Tommy Walter once fronted alt-rock group Abandoned Pools. Now, he writes scores for TV commercials, movie trailers and more. This is his story.
Tommy Walter has been active in the alternative rock scene since the mid-1990’s. In the early 2000’s, you could rarely turn on MTV without seeing one of his videos.
Since then, 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 1990’s, 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. 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,” 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 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 albumis 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.”
“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, Subaruand 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!”
Coheed and Cambria performed 'Good Apollo I'm Burning Star IV, Volume 1: From Fear Through The Eyes of Madness' in its entirety.
I swear Neverenders never get old.
For those of you not familiar with Coheed and Cambria, a Neverender is exactly what it sounds like: It’s a concert where the band plays one (or a few) of their albums sequentially cover to cover. It’s a beautiful thing. If you’re like me and enjoy appreciating songs as part of the full picture of the album they were released on, it is a live music event dream come true!
In celebration of the 12th birthday of their most successful album, this year’s Neverender was a full play through of Good Apollo I’m Burning Star IV, Volume 1 : From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness. GAIBSIV was the band’s third studio release and is the proud holder of their mega-hit single “Welcome Home” (which I believe was required by law to be everyone’s Myspace profile song for at least 2 months back in 2005). GAIBSIV is a continuation of a story from the albums prior which chronicles The Amory Wars. You can pick up companion copies of the companion comics for this album which are currently being released at BOOM! studios.
Opening for Coheed and Cambria was Rhode Island-based prog-rock band The Dear Hunter. The band originated as a side project of Casey Crescenzo, formerly of The Receiving End of Sirens. The band boasts and impressive discography of seven studio albums, a demo, two live albums and 13 EP’s.
The Dear Hunter put on an energetic and entertaining opening act despite a lack-luster (and honestly a little headache-inducing) light show accompaniment. I was not previously familiar with the band’s music at all prior to seeing them perform at this show and was pleasantly surprised. Though I don’t know that I will be going out of my way any time soon to look up their full discography, I wouldn’t mind stumbling across them again on Pandora in the future. I do appreciate that they have an extensive storyline to tell across their albums in true prog-rock fashion, although I think I have my hands full enough following The Amory Wars at the moment.
I may be a little biased, but I do honestly believe that Coheed and Cambria consistently put on some of the best live shows. This year’s Neverender was no exception. The visuals on screen behind the band ranged from video clips to trippy, moving artwork and really added to the feel and experience of the full album. The energy from the band was high and engaging. Something about being able to anticipate the next song in the lineup also seems to really amp up the audience in a way that is incomparable to other concerts.
After the conclusion of GAIBSIV (including hidden track Bron-Y-Aur, a nod to Led Zepplin), the band ended the set with a three song encore that included “Island,” “Delirium Trigger” and “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3.”
Coheed fans are an interesting group. We refer to each other as Children of the Fence (COTF), a reference to Heaven’s Fence: The universe in which The Amory Wars takes place. By the end of the encore, most of us in the back row had one arm around our neighbor and our other index finger up in the air during the lyric “we were one among The Fence.”
As Fall approached and the days continue to get shorter in the Northern Hemisphere the musical landscape is beginning to follow suit with calmer, more introspective themes and even drifting into downright darkness at times. This week’s playlist is stocked with a few cuts and previews from Fall releases and a decent helping of chill hip-hop. Put it on to ease yourself into the new season.
Angel Olsen – Never Be Mine
Angel Olsen’s highly anticipated follow up to 2014’s Burn Your Fire For No Witness was released this week. MY WOMAN is a collection of expertly written, dreamy guitar pop and only serves to solidify Olsen as one of the most impressive voices in the genre. “Never Be Mine” recalls early ’60s girl-group hits like “Be My Baby” as her voice floats with ease atop the swelling wall of sound.
Action Bronson – Descendants of the Stars
New York rapper Action Bronson has recently veered away from making music to hosting and co-creating TV shows on Viceland, but apparently he at least still has some free time to make theme songs for his shows. With a simple, piano-anchored beat, “Descendants of the Stars” is a gritty track that really spotlights Bronson’s nasal tone and variety of weird non sequitur bars.
