Smallpools Makes Big Waves With New Release: ‘Ghost Town Road (east)’

Smallpools. (Photo: Alex Berger)

Smallpools. (Photo: Alex Berger)

Indie rockers Smallpools, led by founders Sean Scanlon (lead vocals and keyboards), guitarist Mike Kamerman (guitarist and vocals), and Beau Kuther (drums and vocals) hit a home run at their first at-bat. After forming in Los Angeles in 2012, they wrote and produced the song “Dreaming” which reached no. 23 on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart, and was later certified gold. They released the song online before they even played their first live gig. RCA Records signed the band and “Dreaming” was part of their first EP and debut studio album Lovetap.The group released two other albums: Life in a Simulation (2021) and Cameras & Coastlines & Covers (2023). 

Smallpools has played and collaborated with bands like Grouplove, Walk the Moon, and Twenty One Pilots. They’ve also been on the bill at top festivals including Lollapalooza and Firefly.

The group released part one of their new two-part album Ghost Town Road, Ghost Town Road (east), on April 6 and will be performing at Thunderbird Cafe & Music Hall on Tuesday, April 16, co-headlining with Philadelphia alt rockers Grayscale.   

Lead vocalist and keyboardist for the band Sean Scanlon spoke with Entertainment Central via phone in advance of the release of Ghost Town Road (east) recently. I first asked about where the name Smallpools came from. Scanlon said that he used to have several clever stories about the name, but that the simple truth was “a friend of ours started calling us that.”

Hooky, Fuzzy, Power Treble, Indie Rock

To describe their  sound, Scanlon replied, “Our music has gone in different phases. In 2013 when we first launched we were kinda lumped in with the indie stuff. I think we try to keep it fun and clever at times whenever we can find something new and cool, but not too out of whack. Still songs that we think are good and that we like and bring out a good time and we think about the shows. We like to have a higher energy show or build some moments in a song. Just fun, good songs is what our goal is.”

For part one of their new record Ghost Town Road (east), on which they collaborated with Mitchy Collins of lovelytheband and colin creeV of Third Eye Blind, Scanlon said, “Mike, our guitar player, is who is producing the latest stuff. We do it at his place [home studio] in LA. Those two guys we’ve written with. Mitchy has just been a friend both when we started and moved to LA. He’s known Mike back from when they used to play music in New Jersey, so they’ve known each other for a long time. We both have had similar kinds of ups and downs in music. He’s in a cool band called lovelytheband. He’s been doing a lot of outside writing, so he liked one of the demos we started and he came over and started helping out with a couple of other ones.

“Colin was Mike’s roommate and he played in Third Eye Blind so we met him on a tour we were doing with Third Eye Blind. Then he just kind of stumbled into one of our sessions and I guess we asked him if he wanted to help write the first couple songs on this album. He brought cool energy to the room so we kept him around.”

On Ghost Town Road (east), on the Nettwerk Music Group label, the band’s sound can be described as hooky, fuzzy, power treble, anthemic indie rock. “Fake a Happy Face” is one of the singles from the album. In a release, Smallpools describes the song as: “about yearning to escape, to start over, lying in bed with the weight of the world upon you. There are so many mixed emotions that switch on a dime. Everything’s great and everything sucks. ‘Fake a Happy Face!’ and keep on cruising the best you can.”

Scanlon elaborated, “A lot of these songs…start with throwing things at a wall, like a riff, a line, or a melody and keep building and building. That one just happened to kind of gear off into, like you said, fuzzy alternative style. I think the melodies are pretty interesting and cool and it’s a fun lyric to me. It’s one of my favorites from it.”

Scanlon plays keys, piano, and synthesizer. “When I play live, I play a Roland [keyboard]. I just like their sounds live and they have been good to us the whole time. When we first came out we played a late night show, I think it was Kimmel [“Jimmy Kimmel Live!”] and I had my old, old Roland. Just because that was like the only keyboard I had. Roland [company] saw that taping and then started giving us better stuff. So we have been using their stuff the whole time pretty much. When we’re doing recordings, it’s just whatever sounds we get out of the computer, mostly. Sometimes we’ll do some like actual things that come from the synths itself, but usually we’ll just scan through some different sounds.”

Smallpools and Scanlon utilize catchy synth/keyboard sounds when appropriate to further drive a song. One song that features this is “Motorbikes (Wild Ones).” It is fresh, yet also reminiscent of some 80’s hit rock songs. On the tracks “Fake a Happy Face” and “Caller ID” there’s a pleasing, fuzzy, alt rock sound with harmonic vocals from Scanlon, Kammerman, and Kuther built upon a bed of keys, guitars, and drums that is smooth, and powerful. Scanlon has a melodic and powerful voice that blends well with his other bandmates. Other interesting songs on Ghost Town Road (east) are “Nightshift” and “Swayze.”

Scanlon said they were going to be spending a few days of rehearsals in Nashville choosing songs and working out their show before they start the tour. He said they’re going to rock hard so “come hang out with us” at the Thunderbird.

Rick Handler is the executive producer of Entertainment Central.

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