An incredibly sensational feeling of catharsis emanates off Smallpools’ “Million Bucks.” Released today, 6/9/2017, the brand new single from the California four-piece is bright and summery, overflowing with a euphoric warmth that heralds an intimate new chapter for the LOVETAP! band.
I’ve got all my money on you
and though my dollars are few
I feel like a million bucks
and I give no fucks when i’m with you
Listen: “Million Bucks” – Smallpools
Atwood Magazine is excited to feature “Million Bucks,” a passionate and dynamic anthem about finding your comfort zone in a strange place. It’s a song and situation to which we can all instantly relate: Who hasn’t been the new person, at one point in time? It’s more than uncomfortable: It’s scary! For Smallpools, that metaphor comes in the form of frontman Sean Scanlon’s memories of moving to Los Angeles:
some people say there’s nothing really real here
they paint it like a sun without a soul
so i thought i could love nothing but the breeze here
but i fell hard for what just blew in off the coast
the state I’m in right now
salt drips from her brow
no more days without
makes me feel so right
I can do no wrong
we’ll keep going strong
It’s almost comical, how quickly we can catch on to the LA reference. Scanlon echoes similar sentiments made by fellow Valley-based band Cold War Kids not too long ago on their new album, L.A. Divine – that maybe Los Angeles isn’t that bad, after all! There’s a lot to love here, if you let your guard down and just look for it!
That realization – to push beyond the doubt, and into a better state of mind – seems to mirror Smallpools’ story, as well. Consisting of Sean Scanlon (vocals), Mike Kamerman (guitar), Joe Intile (bass), and Beau Kuther (drums), Smallpools splashed into the music world in mid-2013 with their debut single “Dreaming,” which skyrocketed to No. 1 on trendsetter the Hype Machine‘s popular music chart. Signed to legendary major label RCA Records, the band released a rip-roaring 4-track EP, followed by their debut album LOVETAP! two years later (Atwood Magazine described it as a “solid forty-five minutes of infectiously high-energy, party-ready synth and guitar-driven songs that blur the lines between alternative and pop music”). They toured the country extensively for the better part of 2014 and 2015, eventually retreating home to California, where they spent the majority of 2016.
“It definitely does feel like starting over,” Sean Scanlon told Atwood Magazine yesterday. “I do feel like a new band, in a new time.” Smallpools took the year off to resituate themselves and live life. Joe Intile had a baby. They parted ways with their major label – “we’re self-sustaining,” Scanlon shrugs. “We didn’t need that big juggernaut system again.”
They also found inspiration from new places. The five songs off The Science of Letting Go, out August 4, ring with confidence and authenticity. “I would think of a situation, or something I was feeling or some relationship thing I was dealing with, and I would have a concept and a sentence, and I would put a melody to that,” explains Scanlon. Smallpools let the songs come naturally, an approach that lends lead single “Million Bucks” an indisputable relatability and honesty.
I used to be a skeptic non-believer
but now it’s changed
you’re worth your weight in gold
the richest love aint growing on the trees out here
but confidently i can say i’m sold
the ceiling’s just the start
reaching for a star
a bullseye from a dart
the ceiling’s just the start
Beneath the vibrant melodies and infectious singing lies a song rich with purpose and a band consciously growing into their future selves. Welcome back, Smallpools; you sound better than ever, and you feel like a million bucks.
Dive into Smallpools, “Million Bucks” and The Science of Letting Go through our exclusive interview with Sean Scanlon below. Pre-order the new EP here.
A CONVERSATION WITH SMALLPOOLS
Atwood Magazine: Hi Sean, thanks for your time! I think we last spoke about two years ago, while Smallpools were on tour. It's been a while since I've heard from you guys.
Smallpools: Yeah, we’ve been kind of off the radar trying to put together this next chapter, and I guess it’s coming!
You have a new EP coming out, called The Science of Letting Go. Where does that name come from?
Smallpools: I think a lot of the songs on here are kind of about… well, it’s actually a lyric in one of our songs. It’s a song about feeling like life is just coasting, and you’re not really feeling inspired, so you put yourself in a position to get hurt and to feel things again, so that you can feel alive and reinspired to make stuff. In that song, you have to deal with the pain and then learn to just let go, because it’s not working out for you. A lot of times, it’s a hard thing to do – people latch onto things because they’re either used to it, or they can’t let it go – even if it’s a toxic thing – but sometimes, if it’s not giving positive value to your life, you have to suck it up and say goodbye.
What is the narrative Smallpools is creating with this new chapter?
Smallpools: It definitely does feel like a starting over. I do feel like a new band, in a new time. It’s also a very different vibe and music. I didn’t really know what I was doing when we first came out, but it was like the Hype Machine, and… I don’t know, it was a different time! I feel like we stumbled onto some good songs, and the world took notice, and we toured a bunch and climbed some rungs on the ladder, and now we’re… I guess it didn’t get to the massive success that one would “want,” but that’s not expected on album one, so now we have to do it again!
I feel like we stumbled onto some good songs, and the world took notice.
Every band has a story; what part of your story is this?
Smallpools: I think it’s just the next chapter; we’re seasoned vets in the touring world, and… We’ve taken a lot of time off and written with a lot of different producers – a lot of different people – and we came across a lot of different songs. I think we had to sift through a lot of moods and feelings and lyrics and guitar licks, and these are five of the best that I think tell a good story. They have some freshness to them, but also stick with the motif of our original upbeat stuff. We’re trying to keep climbing and get back out there with some music that I think will speak to peoples’ heartstrings, hopefully.
What's it like being a newly independent band?
Smallpools: I think the label days put us on the map. Now, we’re self-sustaining. We didn’t need that big juggernaut system again; we’re chilling at a level, and we hope that this brings us to the next one, but it’s way less pressure, and we have more control. It’s just easier.
