Smallpools sold out the Troubadour on last Friday night. Yet as a group, the members have only four completed songs, and it’s been merely five months since their first live performance. We chatted with frontman Sean Scanlon the night before the show, so he could tell us their secret to such quick success.
LAC: Your live debut was Jan 13th, and five months later you’ve sold out one of the most iconic LA venues. Tell me about your ride.
Sean: It’s awesome. We first launched our first track, Dreaming, in May, and it’s just really crazy how great the response was and how quickly the song spread on the Internet. We’ve been offered great tours with these bands. It’s only been, what, eight months of band life, and we’ve already done a career’s worth of stuff.
LAC: What’s the group dynamic?
Sean: A lot of the ideas are inspired in a room when we’re all together. Anybody can start an idea—it can be Beau just playing a random drumbeat over Mike’s leads and I’ll come in with some chords or something. We’ll spend hours and hours in a room to just be really tight with our filter, and we’ll only pursue things as songs if we really, really like it. We could spend a whole day in the studio, and the last ten minutes have one part that we like. So we’ll record it and come back the next day and work on it some more. Everyone gets involved. We try and flesh out the skeleton—the song with some chords and melodies—and then it’s all on me to write the lyrics.
LAC: You all met in LA, but none of you are from here. So where’s home base?
Sean: Well I had known Mike (Kamerman, lead guitar) for a year, and we had been writing together in our hometown—he lived in New Jersey and I lived in New York—and we both moved to LA together. We live together; we’re roommates, and we met Beau (Kuther) and Joe (Intile) our drummer and bass player, here through some musical friends. We’ve been here close to three years now; we got crappy jobs and lived in apartments, and made a life out here even before the band had started. So we came out to LA to do music, kind of got suck into the grind of getting your feet grounded in LA, and then finally said “Enough is enough. We’re finally going to do this for real.” So yes, LA is definitely the hub of Smallpools.
LAC: How have previous projects made you prepared for what you’re doing now?
Sean: I’ve been doing music forever, in a ton of different projects, and I feel like those were not failures, but practice I guess, the working. They say 10,000 hours makes you an expert of something, and I’ve put in a lot of hours in a band and with the songwriting. All the guys in the band are kind of in the same situation; we all met at some dark times in our musical lives, and we’re all very lucky that this is the one that’s doing something for us. Even though it happened so quickly in the Smallpools world, it is something that we’ve all been working at for a really long time, so it’s really rewarding that it’s been successful thus far.
LAC: Have things slowed down or are they just getting started?
Sean: We’re heading out with Grouplove in a few months, but yeah, the Troubadour show is kind of the bookend of our touring for this year. I think we’ve toured as much as we possibly could on these four songs, so we have to hole up in the studio and get out some more jams to everybody.
LAC: That being said, you only have 4 songs released—about 13 minutes. How do you fill the time for a headlining gig?
That’s a great question; tomorrow is a headlining show. I think we’ll treat it as pretty laid-back. We’re going to play some new ideas and new songs. And we’ll definitely play the entire EP. We’ve got just one cover song.
LAC: What’s the cover?
Sean: It’s a New Radicals song, it’s called You Get What You Give. It’s a good one. When Mike and I first moved to LA, we’d drink a lot and go out to karaoke and sing that song together. It got a really great crowd reaction, because everybody knows the song, but they kind of forgot that it existed. So once it starts playing, they’re like “Oh crap, I know that song,” so we thought we’d play it live.
LAC: And as you’re still making a name for yourself, what do you want Smallpools to be seen as?
Sean: I think I would like Smallpools to just be known as “those guys who just know how to write a quality song that I want to listen to and tell a friend about.” We don’t need a lot of gimmicks or craziness, we’re just four dudes that take a lot of time to write really good songs and perform them, have fun, and then meet everybody—just a lighthearted experience.
At 9 p.m. on Tuesday, the only sign that Danny Bobbe, Jon Perry, Greg Katz, and Harlow Rodriguez—more commonly known as LA Font—would soon be onstage is Bobbe restringing his guitar. They’re in the green room of The Echo, waiting to play their album-release show, drinking a PBR. The past year has been spent creating eleven tracks for Diving Man, their sophomore LP, released Nov. 19. Now, to commemorate its finish, LA Font took over The Echo, disco balls and gold-jumpsuit-clad dancers in tow. But before they hit the stage, we got used to their dry sense of humor while discussing their views on their music, each other, and Justin Bieber.
LA CANVAS: Tell me about the new LP. What separates it from your first, The American Leagues?
GK: We tried harder. That’s definitely true. That’s the most succinct way I can put it.
DB: We tried like ten times harder. We didn’t have any Internet content when we started off as a band, so we wanted some YouTube videos. So we went to a studio with some videographers to create some YouTube videos. And it was all low-lit and all the footage came out really, really crappy, and we didn’t want to use any of it. But the tracks we recorded—all eleven of them—they were okay. So we made our first record and it turned out okay. But the new record, we had four days, so it was four times as good.
JP: Well and there was a decent amount of prep with a good producer.
GK: Yeah, Eric (Palmquist) is the dude. Without Eric, it would have sounded the same as the first one.
LAC: And what’s the group dynamic as you’re writing?
DB: Well I’m leader, and I don’t really care about anyone else. I’m captain, and CEO, and Chairman of the Board. I’m VP too. I’m Sarah Palin and Rob Ford and Justin Bieber and Rihanna.
GK: It’s an honor to be playing with Justin Bieber. With his rippling abs, his incredible songwriting talent, his…pants. Also his very brotherly relationship with Usher.
LAC: I’ve been listening to Diving Man, and I heard that it’s autobiographical. It’s quite the sad song. I like it, but how’s life going?
DB: Ha. Things are going pretty well now. You know, life has its ups and downs, but you caught me at a bad moment. But, overall things are cool, and we love it out here.
LAC: So how’d you decide to create this show to celebrate the release of the LP?
DB: It’s definitely a home court advantage, playing at The Echo. It’s the best venue, the best neighborhood that we all associate ourselves with. We also have our practice space around here.
LAC: Got any pre-show rituals?
DB: Well right now I’m changing these stings. You’re not supposed to change them at the last minute, but if it’s between having your guitar go a little flat or breaking a string, we’re gambling on the guitar going a little flat. But no, the real ritual is making Greg write out four set lists, one for each member of the band.
GK: I look forward to it. This one got custom art.
JP: I see that. I like what you did with Fine Lines. It’s a cocaine nose job. That’s clever.