This piece has been corrected from an earlier version. See note at the bottom of the post.
Yes, Poolside has a swimming pool in front of their Los Feliz studio. But it's not the one you might have expected to inspire their chill-as-hell “daytime disco.” It's small compared to the Olympic-sized number in the band's recent “Slow Down” video, for one thing. Buddha statues flank the pond-like basin, with overgrown bamboo stands nearby.
Yet, this is where the band got their name, their sound, and their start. With a little help from a giant 4X4. Here's the story of the duo, who perform a DJ set
this Thursday, July 19 at the Hammer museum as part of KCRW's summer music series.
“We have a friend who runs monster truck rallies, so we had the idea to make some music to go with a video of us driving,” says Filip Nikolic, who formed Poolside with Jeffrey Paradise in 2010 (and definitely isn't this dude). “I had this studio, so we got a bunch of wine and mescal, and threw down some ideas, then played [the songs] back while we were out here in the pool with friends… We were like, 'There you go. This is it… Maybe we should be called Poolside.'”
Prior to the poolside revelation, the multi-instrumentalists-DJs had no intentions of forming a band, much less recording three mixtapes, an EP and an album. Nikolic, a touring bassist for Ima Robot, was busy with other projects, and Paradise, a member of the band that later evolved into The Rapture, had just sworn off music “for the sixth or seventh time.” This all changed when drum-rich tunes on the band's Soundcloud page inspired a grassroots fanbase, which came to include James Murphy, Pitchfork, and KCRW DJs. They landed an opening slot for The Rapture.
“That's how we started doing the live thing and, I guess, got some direction,” says Paradise, who recruited a keyboardist and a drummer for live shows. “We really wanted to just do something fun to play at pool parties… It's almost like a backlash against dance music in a way. Like the antidote to the heavy, hard dance music that dominates clubs more and more.”
Poolside's debut album, Pacific Standard Time — which drops today on their own Day & Night Recordings — is anti-dubstep: self-aware and playful. It's also surprisingly eclectic for a “chill-out disco record.” Synth and bass-heavy gauze wrap the disc's 16 songs, but allows space for guitars, ukes, cowbells, a Neil Young cover, and some acoustic instrumentals inspired by J.J. Cale. Even as many of the tunes clock-in over five minutes and below 100-BPM, they remain danceable, as a crowd learned at a Fourth of July show at The Standard last week.
“You're not catering to a dance floor anymore, you're catering to a vibe and that frees everything up,” says the Danish-born Nikolic, who provides Poolside's quirky falsetto. “We don't have to try too hard. We don't have to go crazy. We can just do our shit.”
For now, this means, doing “something sloppy and fun” where sloppy means laid back, and fun means swimming/drinking/tanning — and maybe driving a monster truck.
“We want making the songs to be a much fun as listening to them,” Nikolic says, as someone cleans the small pool behind him.
“Yeah, it's like this interview with Tupac when he was really young,” Paradise adds. “They asked him about some sloppy rhymes and he was like, 'Yo motherfuckers be fucked up when they listen to my shit and I get fucked up when I make this shit.' It's a tiny bit like that — about being on the same level.”
Correction: An earlier version of these piece said the group's studio doubles as an apartment, that Echo Park Records is putting out their new album, and that Nikolic was the bassist in Junior Senior when Poolside started, all of which are incorrect. We regret the errors.