What is it about these five songs on your new EP that brings them together?
Smallpools: There definitely is a vibe to them… It’s almost like, a couple years of someone’s life, where you’ve had ups and downs, and it’s one story through them: There’s good, there’s bad, there’s fun… There’s naïvety at first, and then there’s gaining something great, and then there’s needing to get rid of some of the shit that’s not working. You kind of come out of the tunnel at the end, and you’re like, Ok! – and that’s where the EP ends! And you go on to the next one…
Reminds me of the Hero's Journey.
Smallpools: I would say that’s pretty accurate!
This music is very different from Smallpools' previous material. Can you tell me how the current sound developed?
Smallpools: I never really have a calculated approach to the sound; it’s lightning-inspired kind of moments. A lot of these songs actually, contrasting to the EP stuff, is that I think the EP, lyrically and melodically, was not haphazard, but kind of quirky. We’d come up with a lot of the melodies first, and a lot of keywords that we thought were fun, and we’d try to incorporate into the story. I’d kind of mumble stuff, “da da da, surrender!” So “surrender” would have to be a word in there, and then we’d just concoct storylines.
I see the place that we belong together
Like we were something more
And it felt like maybe we could last forever
But you led them to our hideout
Forced their way inside now
They want us to surrender, us to surrender
But I could go all night
Right here between their crossfire
We’ll send them up a message,
I’ll send a message saying
Give it up give it up
– “Dreaming,” Smallpools
[With The Science of Letting Go,] a lot of these songs were concept-based first. I would think of a situation, or something I was feeling or some relationship thing I was dealing with, and I would have a concept and a sentence, and I would put a melody to that. Like, I’ve got a situation, and I’m gonna write straight-up sentences about what this is, and put them to melody. And I think that made songs that are easier to relate to. You will find yourself hearing the words, and be like, “Oh, I get that! I’ve totally been there,” or like, “That’s definitely something I’ve felt before.”
I feel like a million bucks, and I give no fucks when I'm with you.
There's a lot less immediate production in your new music. The guitar is more present, and the synth isn't hitting us in the face.
Smallpools: I was talking to some people yesterday, and they were saying how the kind of production-heavy stuff was really taking over for a while, but it seems to be running its course. Still, that great song – if you can strip it down to a guitar and melody – those are still sitting at the top: Damn good songs that don’t rely on the drop to take a mediocre song to the next level. I think we’re always going to stick to that methodology, of trying to put the right melody with the right lyric and get the right feeling across. I don’t want to learn all that production crap, just for it to be a fad and go away; I’m going to hone in the craft that I know. I don’t have enough time in this life.
When we last spoke, some things you said made me feel like Smallpools had been chasing this dragon, kind of like trying to remake what “Dreaming” did, every time. It really does feel like you've broken free of that cycle.
Smallpools: I think we probably did, because a lot of times when we were writing the stuff, there was always the chatter in your ear – that you tried to not listen to – that was somebody saying, “Give me “Dreaming Pt.2”, give me “Dreaming Pt.2”!” And we were like, “No! Leave us alone!” You really couldn’t escape that, and there was a lot of pressure to have that kind of success again.
This time, we wrote a lot of songs and had nobody telling us anything that they wanted or needed. It was a free reign kind of thing: Any given day, the inspiration for one of these songs would hit, and we would find a producer who we wanted to work with and do it the way we wanted to do it. That’ll definitely show through on this batch of songs.
Why debut with this song “Million Bucks”?
Smallpools: As I would listen to the songs on the EP, this one felt the most immediate and exciting. It definitely still had some “Dreaming” elements to it, where some of the old fans who may have been a little weirded out by “Run with the Bulls” (even though we loved it) could kind of recalibrate here and be like, “Okay, Smallpools are still around.” But I don’t know, it really could have been any one; I’m a fan of all the stuff, but the group consensus was that this feels like the most exciting!
Listening to the verses, the first thing that comes to my mind is Los Angeles.
Smallpools: Yeah, it was definitely inspired by that. When I first moved here, I would always hear that the weather was great, but all the people were so fake. So I kept my guard up, but I definitely found something real here; I’ve been here for six years, and it can be anything – people, music; whatever you find that’s real to you in an unexpected place. I think that’s what feeling like a million bucks represents in that song.
Also, I never really got that LA experience! I thought everyone was always nice, talkative and helpful. I also had my own little crew here that I moved out with, so I thought LA got a bad rap, based on my experience.
But the song isn't about LA; it's about finding your comfort zone in a strange place.
Smallpools: Yeah, we had some beach metaphors in there, and we kept with the money theme, but anyone can put it to their own thing: Finding something genuine and real in a place you didn’t expect, or you were told that you couldn’t.
Finding something genuine and real in a place you didn’t expect, or you were told that you couldn’t.
There's purpose behind it.
Smallpools: There is; yeah, it’s that is definitely a theme to the EP. It’s not just the best melodies with the best-sounding lines; every song definitely has a “this is what I’m telling you, and here’s what I’ve been going through.”
Does that speak to Smallpools' growth as well?
Smallpools: It could be! I feel like some of these songs definitely came, and it felt new and exciting. I had never felt this kind of confidence in a concept and the way we put it together. I don’t know; I can’t tell you exactly, but it definitely felt more mature, and more quality.
I'm excited about Smallpools' upcoming tour with MisterWives and Vinyl Theater this fall.
Smallpools: That was a huge pickup for us, because we definitely needed to start playing in front of new people again. It’s been a while since we’ve been out on the road, so this was the perfect look and tour for us, to be in those rooms – it’s gonna be great!
Can we expect more inflatable killer whales?
Smallpools: Probably! (laughs) I think they’ll still be flying around.
— — — —
cover © Smallpools