Everything Everything – I Believe It Now
The UK power pop group have a wonderfully unique sound. They’re more artsy about a lot of things than their contemporaries. They don’t shy away from singer Jonathan Higgs’ shrieking falsetto. They stay poppy and danceable while sounding unlike anything that’s made to be poppy and danceable. “I Believe It Now” is no exception. The new single pulls from bass-driven ’80s pop before exploding into the fist pumping chorus and throwing in a gravelly electronic bridge for good measure.
Sampha – Blood On Me
Sampha proved himself during his years of work with SBTRKT, but up until this year he hardly had any solo material. But now he has been setting himself up to release a new project all his own and the cuts he has released sound awesome. “Blood On Me” shows expert use of harmonies and structure and presents the artist as a singular force that can easily stand on his own.
Sylvan Esso – Radio
Before Sylvan Esso’s debut album, the suggestion that a cappella folk singer Amelia Meath and electronic musician Nick Sanborn would come together to make one of the most creative sounds of the past few years might read like the musings of a crazy person. But it more than works, it excels and “Radio” only serves to continue the success of the fusion. Meath’s intense alto vocals are perfectly matched Sandborn’s layered production and rumbling bass to create a thick and rich sound.
Joey Bada$$ – Brooklyn’s Own
Joey Bada$$ is all about the old school. He’s demonstrated time and time again that he’s done his homework and want nothing more than to carry on the legacy of classic East Coast hip-hop. “Brooklyn’s Own” nods to Biggie with fluid rhyme schemes and a golden era tinged beat while still retaining Joey’s point of view. His punchy consonants and loose flow bring the old into the new quite effectively.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Jesus Alone
With the upcoming Skeleton Tree, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds hopefully are prepping a tremendous return to form. Perhaps not a return sonically as much as a return emotionally. The band and it’s leader thrive in the darkest subjects and in setting an ominous mood. “Jesus Alone” is a droning, 6-minute long expedition into the mind that flips between unsettling and uplifting piano accents. It’s vagueness leaves everything open and gets under the skin. It’s what Nick Cave is best at.
Isaiah Rashad – Free Lunch
Top Dawg Entertainment has produced some of the most impressive and highly-regarded artists in hip-hop and Isaiah Rashad is a big up-and-comer from the label. His new album The Sun’s Tirade is out now and features some modern bangers and a few chill R&B flavored cuts like “Free Lunch”. The beat with it’s bright guitars and smooth keyboards drives this track and let’s Rashad drop some well written verses. He’s going places for sure and the album is definitely worth a listen.
Bon Iver – 33 “GOD”
Bon Iver already dropped a few alternate versions of upcoming tracks from 22, A Million but “33 ‘GOD'” is the first fully formed, final version of a single we’ve heard and it finds the group veering pretty hard from their roots. They are introducing a lot of electronic production and samples and pulling equal influence from experimental art-pop and mainstream ’80s rock. It’s clear that Justin Vernon and company are doing some heavy experimentation. Let’s just hope it isn’t so heavy that it buries the songwriting that originally drew people to the band.
Shakey Graves – Tomorrow
“Tomorrow” comes off of an upcoming compilation from Dualtone Records who have housed Americana giants like Shovels & Rope, Brett Dennen, and the Lumineers. It’s a stripped down recording where Austin singer-songwriter Shakey Graves gets to play with his tempo and rhythm. It’s not a happy song exactly, but you can hear him having a good time. This track’s aggressive, loose guitar work and emotive vocal performance honestly might be the high point of the compilation, but if it is, it’s a really solid high point.
Listen to the playlist below and follow Altwire for more
Aesop Rock has built his career on his massive vocabulary, abstract wordplay, and a talent for taking the mundane and making it sound deep and complex. Over the years, he’s experimented with his style and became more hands-on with his production. He jumped into projects with unlikely collaborators like Kimya Dawson and John Darnielle (of The Mountain Goats). He gets more and more personal with his writing as he goes. His newest album, The Impossible Kid, finds one of the most unique independent rappers for the past two decades coming to terms in a new way with the fact that he’s been one of the most unique independent rappers for the past two decades.
