Christine Goodwyne grew up playing piano and idolizing Paramore, admiring corny guitar solos from Super Bowl beer commercials and owning her first ax by the time she was in fifth grade. It wasn’t until she hit college that she even realized that a music career was an option. Representation, she says, works in strange ways.
“I don’t know why it took seeing women my age playing at these local shows and on tour to realize that I could do it,” the Pool Kids bandleader admits over Zoom from a Chicago apartment she shares with bassist Nicolette Alvarez. “I remember seeing Chastity Belt, and then it clicked for me because I saw they’re just playing easy, normal stuff. I was like, ‘Oh, my God, I can fucking do that. Why am I not doing this?’”
“But oh well, I have a degree now,” she adds with a laugh.
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With Goodwyne on lead vocals and guitar, Alvarez, guitarist Andy Anaya and drummer Caden Clinton, Pool Kids bloomed from the ashes of another band and made noise with their 2018 debut album, Music To Practice Safe Sex To. Plus a Hayley Williams co-sign didn’t hurt, a moment Goodwyne says she’ll never get tired of talking about. Now with their new self-titled record, Pool Kids (out July 22 via Skeletal Lightning), the band are beaming with self-assurance.
“It was good to have that boost [the Williams shoutout] before going into this record because we just went in with a lot of confidence, and that helps a lot in the recording process because you’re more willing to try new things, and you’re not timid about anything,” she says.
That sense of adventure unfurls across 12 songs, boiling with fearless unpredictability and flashy technicality. The strength of their new record lies in its ability to consume and mesmerize, rupturing with searing guitar riffs and vibrant synths that’ll take you somewhere every time. Equally, the album’s tighter, more polished sound helps it remain fresh with every new spin.
Going into their second record, Pool Kids had little idea what to expect. They drove across the country — from Chicago to Seattle’s Ice Cream Party Studios — to link with producer Mike Vernon Davis. Despite never meeting beforehand, they vibed from the start. Throughout the record, the band veer between songs that build and collapse and softer confessionals. On “Conscious Uncoupling,” short guitar bursts punctuate lacerating proclamations (“I never wanna hear that tone of voice again/I never wanna see that stupid look on your face again”) before exploding into a rush of noise, whereas she measures her words carefully on the closing stunner “Pathetic.” Plenty of texture and synths complete the circle, a result of Davis enhancing the tracks and pushing the band to think bigger.
“We had a lot of the same intuition, and we were just building off of each other the whole time,” Goodwyne says. “It was the best time of all of our lives.”
Then the good times ended. With four days left to complete the album, a flood hit the studio, ruining their gear but sparing their recordings. Momentum ceased, and the band had to reconfigure their next steps as they waited for the space to become operational again.
“It was really, really hard,” Goodwyne shares. “We were riding on such a high, getting so much done. Then after that, we were all just sitting there. All of us were just at rock bottom, like, ‘What are we going to do? How are we going to save this record?’”
Industrial fans were brought in to help dry out the studio, and the band borrowed other gear they could jam with. Slowly, they began to regain their composure, working out of a makeshift studio they built upstairs. Progress came in waves. Computer speakers weren’t able to contain the record’s massive sound, and the band began to doubt themselves. Meanwhile, Davis was hallucinating from no sleep. But morale was restored once they heard the songs through higher-end equipment. Then Davis’ “go-to engineer” Samuel Ross joined, offering a fresh perspective and allowing the band to roll again after getting rocked.
It’s their ability to persevere from hellish circumstances that’s most endearing. They never cease to surprise. If anything, Pool Kids is about triumph over tragedy, balancing grandeur and growth, even when it all feels pointless.
FOR FANS OF: Bartees Strange, Paramore, Tortoise
SONG RECOMMENDATION: “Comes In Waves”