Rock

Smallpools Frontman Sean Scanlon Talks Departing From RCA & Experimenting for New EP 'The Science of Letting Go'

Smallpools
Anna Lee

Smallpools

After bursting onto the music scene with a buoyant four-song self-titled EP in 2013, indie pop rockers Smallpools continued their upbeat sound with their debut LP, LOVETAP! two years later. Following their every-two-years releasing pattern, Smallpools have returned with another EP titled THE SCIENCE OF LETTING GO today (Aug. 4) -- but even frontman Sean Scanlon admits the band's latest release isn’t as in-your-face as their past material.

“It’s not like this exciting naive tornado like the first EP, which I would say its more like a very bouncy and jubilant,” he tells Billboard. “There is a kind of calmness to this.”

That’s not to say that THE SCIENCE OF LETTING GO is less exciting or not holding true to the cheerful vibes Smallpools brought with their first two projects. In fact, the EP shows the growth Scanlon and his bandmates (guitarist Mike Kamerman and drummer Beau Kuther) have experienced in the years since their debut, transforming their exuberant style into five tracks that are still danceable, but allow for fans to dive into their creative lyricism a little more.

This is especially true on the EP’s final track, the piano-tinged heartbreak tale “Mother”: “So tell me why/ If I’m as bad as all those things you call me every night/ You want me in your life just to drag around/ Never living up to what you thought you found,” Scanlon sings on the song’s second verse. Even that song is still a little cheeky, though, presenting the overall concept that the guy will miss the girl’s mother more than her after their breakup.

Scanlon also detailed a couple other inventive concepts Smallpools wrote about on THE SCIENCE OF LETTING GO, including the near-psychedelic, flaws-and-all-themed “Centerfold” ("You have to grow up and screw up and fail right in front of everybody -- sometimes you don’t even know how bad you are when you are being bad,” he laughs) and “DJs and Porsches,” which ironically spawned from Scanlon’s uninspired feeling while writing for the EP.

"I wasn’t feeling anything that was creating any good music, so I was kind of just coasting,” he says. "The concept [for "DJs and Porsches"] was purposefully putting yourself in a situation where you know you’re gonna get hurt a little bit, and trigger some feelings and moods that can kind of re-inspire your songwriting abilities -- and the fact that you actually do feel alive."

Along with the varied topics of the EP’s five tracks, the sounds are fairly nuanced as well, ranging from classic Smallpools hard-hitting pop on the lead single “Million Bucks" and bouncy "Passenger Side" to the more somber EP closer “Mother." Perhaps one of the reasons for the diverse sounds is the fact that a different producer worked on each track, but another is likely the band’s new musical home: Smallpools decided to part ways with RCA Records, their label since their first EP, in late 2016.

"I think the excitement on both sides was gone,” Scanlon explains of the departure. "I think [2013 single] ‘Dreaming' just didn’t become the song that RCA wanted it to, and the new stuff we were doing at that time was not ticking their boxes of what could make them money… I was excited when we left RCA afterwards, but I wouldn’t have chosen to, because it’s kind of a scary unknown.”

Fortunately, that scary unknown didn’t last too long, as the guys connected with the people at Kobalt Music Group, signing with the management/publishing company to release THE SCIENCE OF LETTING GO, and see where things go from there. "They’re super-cool, super-smart and they seem to understand what’s happening today,” Scanlon offers about his new team. 

With the support of fresh minds and excitement for what’s ahead, Smallpools are also gearing up for a fall tour supporting fellow indie poppers MisterWives, which Scanlon feels will be a great opportunity to invite new fans along for the ride. And while they’ve done their own headlining ventures, Scanlon acknowledges his band’s early days of opening for the likes of Twenty One Pilots and Walk the Moon helped get them where they are today.

"Touring back then was working -- the evidence was right there in front of us. People were showing up to our shows because they saw us with other bands,” Scanlon says. "So now I’m just super excited to do that again -- win people over with far more experience. I’m excited for the chatter to begin again.”

With the forthcoming tour and more songs “in the pipeline,” as he puts it, Scanlon promises that more Smallpools material will be coming soon. And as for what may happen beyond that, well, now the unknown isn’t so scary. 

"Everything is so unknown in music, so you just kind of move forward -- keep putting things out and doing your thing and just see what happens and pivot. It’s fun and exhilarating,” he says. "I’m pumped for the random things that I would’ve never saw coming."

Check out THE SCIENCE OF LETTING GO and Smallpools' tour dates below.

Sept 21 - Nashville, TN @ Cannery Ballroom
Sept 23 - Atlanta, GA @ Center Stage
Sept 24 - Orlando, FL @ The Beacham
Sept 26 - Austin, TX @ Emo's 
Sept 27 - Dallas, TX @ House of Blues
Sept 29 - Phoenix, AZ @ The Van Buren
Sept 30 - Santa Ana, CA @ The Observatory
Oct 3 - Los Angeles, CA @ The Fonda Theatre
Oct 4 - Oakland, CA @ The Fox Theatre
Oct  6 - Portland, OR @ Crystal Ballroom 
Oct  7 - Seattle, WA @ Showbox Theatre
Oct 17 - Cleveland, OH @ House of Blues
Oct 18 - Toronto, Canada @ Phoenix Theatre
Oct 20 - Boston, MA @ House of Blues
Oct 25 - New York, NY @ Terminal 5