After bursting onto the scene with their 4 song self-titled EP, Smallpools has toured to all corners of North America supporting Twenty One Pilots, WALK THE MOON, Neon Trees, Grouplove, and Two Door Cinema Club, as well as playing both Lollapalooza and Firefly Festival. The Los Angeles based indie pop group released their debut album, LOVETAP!, in 2015 and just this year the band co-wrote the song “Break Up Every Night” on The Chainsmokers’ debut album, ‘Memories… Do Not Open,’ which was released in April via Disrupter/Columbia Records.
Their latest single “Million Bucks” was released earlier this month. The single is the first off their forthcoming EP, THE SCIENCE OF LETTING GO, due out on August 4th, 2017. Along with the upcoming EP, the group is heading out on tour this fall to support MISTERWIVES on their “Connect the Dots” tour.
Icon Vs. Icon’s Dylan Lyles was lucky enough to chat with Michael Kamerman, the guy laying down those sweet grooves on the guitar. Throughout our discussion we talked the how the band came to be, the origin of the “Small Dogs”, and the upcoming EP/tour. You can pre-order the EP now on all digital retailers and pre-save on Spotify.
How did music first come into your life and when did you know you wanted to pursue it professionally?
Music first came into my life at a very young age. My uncle was a collector of all-things-music and also played the drums; whenever I’d go over to my grandparent’s house I’d hang with him and we’d listen to records & knock around on his drum set. I don’t really remember this, but it’s been said that at the age of three or four, I could pick out any record from his collection of thousands. “Led Zeppelin IV? no problem, here ya go”. As for pursuing music professionally, I don’t think it was ever a conscious decision. I had always played in bands and it was the only thing I was moderately good at. When most others started going to college or getting real jobs, I just kept playing.
How did you guys get your start in the industry?
It was a very long, gradual process. I had played in a band in high school and over the course of those 4 years we kind of worked our way up the ranks of playing friend’s garages and talent shows to some battle of the bands at real clubs to eventually being the local opener to the good shows at those clubs. At that time, you had to sell tickets to get on the big shows and we would go around and sell tickets at school and the mall. We eventually became one of the go-to bands in the area and started booking out of state weekend gigs, which eventually led to self-booked tours. Basically, I just kept trying to expand my circle to different cities and states and as I met new musicians and got more experienced, the bands I played with gradually got better and we started to meet people at various DIY/indie labels.
What brought you guys together as a band?
Sean and I became friends while we were playing with other groups, and once they dissolved we started jamming together out on the east coast. In search of some new inspiration we trekked out to Los Angeles where we met our bass player, Joseph. He introduced us to Beau and BOOM…the band was formed!
What can you tell us about the process of finding your creative voice as a band?
We wrote the songs off of our first EP (and some of the album) while we were all becoming acquainted musically and personally. I think we were all very inspired and motivated by each other. We were all scraping by financially and working day jobs. At the time, the music really was our only real escape and we didn’t take our time together for granted. We were definitely on a creative high during those first few months.
What are some of your personal influences and what influenced your sound as a whole?
My influences are ever evolving but some of my all time favorites are Tears for Fears, Fleetwood Mac, The Police, U2 and Bruce Springsteen. When we first got started, the LA music scene was super exciting. There were a ton of free shows in the Silverlake/Hollywood areas and a ton of bands and a ton of hungry, music lovers; the shows were always packed. I think we were all very inspired by the “indie” movement that was happening at the time and were also very anxious to attempt to make our mark on it. LA based bands such as Grouplove and Foster the People were really starting to see success, it was a super fun time to be out here.
You guys have sort of a tour tradition that includes two small plastic dogs that are simply known as the “Small Dogs”, what is the story behind this?
Sean had won the OG “small dog” which was a porcelain grey hound at an event called Hip Hop Bingo. We didn’t have time to drop the dog back at the apartment before continuing our night so the dog came along as we hopped between bars. The dog became very popular wherever we went, it was almost as if we were walking around with a newborn baby. We took that as a sign of good luck and we started bringing the dog to the studio with us and then to our first show and then on our first tour. It just kind of became “our” thing and it’s gotten out of hand.
After an EP and multiple radio appearances you guys released your first full length album, LOVETAP! In 2015. After numerous years in the music industry, describe the feeling you guys shared as a band as you shared this artistic work with the world.
