Smallpools is supporting Misterwives Monday night at The Depot — playing a 40-minute set with more “down moments” than usual, according to Scanlon, but the band certainly hasn’t abandoned the melodic hooks that pushed it into the spotlight. Scanlon spoke with The Tribune recently about the changing state of releasing music, the pressure of trying to create “Dreaming: Part Two” and a new era in the band’s sound.
You guys just played in your backyard in L.A. How is the tour going and how have the new tunes been received so far?
Feeling good. A lot of friends came out, it was a fun night. It was probably like the seventh or eighth show on the tour, so it kind of feels like we’re settling into a groove. There’s some new songs that we’ve been playing for the first time on this tour and a new show that we put together. I think it takes a few shows to get the kinks out and figure out the smoothness of it, but I think I’m feeling good right now.
I’m actually pretty impressed with [the fans’] knowledge of [the EP]. I figured maybe people know us from the old stuff and if they come out, they might know a song or two from the new stuff. I’ll say to a crowd, “You guys got me feeling like a million bucks,” and they’ll all start cheering because they know “Million Bucks” is coming, so it’s like “Oh wow, they really know this song.” There’s a song “Passenger Side,” I think it came out second, I’ll say something like, “This song’s about driving from the wrong side of the car.” They link that it’s “Passenger Side” and I guess they’ve heard the song. The cheers are coming.
The initial stuff was like we’re all in a room jamming together. No one knew who we were. We’d all been in a bunch of bands before that failed and I don’t even know how to describe it. It might be our last chance at this band thing. There was a carefree, we-don’t-give-a-crap, no-one-knows-who-we-are-yet. We’re just having fun playing music and we just stumbled onto a sound that people started to care about. It was haphazard and fun. A lot of songs we write with a system in mind and there’s a method to them, but a lot of the initial stuff was all over the place. We did what we wanted, “Oh that sounds cool, let’s throw that in there.” No one knows who we are, we don’t care, we just want to write whatever we want to write. That’s still our mental state for the new stuff, but we kind of chilled out. The vacation phase of L.A. has gone away, we’ve been here like six years. … There’s a calmness to our whole lives. Maybe that kind of came through in the music.
Also, something that was cool with this stuff, since the initial stuff put us on the map in some way, super talented people that we wouldn’t have gotten the chance to write with or work with in the first batch of music, we got to write and work with this time. All five songs are a different producer.
When you were writing, did you feel that “calmness” from the outset or did it just emerge naturally? It seems like a departure from songs like “Admission to your Party” that have an outside perspective of trying to fit in in L.A.
I think your mood in general comes through in what you’re writing. The initial stuff, there’s so much excitement, so much naivety. Haphazard, still finding your place, but super fun and in your face. Six years in, we’re more just like chillin’, you know. I’ve been away for maybe like a year and a half writing too, so we’ve had a lot of different directional changes and mood swings. We were doing a lot of super alternative raw stuff and then we were like “we need a couple more songs that sound like this.” A few of the songs also would come from spur-of-the-moment, inspirational lightning bolts. I remember being in a room with friends just jamming and the lyrics to “Mother” started to come randomly. There wasn’t this focused, “let’s build this EP to sound like this because of this.” It was just a week would go by where we’d do nothing cool at all and then I’d be in the shower and just have a melody and we need to get this song done. I think these five songs were just the best that we had and the ones we were all inspired to finish and take to the finish line. They also happened to weave a cool theme and story and work together. I’m all about the happy accidents in music. I don’t shred on the guitar or piano or anything. We just hope for the best.
Did you feel a sense of growth or change that led to the mood on this album? How have things changed in the four years since “Dreaming” seemed to blow up so organically?
I never know. Growth or just random change. I love some of the old songs and “Dreaming” is the reason we still exist. It’s definitely the biggest song and it was the first one we did. The songs just change as life changes and moods change. I don’t love to say “growth” because it’s just life somewhere else at a different time. All of the atoms that collided in that day just made that song. The state of music is changing so rapidly. Back when we first released “Dreaming,” it came out on a blog and hit this hype machine. We had a label behind it. It just worked somehow. I don’t know how that happened or how things become huge out of nowhere. We released a song “Run With the Bulls” between the album and this new EP and we released it on our own. We were just kind of curious of how much clout we would have if we released something new after two years on our own. It’s hard, it’s not easy. Our fans like it, but it’s really hard to make a splash with all the noise going on in music. This EP, we got together with a label called Kobalt, they’re super awesome. We were a little more methodical with putting it out and trying to get it into people’s headphones. Now, the Spotify playlist is a thing. You’ve got to keep up with the times, it’s not easy.
You mentioned striking out on your own. How did leaving RCA affect this EP? Did you feel a sense of more control or freedom in making this set of songs?
I never really felt like I didn’t have creative control on RCA. As more songs came out or as we were writing more songs and showing the label, there was always that whisper: “Write ‘Dreaming’ part two, write ‘Dreaming’ part two.” You hear that and you’re like “OK, but ’Dreaming’ didn’t really work for you guys, so I don’t know why you’d want ’Dreaming’ part two.” There was always this slight internal battle with ourselves and a label to give them something they could do something with. When we leave them, there’s a new, reinvigorating energy to just take over the world again. Do what we want and we’ll do it awesome.”
This was a super lucky get here. When we first came out, we got really lucky with a lot of awesome tours like Neon Trees, Grouplove, Walk the Moon. All these massive, talented bands that we got to open for — learning a whole bunch of crap about how to play live and play a show — getting to play in front of all of their fans. When we did our headliners, we’re selling out these rooms and talking to these fans and they all said: “I saw you at this room with this band, I saw you here.” The touring was working more than I could have ever imagined. So since we’ve been away for so long, we needed to get back into new people’s presence. These rooms are huge rooms that are filled to the brim with fans that actually want to hear new music and discover things. That’s what we’re hoping to do. To get more people on board.
Smallpools Opening for MisterWives, with Vinyl Theatre.When • Monday, Oct. 9, 7:30 p.m.Where • The Depot, 400 W. South Temple, Salt Lake CityTickets • $29-$32; Smith’s Tix