Smallpools released their first song and played their first show in the summer of 2013, and within a few months were touring with bands like San Cisco, Two Door Cinema Club, Twenty One Pilots. Their explosion onto the indie/alternative scene saw them played on radio stations all year and even earned a spot on the FIFA 14 soundtrack with their hit, “Dreaming.” The band is made up of Sean Scanlon (lead vocals, synthesizer, keyboards, piano), Michael “Mike” Kamerman – (guitar, vocals), and Beau Kuther (drums, vocals). They have been opening for Misterwives for the past few weeks, and I sat down with Sean and Michael to talk about their success as a band, plans for the future, and Life cereal.
Ryan: So where did the name Smallpools come from? Any significance with the name?
Sean: It’s really random. We wanted an interesting two words to make one word so you don’t think about the two words anymore.
Mike: Yeah, something like Coldplay, or Green Day. Well Green Day is two words but the same idea. People still make jokes like “Ah Smallpools, where are the big pools?” and we’re like fuck that (laughs).
Sean: If they don’t mention the pools anymore, I think we’ve made it.
Ryan: What was the original vision when you guys put out the single “Dreaming”?
Mike: I think at that point we didn’t even have goals. We started the band kind of as a joke, we didn’t think it would ever work out and we just started jamming together. We had this friend who’s in the music industry and we showed him our song “Over & Over” and he was like “Hey this is pretty good.” People started taking interest in it. It was really weird because we had been playing in bands for like eight or nine years before and suddenly people started taking interest in songs that weren’t meant for anyone to hear. We made a joke that we just wanted to be able to play some shows on the weekend and play The Satellite which is like this 200 capacity room in LA, and we were like if we could play there, that would be the dream.
Sean: We still haven’t played there actually (laughs), so still haven’t accomplished our dreams. I remember going to a show there and smelling the beer and venue, and we knew we wanted to play there.
Ryan: How did you guys react to the almost immediate success and popularity you got just from a few songs?
Sean: It was insane. We’ve been in bands basically our whole lives, and all along people would just be like “Yeah keep writing, keep doing your thing,” but they never really meant it. At this point, when we actually wrote something that people like, everyone was like, “Okay we’re signing you,” and we didn’t know what to say.
Mike: It was so surreal. It’s funny because the song never really did what we wanted to do, but we were taking so many meetings and talking to so many people it just took off.
Ryan: What kind of influences and experiences went into writing your first album, Lovetap!
Sean: We kind of just went into a room and jammed, finding the coolest parts we could. It was just like someone playing some chord, I’d play something else, throw some weird fucking thing here; we didn’t really care about structure or anything. No one knew we existed at the time so we really had that nothing to lose mentality. I was finding cool syllables, sentences, whatever, and weaving in a story line. We could create anything we wanted.
Ryan: You guys started off opening for bands like Twenty One Pilots, Neon Trees, Two Door Cinema Club, what was that like getting that exposure so early?
Mike: It was so crazy because we really only had one or two songs, but we were suddenly plugged in. It was the weirdest thing ever.
Sean: We didn’t even go in with the mentality that we had to write songs so we could open for so-and-so. We wrote what we wanted and suddenly everyone cared about us.
Mike: I was working at Papa John’s and he [Sean] was valeting cars, and suddenly three months later we’re opening for twenty one pilots. It was like “Hey everything I’ve wanted to happen is suddenly happening!” (laughs). I remember touring with Grouplove and was talking with their drummer Ryan and was like “How the hell do you do this moment?” As someone from the audience I just didn’t know how this stuff happened. We were out with these incredible people, these creative forces, and we get to see them perform every night for months, which definitely helped us grow as a band.
Ryan: You guys went on a little “hibernation” earlier this year; was that time for writing or just relaxing?
Sean: We never really have time off. Every moment you’re having these thoughts, these ideas, something is happening in life that will influence you in some way.
Mike: That’s what he says, holding up a box of Life cereal (laughs).
Sean: Hey, I might write a song called ‘Eating Life During an Interview,’ I don’t know (laughs).
Ryan: I would absolutely love to see that happen.
Mike: No, but so much happened with us that we didn’t expect, it became this whole new sense of life. We went through our first stage of the band, stopped, and we’re like, “Are we ever going to do that stuff again?” We ended up parting ways with our label a year into the hibernation, we wrote a bunch of new songs, our bass player had a baby, it was a crazy time for everybody. We’re well rested and better than ever.
Ryan: Would you say your writing style has changed from Lovetap! to the new songs you’re putting out now?
Mike: I wouldn’t say our writing style change, but we as individuals have changed. As you grow and get to know each other more, life changes and your environment changes and you kind of just change.
Sean: Yeah it’s hard to point to one specific thing, it’s more gradual. You’re definitely not going to write the same song you wrote three years ago. You can’t explain it but you’re either more chill or more anxious, you have a different producer, or just different stuff going on that influences you.
Mike: It just happens and you don’t necessarily realize it. I could never put myself back in the position we were in when we wrote ‘Dreaming,’ or even when we decided to start the band.
Ryan: Do you have any plans to put out a new album or do you guys just kind of put out songs whenever you feel they’re ready?
Sean: We definitely have songs in the pipeline ready to go but no real master plan.
Mike: Yeah, the album thing we put out over the summer didn’t exactly do what we wanted it to do. We actually were thinking about pulling it because we weren’t sure if we wanted it released, but whatever. We have so many songs and we’re trying to figure out the best way to put them out.
Sean: We’re the band without a plan right now (laughs). Whether it be singles, or an EP or whatever we want the songs to get out in the best way possible.
Mike: There’s so many songs in our albums that I think are really good that just don’t get the attention we hoped for just because of track placement or other songs taking the attention. They’re songs that are important to us and we would love to talk about but people don’t necessarily know them. We like the smaller packages in EPs because listening to 5 songs is a lot less intimidating than 13 songs. We’re able to put together a more cohesive piece of music that are more likely to be listened to.
Ryan: To close it off, what’s one Smallpools fact that people don’t really know about the band?
Mike: I had no idea Sean loves Life cereal until this interview (laughs).
Sean: I don’t love it I’m just fucking hungry dude (laughs). I was going to say there is a different version of ‘Over & Over’ that we want to put out into the world but won’t. Mike thinks if we put it out when we were going to it would be the biggest song in the world.
Mike: Biggest song in the world, I can promise you that (laughs). We had this vision when we started as a band that we weren’t going to let anyone tell us how to make music and they couldn’t change us. So we showed some higher-ups the song and they were like “This is great! You should make these changes,” and we were like “Okay!” We changed the whole song. If you listened to it now you’d think the new one is better but at the time no one believed that we made that song. It was that cool. Then we fucked it up (laughs).
Sean: Mike’s one regret in life is not releasing that original version (laughs).
Mike: We’ve been dealing with the consequences ever since (laughs).