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Growing up Punk in Tallahassee: How Pool Kids Made It Work

At first glance, the Tallahassee music scene is filled with country stars, Chance the Rapper and not much else. It’s hard for bookers to justify filling the Civic Center and other large venues with alternative artists when the average Tallahassee resident isn’t as drawn to that scene as, say, the Northeastern or Seattle population. But Tallahassee is a college town nonetheless, and bands like Pool Kids have been quietly overturning these assumptions by means of college radio and more. While they’re working towards transforming the Chicago music scene now, they still had an important perspective on what it’s like in the DIY Tallahassee music scene.

Her Campus (HC): I’m a Tallahassee native and I go to school at FSU, so finding out a couple of years ago that you guys are from here too was really inspiring. I have to say though, I’m wondering how you all managed to form the heavy punk band that you did in the Tallahassee music scene.

Pool Kids (PK): Tallahassee is actually the home of a bunch of newer bands in similar genres to us! It’s all just so underground and exclusive that a lot of people don’t know about it which is a shame. If you weren’t raised in Tallahassee and/or you’re not plugged into some community like V89 (FSU’s radio station) or Club Downunder, and you don’t know anybody that books shows or is in the “DIY scene” as they call it, then you might not know where to find house shows and all that. In my time in Tallahassee, there was a Facebook group called DIY Tallahassee that posted all the shows going on, but I don’t think that’s active. I think Cat Family is doing a lot now, you should look into the things they book!

HC: How did you all meet?

PK: I met Caden while trying to find drummers cold turkey with an old bandmate in a previous band. He was a complete stranger at first and now he’s like a brother—we’ve talked almost every day since we joined the old band. Then we ditched that bandmate and continued into Pool Kids. I met Nicolette through a mutual friend in college radio, and she had played bass in another project that Caden was drumming for so Caden confirmed that she was good. So, we tried her out and she was the perfect fit from the start. Andy is just everywhere all over Florida playing in bands and has been for a long time, so we had some mutual friends and were flattered when he showed interest in joining us. So basically, none of us STARTED as friends—it was music first—but we’ve all ended up extremely close and I’m pretty sure we consider each other friends before bandmates now. 

rock concert
Photo by Vishnu R Nair from Unsplash

HC: What was the recording process like for “Music to Practice Safe Sex To”?

PK: We spent SO many hours in our friend Lon’s house recording everything. Then when we finally finished, Caden and I got new gear, so we decided to start from scratch. The songs were written years before it was released. It was a long but rewarding process. 

HC: The Pool Kids guitar tone is so unique and really fits with the math-rock riffs you guys do – could you walk me through your guitar and pedal setup?

PK: I used a DL4 for most if not all my delay, an Earthquaker Afterneath for reverb… a tad of an OCD for a little punch… and gosh I can hardly remember at this point! I’d have to be listening to each song part by part to really remember what I was doing. It’s a lot different than how we do it live. Lon and I switched through SO many different amps during recording, but I think we ended up going with my Dual Showman.

HC: What made you decide to move to Chicago, and why now?

PK: We just wanted to. Half of the band had finished up school, so it seemed like a decent [benchmark] in our lives, and obviously leaving Florida was intriguing. We all agreed on Chicago because it’s a more affordable city to live in, but only Nicolette and I made it up here before the world ended. We had already been operating on a long-distance basis hours away from each other in different Florida cities so it’s not much different. We just meet up and practice before tours. 

HC: I saw from your Facebook page that you were going to tour with The Wonder Years. Were you guys familiar with or fans of their music already? How does a process like that happen—did they reach out to you?

PK: Andy had toured with them already in other bands, and they checked us out at Bled Fest. Immediately after filming our Audiotree (live music session), we got the news that they wanted us as support for that tour, and it was such amazing news. We were jumping up and down. We made it about three weeks deep into the tour before COVID ruined everything. It really was an amazing time—no one wanted it to end. 

HC: What’s the first place you want to perform once COVID is over?

PK: Literally anywhere. I’ll never complain about having to load gear down a basement again. 

HC: What lyric off the album are you most proud of, and why?

PK: This is a great interview question, props! The song “Patterns” is my favorite song lyrically, probably that I’ve ever written. And that’s mainly because all the lyrics actually make sense and mean something and are talking about a particular thing—none of it is gibberish or talking about a hypothetical story. Plus, it’s kind of poetic which none of my songs ever are. If I had to pick specific lines from that song… maybe “And I can taste them, the edges of your words are trimmed in gold and separated into verses in the back of my tongue.” This is supposed to be comparing the words of someone to the words of the bible (hence the gold trim) because the things they are saying remind me of some of the messed up things I’d hear when I was brainwashed into this weird Calvinism stuff in my teenage years. And then “So excommunicate me, you’re no better than the fucked up doctrine that sent me running to your doorstep in the first place.” When I abandoned the Calvinism teachings, I was drawn to communities that made themselves seem like the complete opposite, but they ended up being just as hateful and exclusive and manipulative, and it was all too familiar. 

HC: Do you have anything to say to other Tallahassee natives who might be struggling to connect to a music scene that’s not very popular where they are?

PK: For Tallahassee newcomers—Join V89. Join V89. Join V89. Don’t just immediately apply to be a DJ, do your time and join PR. Everything will fall into place if you’re trying to “discover” the Tallahassee music scene that can be kind of hard to find on your own. 

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Maddie Stults is a first year psychology student at Florida State University. She is passionate about mental health and volunteers for NAMI Tallahassee in her free time. When she's not writing or studying, she loves playing guitar, tennis, listening to music, and re-watching Parks and Rec on Netflix.
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