Aesop takes on an entirely new perspective with this album, delivering his most grounded and personal album to date.On “Lotta Years” he speaks about observing young people with bad neck tattoos and removable dreadlocks. He questions his place in the future, in relation to a generation whose ideas of art and rap music are entirely different from his when he started out.A few songs later on “Blood Sandwich” he addresses two stories, one about each of his two brothers.In the first, he recounts a little league game that gets derailed by a burrowing rodent.The second is about his religious mother refusing to let his older brother attend a Ministry concert because she detects satanic influences. In classic Aesop style, the connection between these stories, and the insinuation that Aesop hasn’t spoken to his older brother for a while, isn’t initially clear. However, by painting these little vignettes, he’s really trying to put forward a clearer idea of where he came from and how that affected who he is now.
“Shrunk” details a psychiatric visit.“Dorks” is a shrugging acceptance of Aesop’s outsider status.“Kirby” tells the story of his recent decision to get a kitten at the suggestion of his psychiatrist.“Rings” laments the fact that he doesn’t do much drawing anymore.He raps that it’s “hard to admit that I used to draw.”These moments describe an Aesop Rock who, at some level, is actively trying to pull down the walls that previously existed between his life and what he puts on his records. As a whole, it makes the album easier to relate to. At least, it gives it an approachable human quality.
The human aspect actually saves the album from feeling a little bit one-note.Aesop producedthe entirety of The Impossible Kid, and while his ear has improved over his career, the album does fall prey to a lot of the same pitfalls as his production with Hail Mary Mallon on Bestiary.It feels a little rigid and harsh at times, focused more on strong and punchy quarter note rhythms than on building an atmosphere and giving the tracks interesting textures.Granted, there’s a noticeable effort made to smooth the production over, but it’s often hit-or-miss. Alternately, Aesop’s rapping technique has been consistent for the past few years, but it hasn’t shown too much evolution and can feel stale at times.The engaging and honest nature of the writing certainly helps to gloss over the album’s faults even if it doesn’t totally fix them.
Impossible Kid does have production gems here and there.“Defender” is a surprisingly ethereal track with some more nuanced drums and a smooth bass/synth combination. It has a cheesy DJ sting or two, but it’s forgivable in the greater mix. “Get Out Of The Car” cuts out the beat altogether and lets Aesop’s percussive vocals work to give the track a strong rhythm.It’s a smart choice that highlights the weight of his message on the track. You can hear that he wrote the verse to include plenty of piercing consonants to give it a rhythm.Above all, there’s poetry on the track. Word choice and delivery just proves how much he deserves the respect he’s gained.
If nothing else, Aesop Rock has always delivered tight verses that keep you hovering over the rewind button the whole time. His delivery on this album follows suit with toothy diction, quick-fire imagery, and chuckle-inducing punchlines (“Cherry? No.Whip? Yes.”). For those who go in for Aesop’s unique flow and intellectual “wordsmith-ery”, The Impossible Kid is a satisfying addition to his body of work. The album does have something going on at a deeper level.It’s less about the state of the rap game or the state of the world, and more about the state of Aesop Rock himself than anything else in his catalog.For all of the record’s faults, Aesop’s attempt to write in a less guarded way is ultimately a success. The Impossible Kid carves out a truly unique spot for itselfwithin his discography.
On the morning of April 20th I woke up to an exciting e-mail!
Once a year, at least one e-mail like it arrives. The e-mail announced a new project by one of the longest standing and most prolific underground hip-hop artists, Blueprint.
This time, the project had a surprise. There’s a special guest…Aesop Rock! Also, in what might be the most stunning turn of events, Aesop won’t be supplying a majority of the rhymes and instead serves as the project’s producer.
The EP is entitled “Vigilante Genesis”, and will feature Blueprint’s vocals over Aesop Rock’s beats. Along with this deviation from what is musically expected, Vigilante Genesis will be the first story concept-driven album Blueprint has delivered. The website of Blueprint’s label, Weightless Recordings, describes the mini-album as “a story that is as engaging and moving as any television mini-series or graphic novel.”
A story album seems to fit the temperaments of both artists; Blueprint shines when he delivers narratives like his feature on “Up in the Clouds”, from RJD2’s 2016 release, Dame Fortune. Aesop has always had a mind for creating stories in unexpected ways. His voice may not be a major contributing factor to the story, but hopefully his influence permeates the core of the album.
