Interview: Sean Scanlon of Smallpools


Recently I was able to schedule a Zoom call with Sean Scanlon, the lead vocalist/keyboardist of Alt Rock band, Smallpools, to discuss everything that went into their great new single called “Night Shift.” In this interview, I asked Sean about how the band typically does most of their writing, his favorite songs in Smallpools’ discography, as well as the upcoming touring plans. Smallpools will be touring the U.S. with Grayscale starting this April and tickets are currently on sale.

Thank you so much for your time this evening, Sean. Let’s first chat about your brand new single called “Night Shift.” What went into the writing and recording process of this vibey track?

For the recording process we brought in, I say brought in, but he kind of stumbled in, in 2019, right before the pandemic, we were on tour with Third Eye Blind. And we became friendly with their band. And Mike, our guitar player, ended up moving to LA within the last few years, and getting closer with those guys after the tour. And we brought in Colin, who is I guess, kind of like an Aux-guitar key guy for them. So he was in on these initial writing sessions we were doing for this next batch of stuff. And he brought like a cool, fun element to it really quick with lines and lyrics. And we were kind of working off of each other pretty well. Because like our old method, when we first started, it was kind of like, we jam in a room for hours and come up with some melodies. And then I go away for like a week and come back with lyrics. I’m not the fastest guy at that. But, at that time, it just worked for us. And this time, this was working so well. So he was in on it. He was like, the extra guy was us three and him. And it was in Mike’s home studio in LA. Yeah, just chillin’, and we got a cool little batch of stuff. I think there’s a nice sound that developed, perhaps but you can be the judge of that later on.

Do you think that <the single> is a pretty good indication of what the new album is gonna sound like?

I think so. I mean, I kind of tend to think just every song can be its own little world to some degree. But Mike keeps reiterating how there’s definitely a sound here. And he kind of kept within this world, the sounds that he was using a little bit of a retro-ness, but also a lot of organic stuff. He says that he kind of had the boundaries on himself to use a certain family of stuff that all kind of built the sounds of the next batch of music. So if he were here, he would tell you, yeah.

Smallpools have released only two full length albums in Lovetap! and Life In A Simulation, albeit six years apart. How does your band reach a creative decision to write for an album, versus an EP, or even a standalone single?

It’s just like life plays into it, and the situation we’re all in. Early on, the album kind of took a while to come out after the <self-titled> EP, because we had to do all this touring. It is such a blessing that we got all these tours from these awesome bands early on, and we kept having to delay the recording process. So we had to say yes to these great opportunities to build up the band. So that was a reason that the full length may have taken longer than it should have. And then there was The Science of Letting Go <EP> that came up next. I don’t know what plays into deciding, “okay, we’re going to stop with these five <songs>, or we’re going to do an album. I think that was a time where we were kind of having a tough time with what sound to go with. We were exploring a lot of different producers, and in the end, we just kind of really loved that collection of five songs, and it was with five different producers. So it was kind of cohesive, conceptually, and I think the songs were cool together, but they were definitely all just a mishmash of people. So at that time, that just made sense. We got a certain deal that said we had to do a certain thing, we had certain songs that we liked, and certain <ones> we didn’t. So we just kind of like to play and so wherever we’re at in life and whatever makes sense, we go with that. So right now, we have a chance to do a new album. So that’s where we’re going with I think we’re taking it in two steps though. It’s going to be like an “A” and “B” situation. I was just saying also, now in our 10th or 11th year with this band, I guess we’re not all in the same block where we all just like to go to rehearsals and jam and rock out for 12 hours…we all kind of have our own lives a little bit. So we have to be strategic with how we record so we’re like set up a week here, a week there, and knock out as much as we can, and then do stuff over Zoom, or whatever. So it’s a different world…

But you guys are kind of staying at the top of people’s minds because you put out a new single it seems like every six months, if not more than that. But how do you and your bandmates measure success? Is it by Spotify numbers? Is it by the way people react to your songs? 

