Diving Back In
By Arrissia Owen
Abandoned Pools returns at the request of fans
It’s been seven years since Tommy Walter dove into making music under the name Abandoned Pools. The former Eels bassist started Abandoned Pools after leaving the band he helped start with frontman (and songwriter, guirtarist, keyboardist and sometime drummer) Mark Oliver Everett, known as E.
Walter split due to creative differences after the Eels’ breakout release, 1996’s Beautiful Freaks, widely known for its radio-friendly hit “Novocaine for the Soul.” Walter, who studied theory and music composition at USC before joining the Eels, left the band on not-so good terms. But that is all so late 1990s.
For his most recent Abandoned Pools record, Tooth and Nail’s melodically ambient Sublime Currency released Aug. 28, Walter took on about every role of production and playing minus the album’s drumming and the estrogen on a duet with singer Paris Carney (“From Long Sleep”). So he and E have slithered onto common ground.
“In retrospect it’s daunting,” Walter says with a humble laugh about recording Sublime Currency. “When I was in the middle of it, I was doing it one song at a time, but when I look back at it, it was a lot of work.”
The perfectionist in him can see E’s dilemma. Walter was led to believe that the Eels was a collaboration instead of a solitary endeavor with two supporting musicians. Now that Walter has been on various sides of the music business, he is most comfy in the role of autocratic artist, as well.
Abandoned Pools’ first album, 2001’s Humanistic was largely a solo effort, with backup vocals from Angie Hart of the Australian band Frente!. To tour, Walter brought on bassist Leah Randi and drummer Bryan Head for opening slots with A Perfect Circle, Garbage and Lenny Kravitz.
In 2005, Abandoned Pools released the full-length Armed to the Teeth, this time as a group effort that included Head on drums once again and guitarist Sean Woolstenhulme. Things fell apart quickly once the band’s label Ecstasy fizzled, followed by its parent company Universal Records basically ignoring its new charge.
By 2011, Walter was concentrating on new projects. But the band that he thought was long gone, it turned out, still had a fan base. Via Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter, said admirers messaged and posted on the Abandoned Pools pages urging Walter to dive back in.
“I had no idea that the fans were still out there,” Walter says, pointing to social media for the resurgence. “It’s shocking. I didn’t expect for anyone to remember it.” As a gift for the diehards, Walter recently released the demo version of Humanistic on Band Camp.
Fans may feel vested in Walter’s music because the lyrics are so personal. The melancholy Humanistic explored Walter’s disappointment in the suburban dream but with a bit of positive edge. Armed to the Teeth delved into Walter’s struggles with a particularly rough break up and political disillusionment.
But with Sublime Currency, the title track builds on the quote from avant-garde composer John Cage, exuding optimism in its synth-laden melodies. “I got married a couple of years ago, and things have gone in a good direction,” Walter says. “This album has a more positive feel to it. Maybe a bit of a bite your bottom lip and pump your fist, sort of a ‘We’re going to get through this’ feel.”
The “Sublime Currency” lyrics say it all: “I can push the buttons/I can wrestle with the phantoms/Till I see that all the best things happen naturally.” This too shall pass, Walters says, just hang on long enough and it will all make sense.
There is more to life than what overwhelms you, like nature, spirituality, art, science, philosophy and more, Walter says: “It should all be some sort of sublime currency.”
Abandoned Pools with Takers Leavers and Ocean Hands at The Wire, 247 N. 2nd Ave., Upland, (909) 985-9466; thewire247.com. Thurs, Sept. 27. $10.