Los Angeles synthpop quartet Smallpools may have just formed last year and made a dent in music world in 2014, but singer Sean Scanlon is already planning ahead.
“I have a couple of country songs in my pocket right now that would not work for me, but it would be fun later on, after we’re established, to dish those ideas out to other people,” said Scanlon, whose band headlines two sold-out nights at The Independent this week. “I’m glad this worked out. But you can parlay it with writing for other people, too, if you’ve got a song that’s just not for you. Maybe that’s a future get.”
The sheer fact that Smallpools is on a headlining tour may seem odd, because the band currently has one four-song EP to its name. Scanlon, guitarist Mike Kamerman, drummer Beau Kuther and bassist Joe Intile didn’t even come together to record a song until last year.
Scanlon and Kamerman, friends from New York and New Jersey, moved to Los Angeles a few years ago. On the East Coast, the two tried making music but fell into a stale rut living in their parents’ homes. Believing a change of scenery and mood would provide an inspiration, the two followed Scanlon’s longtime buddy who got a job at Warner Bros. Records.
“We figured he’d be right there on the inside of the label world, and maybe could give us intel about what’s happening or what labels want,” Scanlon said. “Maybe we could be writers and submit music for their artists.”
Hence, writing for other artists, or writing country songs, was not out of the question.
In L.A., Scanlon and Kamerman looked for gigs, and sometimes played in a backing band for Scanlon’s cousin, a singer-songwriter. Intile was also in that band. He had recently moved south from Portland. When they finally decided to start a band, he was their first call. And in turn, Intile called Kuther, another native Oregonian who’d just relocated to Los Angeles.
The quartet went to work on writing some songs, but couldn’t come up with a winning formula or write anything that struck a chord with all four until they booked studio time in Atlanta with production trio Captain Cuts, which includes Grouplove drummer Ryan Rabin (who’s also worked with WATERS, Tove Lo, Walk The Moon, and Tegan And Sara). One of the songs they recorded was “Dreaming,” which charted at No. 1 on the Hype Machine and led to a self-titled EP on RCA Records in July 2013.
And they began to tour. As an opening band, touring with only four publically available songs wasn’t too difficult. As a headliner? Well, luckily their debut album is nearly done, with a January or February release, and Smallpools are now playing more of their new songs live.
“It was a difficult task. We definitely try and space out the material that’s in the world, as opposed to the songs that aren’t, to keep people interested,” Scanlon said. “Obviously, it’s more fun to sing along to a song rather than hear a bunch of new songs in a row. We try to make the new songs engaging.”
Fans of the band, who have already started singing along to the new songs at shows, should be pleased to know the band didn’t make any drastic departure from the EP for the upcoming album. Fun and danceable tunes abound.
“There’s definitely not a cohesive running theme,” Scanlon said. “The way we write is we treat every song like its own little world, and keep the production, lyrics and story to that song. I mean, it’s a singles world nowadays, anyway.”
Making the album presented some new challenges to Smallpools, and while they still haven’t nailed down a formula that works all of the time, Scanlon said it’s just a sign of rapid growth. From writing their original songs, to writing an entire album, “bashing our heads against the wall, trying to figure out ideas,” to arranging a live set, they have been thinking on their feet for a while.
“There’s constantly some kind of new obstacle to take on,” he said. “But I think we’re doing OK so far.”
And in the future, there’s always the possibility of some country songwriting on side, such as a tune Scanlon wrote about a man whose first date with a woman was magic, but all electricity is lost on their second encounter, driving the man crazy to find out why.
The song is surprisingly free of any dogs or trucks.
“Well, I’ll throw some in there for pizzazz,” he said.
Smallpools, Magic Man, Panama Wedding
November 20 and 21, 2014
8pm (11/20), 9pm (11/21), $20