Pool Kids: “Learning how to write a chorus is the hardest thing this band has done”

Florida-based emo math-rock quartet – and new cult favourites – POOL KIDS are making a splash in the UK.

Words: Ali Shutler.
Photos: Jennifer McCord.

Back in 2020, Hayley Williams claimed that Pool Kids were exactly the sort of band Paramore “wished they sounded like in the early 2000s”. As co-signs go, it was a big one, and a new wave of people quickly discovered the band’s twinkling debut album ‘Music To Practice Safe Sex Too’. Rather than letting that comparison define them, though, it’s fast becoming a footnote in Pool Kids’ giddy career.

“Fans respectfully don’t give a shit about that first record anymore,” explains drummer Caden Clinton. Instead, Pool Kids’ second, self-titled album, which came out in 2022 before being rereleased in Europe earlier this year via Big Scary Monsters, is now causing all sorts of excitement. “The pressure’s on for making that next record already,” admits vocalist Christine Goodwyne.

“It seems we beat the sophomore slump, though,” adds Caden. “I don’t know what people say about a third album; hopefully, that it’s usually really good?”

Today, Pool Kids are speaking to Dork in Brighton, ahead of three shows in 24 hours at The Great Escape. Each one is jubilant, chaotic and full of fiery heart. A few days earlier, they played the best show they’ve ever played as a band at London’s Sebright Arms after a run around Europe supporting La Dispute. “It was incredibly special,” says guitarist Andy Anaya. “There was just this feeling of joy in the room.”

Pool Kids originally formed in 2017 with the goal of being “a sick local band that everyone was hyped about.” They’d been to countless local punk rock shows in Florida and seen how stoked everyone was to be there, how fun the gigs were and how powerful that sense of community was. “We just wanted to be a part of that,” says Christine.

Since then, they have been adding new goals and ticking them off almost as quickly. This run of shows is the first time Pool Kids have ever played outside of America, but there’s already another international tour set to be announced soon. “Now, we just want to create something that endures,” says Andy, with Christine adding, “I guess we’re shooting for longevity.”

“Even when our goals were small and focused on that local scene, we’ve always believed that Pool Kids is our life now,” she continues. “This is what we want to do, and we’ve always taken it very seriously.” Apart from a brief six-month window when Pool Kids first started out, the four members of the group have never lived in the same city, though. Currently, Christine lives in Miami, bassist Nicolette Alvarez recently moved to New Hampshire, Caden lives in Pittsburgh, and Andy is based in Florida. “A lot of co-ordinating has to happen for anything to happen,” he explains, with everyone flying into Chicago to run marathon practice sessions before tours. “The fact we’re all actually friends and share an attitude of ‘we’ll do whatever we have to do to grow this band’ makes us a strong force,” adds Christine.

While their debut album blended twinkling emo, math-rock and punk into songs that avoided returning to a chorus at all costs, Pool Kids wanted to try their hand at more traditional song structures on album two. “I knew I had to quit writing songs for house shows,” says Caden, with Christine taking influence from the likes of pop mavericks Charli XCX and Caroline Polachek.

“Learning how to write a chorus is the hardest thing this band has done,” says Christine, who moments earlier was talking about phoning countless venues across North America trying to get Pool Kids a gig and putting on their own shows in her backyard during the “painful” early years of the band. “It was a fun challenge, though,” she adds.

“We were going for an anthemic, exhilarating, big-sounding album without turning our backs on the root of the band,” says Andy. The end result is “melancholic, but it has that glimmer of hope.”

“Turns out I’ve never had an original experience in my life”

Christine Goodwyne

Lyrically, ‘Pool Kids’ follows a similar path, with Christine writing about a “mutual, painful break-up where you still love each other” after her seven-year relationship with her high-school sweetheart came to an end. “Not every break-up is ‘I hate you, you suck’ or ‘I’m sad, I don’t want you to leave’,” she continues, with the record “going back and forth over the decision, trying to make yourself grow apart but also wanting to get back together.”

She really didn’t expect it to connect with as many people as it has. “Sometimes, when you write so specifically and honestly about your life, you convince yourself that you’re the only one it’s going to be relatable to. Turns out I’ve never had an original experience in my life,” she adds with a grin.

“We’ve always talked about that sense of community, and it’s incredible that we’re able to write songs that people can relate to and feel heard by,” she continues. “But it’s definitely been a surprise.”

As you can probably guess from a band who tours as much as Pool Kids, playing live is “super important” for the group, with Andy describing each show as its own “little creative outburst”.

Live, the band are noisier and more energetic than their occasionally delicate recorded music might suggest. “We want to make an environment where people who relate to the lyrics can have that release,” says Christine. “That’s where the joy comes from, seeing your music connecting with people and acting as a catalyst for them to have fun.” She goes on to describe Pool Kids shows as “going to a party with a bunch of people who all have one, really specific common interest.”

Pool Kids’ rise comes as emo music, in general, has undergone something of a resurgence in recent years. The likes of Paramore, Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance have all toured extensively, noughties anthems are regularly blowing up on TikTok, and a new generation of bands are pulling heavily from that era. “It’s extremely inspiring. It seems hopeful like humans are still going to be interested in doing this for a while,” says Christine, even if Pool Kids aren’t particularly interested in nostalgia.

“You don’t want to be reliving your first record for the rest of your life,” says Christine, with the group looking to shake things up again with whatever comes next. “There are elements of ‘Pool Kids’ that we want to continue with, especially each song having its own, very identifiable atmosphere,” continues Andy. “But there are new elements that we want to bring along as well.”

“We’ve learned real quick that people are much more interested in new music than what’s come before,” starts Caden, with Christine adding, “The last record cycle was four years for us. This album’s been out for ten months, but people are already starting to ask what’s next.” 

“The amount of anticipatory energy is off the charts right now,” says Andy, but the band aren’t worried about living up to any hype. “We’re just really excited about what’s coming up for us.” ■

Taken from the July 2023 edition of Dork.


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