We were working on the album for a long time and had a lot of birds chirping in our collective ear with a lot of expectations. There were a lot of hoops to jump through and a lot of inner label politics to go along with it. We finished the album about 8 months before it was released, so by the time it saw daylight, I think we were all just relieved to have it out there. Don’t get me wrong, we still like the album but we definitely had too much time to reflect on it in the interim period.
Around the same time, Joseph Intile left the band. Was there any thought to find a replacement member or did you guys immediately decide to just continue as a three piece?
He actually “left” the band a little later but he currently has still been playing most shows with us. He has a family now and would rather not tour but he’s still quasi involved with the band. He still likes playing our one-off shows and Beau’s brother, Kelsey, is going to jam this fall on the tour with Misterwives. I don’t see any need to ever fully replace him and ultimately, we’ve been really enjoying writing and operating as a three piece. We will probably continue to roll in that direction for the foreseeable future.
You guys just released your first single, “Million Bucks,” from your upcoming EP. What’s the story behind this track? How did it come to fruition?
We did! It’s a song about finding unexpected happiness in a place where you least expected it. We actually started working on this song about two years ago with our friend, Printz Board. He’s an awesome songwriter and a master of the trumpet. The song lingered in demo-land for a while but as time passed, we kept finding ourselves going back to it. We re-opened the idea with another friend of ours, Dylan Bauld of the band Flor. We are fans of his production & band and we thought that collaborating together could breath some new life into the song.
The new EP, “The Science of Letting Go” releases on August 4th. What can we expect in terms of sound? Will the songs be similar to that of a lead single? Can we expect a few switch ups?
I think each song on the EP is very different. We’ve been working on new tunes for almost two years now and the five songs on this EP just happen to be the songs we felt like sharing first. We dug into some unexplored SP territory and I think this will be our most diverse offering to date. It’s still cohesive but you’re not going to hear the same song twice.
What can you tell us about the songwriting process for your music?
The process is always different. Sometimes the spark will come in the form of a melody, sometimes it’ll be a riff on the guitar and other times it’ll all start with a simple phrase.
Heading into the fall, you guys are going on tour with Misterwives, a band killing it in the alternative scene right now. What are some of the band’s goals going into this tour?
We haven’t toured in almost two years! We’re super excited to get back out there with such a great group of people. Our main goals are to get our music to people who may not have necessarily heard of us or seen us play before and to have some fun in the process.
What can we expect in terms of setlist? A mixture of new and old tracks or a full concentration on the new EP?
Definitely a mixture of new and old. A “best of” set if you will.
With the EP coming out in August and the Misterwives tour in September, so you guys have a pretty full plate. That being said, what can we expect from Smallpools in the distant future?
More music and more tours is the goal.
When you look back it all you have done so far, what stands out as your creative milestones?
The discovery of our initial sound was definitely a lucky occurrence and a creative milestone for us. There’s an old version of our song “Over & Over” with a different chord progression and more emphasis on the guitar riff. That version of the song was the gateway to what our initial sound would eventually become. We knew that we had something special with that one and kind of used that song as a template to write a few others.
What are the biggest challenges you face as an independent artist?
Money. We don’t have the big major label bank to play with anymore but even when you’re on a major, those funds eventually run dry. I feel like a lot of struggling artists can make decisions or head in directions musically out of desperation because they think it’ll make them money. It can sometimes be a challenge to stay true to yourself and retain sanity in times of dwindling digits in the bank account. A lot of artists on majors face these problems also though so it’s not just an independent thing. The cool aspect about being independent is that you have much more control over the moves you make. We’re also lucky to still have a team of brilliant, creative people helping us and working our corner. So far, we’ve been enjoying the “independent” life!
Where are the best places for us to following you continuing adventures online?
The Phenomenal Dylan Lyles is an obsessive fan of cinema, pro wrestling, horror, vinyl, and comic books. Bursting from the womb in 1992, Dylan’s surrounded himself with all things geek culture. Earliest memories include Wrestlemania 11, ‘The Death of Superman,’ and Jason Voorhees emerging from the waters of Camp Crystal Lake. You may see him sharing his opinion on just about everything on the internet or maybe even working the crowds at pop culture events up and down the east coast. You love him and he loves you!