The two indie rap stalwarts are no strangers to collaborative projects. Along with a few one-offs together through Rhymesayers Entertainment connections, Aesop has recently had a string of successful collaborations with: Homeboy Sandman, Rob Sonic, and Kimya Dawson. Blueprint has worked extensively in groups with RJD2 and Illogic. Finally, nearly 15 years after Blueprint’s appearance on Aesop’s Daylight EP, the two are finally producing a full project together.
Traditionally, Blueprint has been known more for his production prowess than for his technique and skill as an emcee. Aesop found fame with his fast delivery and creative vocabulary; although he has self-produced much of his own work as well as many of his collaborations. He isn’t as well known for his production. Whether this risk pays off and delivers a unique new sound remains to be seen, but both artists have succeeded when they’ve stepped outside of their comfort zones. It should allow the two rapper/producers to more effectively focus on their own piece of the project.
Whatever your feelings about the unexpected “duty-splitting” on Vigilante Genesis, it is exciting to know that this duo of consistent and super hard-working artists are back together once again. You can pre-order the EP now at weightless.net and watch the video below to hear Blueprint briefly discuss the album.
The band has just released their first single, “Heart on My Sleeve”. This song takes me back to the punk-rock days of the ’80’s, which is definitely not a bad thing at all.
It was a much simpler time. I could hear Heart on My Sleeve on a present-day Seth Rogen/James Franco movie soundtrack, just as easily as I could hear it blaring at a party on a Molly Ringwald movie.
I love that Holland Road makes sure we get a chance to enjoy every talent in the band. The song is well-balanced. Andy Lund, who is the band’s lead guitarist, owns one of my favorite sections of the song which starts around 1:30. Not too later in the song, Dino Zawadski’s bass guitar brings an awesome, other-worldly accompaniment to Chris Mullin’s vocals as the drums, being played by Mikey Stewart, drop out of the beat.
“Heart on My Sleeve” is an ode to the girl of our dreams. You know, the type of girl that other men drool over and you don’t quite know how in the world you “managed to convince her to go out with me”.
Or, as Chris Mullins put it:
“She wraps her arms around me she tucks me into bed/
She said that I’m the best friend that she’s ever had/
All the boys don’t see, she wears her heart on my sleeve”
I suspect that after the ladies hear this song, Holland Road will have to invest in bigger shirts to hold all of those hearts on their sleeves.
As I said earlier, that’s definitely not a bad thing!
Australian indie rockers The Temper Trap have finally pulled back the curtains on their long-awaited third studio album. The new record, entitled Thick as Thieves, has been three years in the making, and will feature production work from Grammy award-nominated producer Malay, who had previously worked on Frank Ocean’s channel ORANGE and Zayn Malik’s Mind of Mine. In addition to the announcement, the band also premiered a new, electronically-charged track from the album, “Fall Together”; the second cut from the album released by the band, after the spaciously-produced title track was released as a single in February.
Thick as Thieves will notably be the band’s first without founding member and lead guitarist for over a decade, Lorenzo Sillitto, who had parted ways with the band in October 2013, citing a need to “try new things”, after what he described as “an experience I will never forget and one that changed my life.” The Temper Trap had reached stardom in Australian music culture and achieved international success with their first two albums, 2009’s Conditions and 2012’s self-titled The Temper Trap, the former of which certified Platinum in Australia and Gold in the United Kingdom.
Along with the new album’s official release date of June 10, 2016, the band also unveiled the album’s light-hearted artwork, which features two children identically dressed in camo shorts, white singlets and werewolf masks. The band also debuted the album’s fifth track, “Fall Together”, a song where profound lyrics describe a tangled love-hate relationship between two people. A triumphant electronic rock opus, the track features a perfect equilibrium between instruments and electronics, contrasting the heavyweight electronic and pop rock-centric sounds of the band’s previous studio album. You can check out the brand new slice from Thick as Thieves down below:
Thick as Thieves will be released by Liberation Records in Australia and the United Kingdom and by Glassnote Records in the United States on June 10, 2016. You can pre-order the album on iTunes. A limited-edition 10″ white vinyl version of the album is also available to pre-order in Australia through JB Hi-Fi.