Diving Head First Into the Abandoned Pools

Before he recruited his three new bandmates (guitarist Pelle Hillstrom, drummer Bryan Head, and bassist Leah Randi) through friends and people that he knew in the L.A. music scene, writing and recording songs on his home’s eight-track system became Walter’s main focus in life.

 

Currently enjoying the success of their single, “The Remedy,” L.A.’s Abandoned Pools just may be the busiest touring band of this year. Back in February, they made an extremely impressive debut St. Louis appearance at Mississippi Nights, opening for VH1’s Bands on the Run winners Flickerstick. In May, they returned to the road as the opener for Garbage, which made a stop here at the Pageant. Then on August 7, they warmed up the crowd at UMB Pavilion for pop-diva Pink and rock-God Lenny Kravitz, an odd combination with enough cross-over appeal that enabled it to fill both the house and lawn to near-capacity levels (a rather uncommon occurrence, especially on a weeknight, considering the venue’s ever-increasing ticket, parking, and concession prices).

The touring life, however, is nothing new or unfamiliar to Abandoned Pool’s singer/songwriter/guitarist Tommy Walter, who shared some of his post-performance relaxation time for a brief backstage interview. As a former member of the critically acclaimed trio Eels, Walter was fortunate enough to taste success very early on in the band’s career due to their hit first single, “Novocaine For The Soul.” He left the band, though, after the end of its first tour, for a few reasons. “I saw the writing on the wall,” Walter explains. “I felt like we had pretty much run our course, and I sensed the direction that the band was heading in, which turned out to be a correct assumption. And that was really not a direction that I was interested in going in. It had gotten to the point where I just said to myself, ‘I’m going to learn how to make my own records and do my own thing.’ I was seeing so many other people do it, and felt that if they could do it, so could I.”

Which is exactly what Walter did. Before he recruited his three new bandmates (guitarist Pelle Hillstrom, drummer Bryan Head, and bassist Leah Randi) through friends and people that he knew in the L.A. music scene, writing and recording songs on his home’s eight-track system became Walter’s main focus in life. “I just dove right into the songwriting process. I probably wrote and recorded about 50 or 60 songs, but ended up throwing most of them away because they weren’t right for what I wanted on my first album. I sort of started out writing songs similar to ones that I really liked that were already written by other people, but then I just ultimately ended up finding my own voice.”

The end result became Humanistic (Extasy Records), a polished collection of densely textured, soaring melodies that represent the balance of Walter’s desire to rock hard while still retaining a non-heavy accessibility. Earning itself comparisons to works of the Beatles, Smashing Pumpkins, and Placebo, Abandoned Pools' debut CD has moved swiftly up the charts, which Walters feels is important, but not absolutely essential. “My thing isn’t so much about going platinum or being on the radio constantly,” he admits. “What really matters to me is when other musicians—people I have so much respect for and think so highly of—when those people tell me that they love the record, that makes me feel great. Or when the band Filter stopped their tour bus right next to the stage we were on at a festival just so they could watch our set—that’s the kind of thing that means something to me. I didn’t write my music for critics, that’s for sure. You can do that, and there’s really nothing wrong with that, but I was really trying to be more true to myself.”

Walter does acknowledge the importance of other people liking your music, however. When asked if he had any advice for the many struggling bands out there, Walter had this reply: “You have to write good songs, because if you don’t, you’re not going to make it. Everybody thinks that it’s who you know, which is really not true, because if you don’t have good songs, you could know a ton of industry people, and it’s not going to matter. It’s all about the quality of your music; if people don’t like what they hear, it’s just not going to happen for you.” He adds that it also doesn’t hurt to have realistic, non-“rock star” goals, either. “I much rather do what we’re doing—be slightly under the radar, and have a pretty successful song or two, than hopefully be in a place where we’re able to keep making more records. Although, if we stopped right now, and the band broke up tomorrow, I’d be like, ‘that’s cool, we did really well for the time we were together.’ I’d be totally satisfied with what we’ve done so far.”

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