Doors at 7:00 pm
Show at 8:00 pm
1303 Northeast 45th Street
Seattle, WA 98105-4502
STG Presents Smallpools & Magic Man at the Neptune in Seattle on Monday, November 24, 2014.
The story of Smallpools is mostly a series of happy coincidences. Vocalist Sean Scanlon and guitarist Mike Kamerman met at SXSW in 2007 while both of them were playing in different bands. After forging a friendship based on a mutual love of music and a shared frustration of not seeing their respective bands actually take off, the two eventually decided to join forces and, ultimately, leave the East Coast behind. Moving to LA in 2011 (“We threw all of our stuff in a van and drove cross country from New Jersey,” says Kamerman), both musicians had no solid plan other than to try and make music and not starve to death in the process. “It just seemed like eventually something would have to happen,” recalls vocalist Sean Scanlon. As luck would have it, eventually something did. After randomly crossing paths with bassist and recent Portland transplant Joe Intile (who, in turn, would randomly cross paths with drummer Beau Kuther, himself recently uprooted from Portland and dropped in Los Angeles for work), the newly assembled band booked some studio time in Atlanta to bang out three songs that would ultimately serve as a template for their burgeoning sound, a first in a series of happy surprises for the band.
“The biggest surprise for me was the moment in which we realized that our friends were reacting favorably to the songs we were working on,” says Kamerman. “When we all got together and decided that we wanted to start playing music together, the real goal was to play a gig or two a month and just tap back into that creative sides of our brains again . Individually, we were all in similar places in life where we knew we wanted to play music but the reality of doing it for a living was looking grim. For me, the band and rehearsal and what not, was just meant to be this easy escape at night where I could go and play some music and forget about my day of waiting tables.”“We had a lot of random ideas when we started,” continues Kamerman, “But once we kind of hit on the sound, I think we all knew it. We grew up listening to the same stuff that our parents loved—Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Springsteen, Elton John—so the goal was always to push ourselves in writing what we thought were good songs. The actual sound of it just sort of came from this new world we suddenly found ourselves living in. After a year of really struggling in LA, the songs became the way out.”
Recorded with up-and-coming LA production team Captain Cuts, the tracks on the self-titled EP nicely encapsulate the kind of kaleidoscopic rock/pop explosion Smallpools is all about. “Dreaming” is a potent statement of intent—a propulsive synthsplosion that blends stadium-sized hooks with Scanlon’s euphoric vocals. When he sings the song’s titular lyric—“Please God tell me we’re dreaming!”—It’s easy to imagine a million summertime sing-alongs happening in unison. Elsewhere tracks like “Mason Jar” and “Over and Over” have the kind of guitar lines and buoyant choruses that would make any lover of classic FM radio exceedingly happy. Given that all four bandmembers are seasoned musicians, the pristine pop of Smallpools music is no accident. The airtight songs dip and soar at all the right moments thanks to the no bullshit indie-pop hooks that seem to be embedded in their DNA.
Right now things are moving quickly for Smallpools. After “Dreaming” was unleashed on the Internet, the band was happily shocked to see the song shoot to #1 on Hype Machine and rack up over 100k in streams (and a small avalanche of blog attention) less than seven days after the song was released. Just eight months after they first experimented with making music together, the foursome behind Smallpools found themselves signing a major record deal with RCA, abandoning their day jobs and preparing to hit the road—the novelty of which is not lost on any of them. It’s the kind of fantasy career trajectory that musicians often dream about but seldom get to experience, but according to the band, Smallpools is still very much involved in the uphill climb. Despite the obvious struggles of being in a new band, much of Smallpools’ appeal seems to lie in the inherent optimism that seems to be the core of their songs.
“It’s really great to hear people say that they think our music is “optimistic and uplifiting” but at the end of the day I really just want the listener to feel SOMETHING; anything at all really,” says Kamerman. “I really hope that people can take away whatever they need from our music when they make that conscious decision to put it on, whether it be a feeling of invicibility or vulnerability.
“It’s such a wild thing,” says vocalist Sean Scanlon. “I keep thinking about when a lot of these songs were being written. I was working as a valet at a very fancy building in Westwood. The building had a 3-bedroom, fully furnished, multi-million dollar model unit that was completely vacant with a grand piano. I was able to spend hours there throughout the night writing lyrics and playing as loud as I wanted, which I couldn't possibly do in my one-bedroom apartment that I was sharing with Mike. There were nights I would work till 11pm, go up to the model unit to write for a few hours, take a nap, and then come back downstairs for my 7am shift. Having that space available was a perfect getaway and vital to the songwriting. Once we signed a record deal I was able to quit the job, but I remain friends with most of the sta ff (all aspiring actors/musicians) and I still utilize the model unit to write songs.”
“These days, Smallpools is like a group of brothers with ADD working in their dad's factory on an assembly line,” explains Scanlon. “Everybody has their roll, but sometimes one will wander into another's department, to help or to frustrate. And every now and again everybody just stops production and plays a game of Street Fighter or gets lunch.”
“We’ve all done our time working on a million projects that didn’t make it,” confers drummer Beau Kuther. “And just when you start to think it’s time to maybe give up, suddenly everything you’ve been working for suddenly starts to come together. It’s kind of like falling in love, as soon as you stop trying so hard, then it happens. That’s basically the story of our band.”
“We had our expectations set so extremely low for success,” says Kamerman. “Success wasn’t even a thought actually. The objective was to challenge ourselves musically and have fun doing so. We were working these shitty jobs, struggling to pay rent and racking up debt on credit cards. We just wanted to be proud of something again and we knew we needed to be proud of the sounds we were creating. Sean and I had spent the majority of the first year in LA trying to figure out how to fit in. Once we realized how stupid that was of us, we were so mad at ourselves. We didn’t realize it at the time, but meeting Joe and Beau definitely saved our sanity. The energy in our rehearsal room was so exciting to us and we’re just extremely flattered that it was exciting to others out of the gate.”
Long before Axl Rose stepped off the bus and into the unknown in 1987’s “Welcome to the Jungle” video, hopeful musicians have made the pilgrimage to Los Angeles in hopes of making it big in the music business. Unfortunately for most, the journey to the City of Angels is often just a shortcut to heartbreak (and a career in the service industry), but for a select few this gamble can still apparently pay off. In the case of Smallpools—a band of L.A. transplants making sublime power pop—the gamble of running away to California and starting a band has just started to pay off serious dividends.
As for the future of Smallpools, everyone in the band agrees that they are in it to win it, with the expectation that the story of the band is one that is only just beginning to be written. My wildest fantasy for this band would just be for us to continue writing exciting music that we’re proud of for years and years to come,” says Kamerman. We are going to finish a full-length album and tour as much as we physically can,” confers Kuther, “I want create a community of Smallpools enthusiasts that will stick with us for a long time and make this band a career band. We are striving for longevity, not a quick success.”
SMALLPOOLS is: Sean Scanlon: vocals, keys Mike Kamerman: guitar Joe Intile: bass Beau Kuther: drums
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