Yeah, that’s a tough one, because it is kind of like a “monthly listener era” right now, or that is kind of like a measure of how artists are doing. Touring numbers, when we finished a tour, and a lot of the rooms sold out, and it was a success, that’s a good measure, too. Just the fact that we’ve still been able to exist, 10 or 11 years later and reinvent. when we can and still have people come out. And even like our last tour, I’ll ask the room, “who’s never seen us before?” And it’s sometimes like three quarters of the room have never seen us. So I don’t know if it’s like we sucked so bad last time, or that new people keep finding our stuff and want to check us out. So there is a constant <flow of> younger people finding us and our older fans will come out to a second, third, fourth, or even 20th show, depending on how die-hard they are. I mean, there’s been a lot of our peers who have skyrocketed to success, and a lot of them who have kind of just fallen off and, and we’ve kind of just sat in this middle ground. So it’d be nice to move the needle on this next batch <of songs> and do it for 10 more <years>.

Awesome. That’s a good way of looking at it too. Because you’re really on that cusp of breaking out on this next record. So now that 2023 is wrapped up, and we’re in the new year, did you and your bandmates make any goals for 2024? Or any resolutions, so to speak?

No, we did not make any resolutions. I mean, we are gonna get together again probably this month or early next and start working once the first batch <of songs> are done. And then we’ve got some ideas for batch two. So I think we’re just definitely taking this one brick at a time seeing how different songs react to decide on you know what song should come out when, and how we should record the next batch or whatever. It’s kind of a wait and see here, I think, but we will definitely finish this album within the next month or two and have a nice release schedule. We’re going to tour in April. A full US tour.

That’s awesome! What are some of your favorite songs you’ve ever recorded for Smallpools and why are they each so meaningful to you?

I mean, I love “Dreaming.” That was the one that definitely gave us a lot of these opportunities. With the FIFA <game>, that got us to a lot of college gigs. And it was just kind of like a little indie hit for us. It was definitely a process. Writing that one was….we definitely were just dummies that moved to LA and did not know what we were doing. I was pretty intimidated by all the kinds of cooler hipster dudes at the rehearsal spaces, playing their instruments, and I’m just like, I hope we can figure it out! But then yeah, we stumbled upon a few ideas that some people thought were really cool. And then I remember getting that first mix of “Dreaming” in our inbox. I was like, “Whoa, this thing just got elevated for sure…This sounds like Katy Perry or something! This is crazy.” So that was definitely one of those fun, “wow” moments like, “Okay, this could be something for sure.” Later, I liked “Mother.” I thought that was a cool way to say kind of a common theme that people have and I really liked that bridge when Beau just kind of rocks out. That was actually from another song idea that we were just like, we don’t have a bridge. Just try and just throw this thing in there. Yeah, I thought that worked out pretty cool. Those are two highlights to play live as well.

Yeah, “Dreaming” was definitely my introduction to you guys. A buddy of mine told me about this band that I had to hear and I’ve been a fan ever since. So it was definitely a “gateway drug” for your band.

Nice! Yeah, we had a lot of kinds of music friends that did like YouTube stuff and cover stuff in LA when we were kind of kicking around the first year. And Mike and I, we just had like our shitty jobs and we’re just like, kicking around different ideas. And then a lot of those friends heard that song and had no idea it was us! For a while, we’d see them at a party and heard that it was ours.

If I remember right, the music video was a party theme for “Dreaming,” right?

Yeah, pretty much all those friends from that kind of circle came out to that house to film and hang out.

That’s awesome! And I believe next year, a whole ‘nother year from now, in 2025 Lovetap! will officially be 10 years old. So any plans for vinyl reissue or other celebrations in store for that far down the road?

I keep talking about the “Lovetap! In Full” tour…I think that’d be fun for not only the initial fans to come out and see it again, playing the album from start to finish. A lot of those songs we don’t play anymore, or have barely played when they went out. So the “Lovetap! In Full” tour. It’d be fun for me. And yeah, it makes sense to have a new vinyl for that.

Yeah, cuz that one’s kind of gone up in price from the secondary markets. It’s hard to find that one!

Oh, really?

Yeah, I’m a vinyl collector myself. So I’ve been looking out for that one.

Okay, yeah, I got to figure out how we get the rights to it from RCA and all that stupid stuff figured out.

Cool. Any last words for fans or things for them to look out for as we start the new year?

We’re all very appreciative if you took the ride, or if you’re just getting on now. And we’re gonna we’re going to do our best for you yet. So we look forward to seeing you all out there and having a good time!

Awesome. Thanks so much, Sean! I’ll probably see you on tour in April, when you guys hit D.C.

Sounds great. Take care, Adam!