We catch up with the Florida-based band, fresh from the UK release of their new record and a support tour with La Dispute.
In April 2019, Paramore’s Hayley Williams posted an Instagram story containing a bold statement…
“This is what Pmore WISHED we sounded like in the early 2000’s.”
“Love hearing mathy twinkly parts mixed with heavy moments,” she continued. “This kind of music will always be v special to me. Go see this band play a show, I bet they are so cool live.”
It was certainly one hell of an endorsement, but just who were the band in question? Well, that band was Pool Kids, a then largely unknown emo four-piece from Tallahassee, Florida.
Formed by guitarist/vocalist Christine Goodwyne and drummer Caden Clinton, the duo wrote the entirety of the band’s 2018 debut ‘Music to Practice Safe Sex To’ with no outside influence. Melding dizzying, contemplative guitar melodies, big pop-rock chords, and unpredictable math rock tendencies, it put Pool Kids well and truly on the map, and as the buzz around them grew, so did the band.
Having always intended on becoming a four-piece, Christine and Caden were intentionally careful with their bandmate selection process. Ensuring that no bad seeds made their way in to avoid future conflict, once they found certified good eggs bassist Nicolette Alvarez and guitarist Andy Anaya, Pool Kids was truly born.
“I had never dreamed that we would be getting anywhere near the level of recognition that we’ve been getting when Cade and I started this,” Christine remembers.
“I just wanted to be booked in Tallahassee and for local people to be excited about us. I just wanted someone to sing a lyric at a show, and now we’ve flown all the way over here and there are a few people every night that are singing the lyrics. It’s insane, I don’t even know what goals to make anymore.”
‘Here’ is London, shortly before the band take to the stage at Camden’s newly restored KOKO supporting La Dispute. A few hours later, Pool Kids shirts are speckled throughout the crowd, with their owners singing along to the band’s frenetic 25-minute set. Over 4,000 miles from their hometown, the four-piece have already come a long way since Christine and Cade would play shows in their backyard and chase down venues for bookings, but a distinct DIY spirit remains the backbone of Pool Kids.
“The scene wasn’t a part of my life until I got to college and joined college radio, so I didn’t know that this world existed at all,” Christine explains.
“As soon as I got into the world of touring bands, I recognised that the only ones that were able to break out were the ones who toured on school breaks. So, we would take two cars around with us and cold call venues until they said that they would book us.”
Hailing from Florida – a state which is often ignored by touring artists when planning routes – Pool Kids learned the value of hitting the road and making connections early on, immersing themselves in their scene since day one.
Led by Christine’s visceral storytelling – documenting the frustrations of life within candid lyrics – and driven by a shared love for a music and a passion for community, in 2022 the band arrived at their self-titled album, an intricate slab of DIY emo wonder laced with pop sensibilities and technical math-rock flourishes.
“Someone described us as ‘pop with riffs’, and I like that,” Christine smiles.
“There’s a lot of Weezer and Foo Fighters that gets played in the van,” Andy adds.
“If we can find a mix of that with our technical roots, that’s amazing. Whatever we do, we want to sneak those roots in here and there. We never want to stop being us.”
Whether it’s in the bouncy riffage of ‘That’s Physics, Baby’ or the haunting atmospheric alt-rock of ‘Waking Up’, that distinct edge can be traced through everything Pool Kids do. Constructing a sound that feels simultaneously catered for the vast expanse of arenas and the intimacy of basements, their music is so carefully crafted that it’s hard to believe it’s not the product of four musicians with years of professional training in their craft. But every member of Pool Kids is completely self-taught.
“The women in my family really wanted me to play piano, but a friend gave me a little First Act guitar for my 10th birthday,” Christine remembers.
“My dad taught me a couple chords, but then his knowledge was tapped, so I just used YouTube tutorials for everything. I never got formal lessons; YouTube pretty much taught me everything I know.”
“My parents were children of the 80s so there was always music playing in the house, and my mom worked at a record store when I was a little kid,” Andy adds.
“There was a guitar class in my middle school where I learned nothing from the teacher, but it turned into a friendly competition between my friends and I about who could play what. Even though there were no actual guitar players in my house, it became something that I did to connect with my parents. I was obsessive, and I still am. I’m sure I drive my wife crazy!”
It’s that searing passion which has seen Pool Kids to this point, and as they look to the future with so many x’s already marked on their bucket list, the future truly does seem limitless. Empowered by the connection they’ve found with one another, the support they’ve received from peers and fans alike, and the sheer power of music, as the four-piece set to work on their long-term plan of action, their sights are firmly set on one thing – community.
“I struggled a lot in my adolescence with finding people to connect with. I had a handful of friends from school, but there was something that felt missing. I found it playing music, and it’s been an amazing journey,” Andy smiles.
“Anyone can do this. Anyone can learn how to play guitar, and anyone who wants to start a band can go and start a band,” Nicolette adds.
“Christine and I are both non-men, and it feels like there’s a wave of non-men musicians right now reaching levels of notoriety that were previously only reserved for men. I can name off the top of my head at least 20 bands who are amazing and have non-men in them. We’re here to provide more proof that anyone can fucking do this.”
Pool Kids’ self-titled album is available now via Big Scary Monsters.