If Sinnet (it’s “tennis” backwards, y’all) is hard to squeeze into a neat descriptive corner, that’s largely by design. Not just because the Boston collaborative’s music swings into soul out past pop and through various subgenres, but also as a result of its evolved composition. First formed by Aaron Spransy on a laptop, Sinnet has since come to encompass members of the Fatal Flaw, Mount Peru, Wolfblitzer, and Soft Pyramids, among other bands.
With a new album, Tennis Elbow Club, that was recorded by Elio Deluca at the Soul Shop in Medford dropping this week and an upcoming release party at Great Scott, I lobbed some questions at Spransy about what he calls Sinnet’s “most personal, textured, and nuanced recording to date,” a celebration of their “love of songwriters like Paul Simon and Elliott Smith with the rhythm and swagger of bands like Booker T & the MGs and Spoon.”
Tell us everything we need to know about this album cover. Don’t leave anything out.
The cover started as a funny idea for the release show poster. It references one of my favorite Charles Mingus records. I had that record up on my stereo and the idea occurred to me. At first I had John McEnroe on it but, it looked kinda dumb. So, instead I put my own face on it. I’m not one to put my own face on things, but I thought it was kinda fun and a little ridiculous. Did you notice that instead of bricks there are little tennis courts in the background? How clever.
Who plays tennis in a blazer? Are you sure you didn’t mean to make a golf album?
That’s fair. Although green is pretty “tennis” color, right? Really what happened was I went to Goodwill looking for clothes for an Encino Man costume. I came across an awesome/ridiculous green blazer that fit me way too perfectly. So, I bought it and wore it at a couple shows. Several of the songs on the EP mention tennis elbow so it seemed fitting. One of them is called “Tenez!” which is a French term, which is the origin of the word tennis. The song is about how my mom sent us to tennis lessons during the summer to keep us off the street.
We really dig the song “Part of Yourself.” It’s got some nice kick and an appropriate helping of corporate skepticism. Sadly, I see that the “funky studio in an old mill building” in New Hampshire where it was recorded no longer exists. We talking arson or gentrification?
That is a fun one to play live. The fake ending often catches the crowd off guard, which I find amusing. Re: corporate skepticism—that’s pretty true of the middle section of the song. I’ve had my share of creative jobs that involved sitting in a cubicle, which just isn’t ideal.
Sadly, I think the old mill was victim to gentrification. I think they turned it into condos (gasp!). It was a cool, slightly unconventional space to record in. Basically, just a giant open wooden room. I’m such a sucker for room sounds, that place had plenty of that. Oh, and they had a sick collection of vintage synths. We went to town on a song called “Cavernosa” with those.
What’s the ideal recording setting for the band? What was the experience like at the Soul Shop in Medford for this latest one?
For me it’s a combo of having a fun, enjoyable, comfortable vibe while keeping an attention to detail and getting a lot done. Oh, and also it should sound super awesome.
Working at Soul Shop was rad. Elio is the jam! Also, it’s right near my house. Elio brings a seriously deep knowledge of recording to the table, not to mention plenty of hilarious ’90s hip-hop references. So you know it’s gonna sound dope and you’re gonna yuck it up a lot too.
Will the tennis whites be coming out for shows? What’s the set going to look like?
Hmm … I probably wear that ridiculous green blazer again. I am really excited about the mix of bands on the bill, it’s pretty eclectic. The Macrotones, if you don’t know them already, are an awesome Afrobeat band. Great horns, just really awesome stuff. Helenor put out their debut record this year; they caught my attention playing with some friend’s bands. Unique and introspective indie-leaning tunes plus some great design on their flyers and album art. We’re gonna play … all the songs from our new EP as well as few Sinnet classics. We’ve been around long enough to have “classics,” right?
Also, it’s Thanksgiving Eve, so hopefully it be family—or avoiding your family affair. Seems like a good way to prep for the holiday.
TENNIS ELBOW RELEASE SHOW W/ THE MACROTONES AND HELENOR. WED 11.27. GREAT SCOTT, 1222 COMM. AVE., ALLSTON. MORE DATES AND MUSIC AT SINNET.BANDCAMP.COM.
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.