was younger. In recent years, his focus has been entirely on music.

“I’ve been making music for eight years,” said Tennis. “I’ve recorded three albums and two EPs. I’ve been chipping away and making music for a while with my band Ryan Tennis and the Clubhouse Band. I also perform as a solo artist with one percussionist. I’ve done six tours of Europe, four in Colombia and two in Argentina. Lately. ‘Graceland has been the main thing I’m working on.

“When I started to play, ‘Graceland’ influenced me a lot. I was raised with ‘Graceland.’ A few years back, I started to dive back into South African music. Mahlathini influenced me a lot.”

Mahlathini is Simon Nkabinde, a South African mbaqanga singer who passed away in 1999. Known as the “Lion of Soweto,” he was the leader and writer for Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens, an internationally-acclaimed mbaqanga group backed by the Makonga Tsohle Band. Mahlathini was a charismatic entertainer who performed in tribal garb and sang with a unique basso profundo voice.

“It’s joyous music and it was at the time of apartheid,” said Tennis. “I definitely incorporated it into our music. It really affected me a lot. I even based one of my songs on a Mahlathini groove.”

Video link for Ryan Tennis —  https://youtu.be/w9v5RInhdCs.

The show at MilkBoy, which also features West Powelton Drummers and Ginger Coyle, will start at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $15.

Dead Leaf Echo

There is no room for triskaidekaphobia for the band Dead Leaf Echo.

The Brooklyn-based “nouveau wave” quartet released its sophomore album “Beyond.Desire” on October 13 via PaperCup Music.

Dead Leaf Echo – LG (guitar, vocals, keyboards), Ana B (vocals, keyboards), Kevin K. (drums), Steve S. (bass) — celebrated the arrival of the album with a “Release Party” on October 13 at The Knitting Factory in Brooklyn.

On October 27, Dead Leaf Echo embarked on a 13-city tour in support of the new album – a tour that has its final stop on December 9 at PhilaMOCA (531 North 12th Street, Philadelphia, 267-519-9651, www.philamoca.org).

“We cut the record over the last couple years here in Brooklyn at a studio connected with the Mexican Summer label,” said LG, during a phone interview Monday from his home in Brooklyn. “We went in the studio in 2015 and started the basic tracking. We finished the single early and released it last year. Then, we finished the rest of the album over last winter. For over three years, we had been writing the songs. We were playing them on the road – on tours of Europe and the states.”

As a result, Dead Leaf Echo fans may have built a familiarity with many of the songs before the album ever came out.

“There’s a debate about playing unrecorded songs live,” said LG. “It’s a little more sensitive in the comedy world. In the music world, we have more flexibility. With a song, if someone has recorded it on their phone at a show, it’s just a different version. If there’s a live version out there, it doesn’t rally matter to us.

“The album came out on October 13 and we hit the road immediately. We’re playing every single song form the album but one. We’re also playing stuff from our first album. We have about 30 songs we can play in our live set. It keeps it interesting for us. We make the set list based on different things such as the length of the set and the vibe of the club.”

With “Beyond.Desire,” Dead Leaf Echo has elevated its dreamy rock sound.

“Beyond.Desire” once again finds the Brooklyn-based band exploring high-arching themes of maturation and growth beyond the basic needs of lust. Its tracks range from shimmering to scorching, operating as both pretty, blissed-out narratives and pure white-noise nihilism.

“‘Beyond.Desire’ is a little closer to our live show,” said LG. “Both albums are concept albums. The first one was a larger body of work. The new album was a conscious effort to put out a 40-minute-plus album. It’s a sophomore album and it shows our maturation.

“The current sign of the times politically is so inspiring. That was an influencing factor. We want to keep the integrity level of our music high. You need to hold art to a higher standard. The new album tales you on a journey.”

Video link for Dead Leaf Echo — https://youtu.be/grC0hGmH7i0.

The show at PhilaMOCA, which also features The Morelings, The Silence Kit, and Hidden Lights, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12.

If you want to see one of the hottest new punk bands in America and you fail to go to the show at Theatre of the Living Arts (334 South Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1011, http://www.lnphilly.com) on December 10, regrets are in store for you.

If you go to the quadruple-bill at the TLA Sunday night, The Regrettes are in store for you.

The Regrettes

The Regrettes are a punk rock band from Los Angeles led by frontwoman Lydia Night. They released their debut studio album, “Feel Your Feelings Fool!” on Warner Bros. Records in January 2017. Prior to the formation of the band, lead vocalist Night met guitarist, Genessa Gariano, and bassist, Sage Chavis, and drummer Maxx Morando in music school.

“We all went to music school together a couple years ago,” said Night, during a phone interview Tuesday morning from a tour stop in Rochester, New York. “Two years ago, we were playing in different bands. Three of them were in one band and I was in another.

“Our first gig together was in a warehouse place with all crazy lights. We started playing together and writing together came later. I had songs already written when we started. I had been taking guitar lessons since I was six years old.”

Writing songs that proudly bear a brazen and unabashed attitude in the vein of acts Courtney Barnett or Karen O — with a pop aesthetic reminiscent of 50’s and 60’s acts a la the Temptations or Buddy Holly — the L.A.-based four-piece creates infectious, punk-driven tracks. Night’s blunt attitude is reminiscent of Debbie Harry and Joan Jett — drawing listeners in to the band’s infectious and unapologetically honest punk-driven pop songs.

“Things happened really fast — relatively speaking,” said Night. “This one came together really quick. Managers found us and then a label quickly signed us.

“We did our first single – ‘A Living Human Girl’ – and then followed with our ‘Hey Now’ EP.

“We made the album in April 2016. We spent about four weeks in the studio. We recorded 16 songs, and had more we ended up not recording. I think that it’s really important and cool that we’re living in times like this. I just write about whatever is on my mind. The balance in the songs happens naturally.”

One of the most appealing facets of The Regrettes is their bashful, heart-on-your-sleeve temperament — writing urgent and fast-paced pop songs with a punk rock mentality.

“The album came out on January 13 and we’ve been touring on-and-off ever since then,” said Night. “I write in little bits and pieces on the road. When I get home, I put it all together.

“We like to road-test songs, so we’ll play a new song in our set now and then. On this tour, we have a 30-minutes set. Thirty minutes is enough. It’s a little teaser. With a 30-minute set, you just have to play all the bangers.”

Video link for The Regrettes – https://youtu.be/Iiqf2R462lo.

The all-ages show at TLA, which also features SWMRS, The Interrupters and Mt. Eddy, will start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $16.

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