Tommy Walter has been active in the alternative rock scene since the mid-1990s. In the early 2000s, you could rarely turn on MTV without seeing one of his videos.
Since then, Tommy Walter has released albums with several different acts and left the touring life behind for a docile, low-profile career creating scores for TV commercials and movie trailers, as well as doing orchestral work. His scoring has been featured on ad campaigns for Target, Subaru, and more.
Back in the late 1990s, Tommy Walter was one of the founding members of a band called The Eels. After working with them for a while, he left the band and formed a new group called Metromax. Shortly after its inception, Metromax became Tely and released an album over the internet. The band didn’t gain much success, and it soon evolved into Walter’s solo act: Abandoned Pools.
Rewind to 2001. Tommy Walter had just released his breakout single “The Remedy” under the moniker Abandoned Pools.
“I was both grateful for and somewhat wounded from the experience I had in my previous band, Eels, a situation in which I had been marginalized,” Tommy Walter said in an email. “Now here I was on tour, fronting my own band, and every hotel room I checked into I could turn on MTV and see the video for “The Remedy.” The risk I took had been rewarded so that was very satisfying.”
Although Humanistic was a solo project, Walter recruited a touring band that included Leah Randi (bass) and Bryan Head (drums). Together, they saw several successful tours with acts such as Garbage, A Perfect Circle, and Lenny Kravitz, and appearances on The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn.
After the release of Humanistic, Walter was approached by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the duo behind films such as Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, 21 and 22 Jump Street, The Last Man on Earth, and a handful of episodes of How I Met Your Mother. Lord and Miller had the idea for an animated TV show called Clone High, and they wanted Walter to write the intro song.
“I demoed (the song) in the back of the touring bus and most of that recording was used in the final version,” said Walter. “That was a special show and I wish it had gone on for several seasons but it didn’t work out that way, unfortunately.”
The show originally aired on the Canadian network Teletoon between 2002 and 2003. It later debuted on MTV but was pulled from the network after low ratings and over the controversy caused by depicting Gandhi as a crazy party animal. Since the show’s cancellation, it has received critical acclaim and a cult following. Abandoned Pools had several other songs on the soundtrack, as well as bands such as Dashboard Confessional and other (at the time) underground bands and musicians.
After the cancellation of Clone High, Abandoned Pools stopped touring. This was due in part to the dissolution of their label, Extasy Records.
Armed To The Teeth
After Humastic, Walter admits to falling into a lull. The label had folded, and he didn’t know if he would have a chance at a second album.
“Things felt like they were falling apart, the industry was changing, but luckily another opportunity presented itself.”
After he stopped touring, Walter kept in touch with his fanbase while staying home to care for his sick cat, Iggy. Over the next few years, Walter would demo songs at home with as much production as possible before he took them to a studio, where they would re-record parts he had already written, which also gave the personalities in his band a chance to shine.
Armed to the Teeth was released on Sept. 27, 2005. The album is described as “reveal(ing) a songwriter grappling with confusion and darkness.”
“I had lost some of the pillars of my life and felt like I had lost my way as a result, like I had no compass,” Walter said.
Walter knew he wanted to move away from heavy rock into something more subtle and nuanced.
“Alternative Rock had come and gone and I wanted to move out of that but I wasn’t sure what that meant .. There’s more depth in nuance but it’s harder to grapple with. I liked that challenge and felt like it was reflective of my life at that time.”
Several months after it was released, Universal Records had stopped promoting the album, leading Walter to leave the label. Once again, Abandoned Pools was a one-man project.
Fast-forward seven years after the release of Armed to the Teeth. Walter had been working on several side projects: Glacier Hiking, another alt-rock band, and Oliver the Penguin, an electronica project.
By 2012, Walter had released several singles under the Abandoned Pools moniker before releasing his third studio album, Sublime Currency.
The album is definitely more upbeat than his previous albums.
“I got married … That gave me the stability I needed,” said Walter. “I had also taken quite a lot of time off from Abandoned Pools and worked on other projects so when I returned to it I had a hunger for it. It didn’t feel like a chore, like I was pushing a boulder up a hill.”
Sublime Currency was written and recorded entirely by Walter, with the exception of drums and a few guests. Several days after the release of the album, a music video for the single “Sublime Currency” was released.
The track “From Long Sleep” was originally released as an Oliver the Penguin song and features Paris Carney.
“Somnambulism” is defined as “walking in one’s sleep or under hypnosis.”
Somnambulist is the latest album released by Abandoned Pools. Just like the definition implies, the album was written at a time in his life when Walter “felt shell-shocked, like the walking dead.”
“Somnambulist was born out of tragedy,” Walter said in an email. “My wife and I had suffered a terrible loss.”
The loss Walter is referring to is the death of his first child, which you can read about on his blog.
“I gained access to emotions that I hadn’t before. As someone said at the time, ‘There are gold coins at the bottom of that well.’ It has taken me several years to understand that and I suspect that understanding will continue to grow over my lifetime, but I feel wiser as an artist as a result.”
Somnambulist was released in July 2013. Like Sublime Currency, the album was written and recorded by Walter.
The Present and Future
Currently, Walter resides in Los Angeles with his wife and son. Even though he “would love to make another (Abandoned Pools) album, his focus has shifted to scoring for movie trailers and TV commercials, as well as orchestral work, which he refers to as his “roots.”
“In scoring, you serve the picture and story so your personal motivations are secondary,” Walter said. “You’re not exposed as much but you still have to bring your personality and experiences to the table.”
He has composed spots for Game of Thrones, Target, Sprint, Subaru and more. You can check out his portfolio here.
When asked about the possibility of another Abandoned Pools album, Walter is open to the idea.
“It’s more of a question of being able to take time off from my ongoing projects that pay bills in order to do so. And I want to have the time to be fully satisfied with it and bring in good engineers and possibly a producer to take some of the workload off of me.”
In recent years, Lord and Miller have talked about the possibility of a Clone High movie.
“I would absolutely love to be involved in a Clone High movie,” Walter said. “When I heard about the possibility … I immediately texted Phil and told him I was on board if they wanted me to be!”