Empty Pools

Empty Pools

 Bristol, England, GBR

Empty Pools formed in the halcyon days of fading summer 2011. They artfully combine elements of noise rock with teen dream melodies, late ’70s CBGB’s angularity and the jazzy world-pop sophistication of the Thrill Jockey set.


According to a certain strain of astrology, the most important transitions in your life aren’t the ones marked by birthday, retirement, or condolence cards. The Saturn Return marks the 29 years it takes for the ringed planet to orbit the sun, and every time it realigns with the point it occupied at your birth, you move between four defining life phases: from youth to adulthood, to maturity, to wisdom.

Bristol's Empty Pools made quite a seismic splash early on in 2012 with the self-release of their immaculately conceived, if ultimately scratchily composed single, ‘Vanderbilt Cup’. The track proved as sonically rich as it was contextually textured; citing everything from Mercury Rev's ‘The Dark Is Rising’ to Dylan's ‘Gates of Eden’, it thematically told of NYC photographer Robert Mapplethorpe's obscure rapport with a certain Patti Smith during the late '60s and early '70s. ‘Vanderbilt Cup’ offered a magisterial listen overflowing with ingenuity, and a superbly rerecorded version comprising subtle brass – one of umpteen "new parts, sounds and structural ideas" - and considerably more zippy timbres features early on in the quartet's long-awaited and indeed painstakingly named debut full-length 'Saturn Reruns'.

From the aptly volatile ‘Exploded View’ – a fraying short fuse of a thing lit by incendiary rhythmic elements, claustrophobic existentialism inspired by "the fall" (a revolt against one’s makers, not the grizzly post-punk Mancunian stalwarts) and 23-year-old vocalist Leah's incisive snarl – to the giddying, The Sea and Cake-inspired nonchalant plushness of ‘Safety School’, it’s an astonishingly competent and so too cohesive work. 'Saturn Reruns' injects a once ailing West Country music scene with boundless hope, epitomised in the glittery joie de vivre of ‘Murals’, or the unreservedly hypnotic ‘Televised’, which sounds like the sisters Deal’s Last Splash bred with that distinctly carefree abandon of the now-voguish '90s into which it was first thrust. That was the decade in which Empty Pools endured their formative years, and consequently the time at which their singer first began to formalise her acutest of attentions to detail. 

"I had tried to find a title in ‘Self Portrait at 28’ by David Berman because it's one of my favourite poems" she says of the record's eventual titling, "but there was nothing that really fit with the themes of the album. I remembered a few years ago asking Stephen Malkmus if his ‘Forever 28’ was a reference to that poem. He said no, but that 28 or thereabouts is quite often a "time" for people; a Saturn return. I looked it up when I got home and understood it to be a pretty cool and romantic way to describe sinking into a hellish depression. It made it into a line in ‘Line Drive’ and when I was making a final scan of the lyrics – three beers in – the morphed version sprung out, tying together the poem, the grim lyrical themes and the TV references. Each song is a miniature, miserable revelation. What could be more like watching an episode of Frasier? The title also pays homage to our favourite rock'n'roll puns."

She speaks of 'Saturn Reruns' with poise and so too purpose – her thoughts a tidy intertwinement of the hyper-erudite and the happy accident. Ultimately, the name came from "around 50 stupid tweets, a few pub trips and an afternoon drinking beer in Ben's garden. All that time to realise we'd exhausted all our ideas and hadn't actually found anything we all agreed on." Again, it's a neat juxtaposition of the critical and the jovial that mirrors the seriously contemplated influences to have formed the album in the first place (the initial classified ad posted by guitarist Ben and drummer Aaron listed the likes of Pylon, Marnie Stern, Talking Heads, Helium and Karate, attracting kindred spirits in bassist Matt, and Leah) and the at times ingenuous sonic fare it comprises.

Though the ad was printed in the halcyon days of fading summer 2011, Saturn has completed almost half a lap since Ben and Aaron first bonded as members of John Parish’s band at the turn of the millennium. That partnership could have ended when they lost touch five years ago, though fate would have it that both landed in groups that would finish albums or book tours only for half their members to quit. The duo’s reconnection and Empty Pools’ ensuing formation may have been somewhat serendipitous, but the sound is of four lives finely attuned to one another; four discrete, if still highly distinct wavelengths consummately interlaced. Much like Mapplethorpe's celebrated portrait of Patti or indeed Smith's Horses itself – the seminal album said photograph so iconically covers – 'Saturn Reruns' may yet transpire to be their lifework. Or that of this youthful first 29-year lap at any rate...


March 2012: 'Vanderbilt Cup'
Free self-released track

June 2012: 'Exploded View'
Free self-released track

July 2012: 'Vanderbilt Cup' and 'Exploded View'
Re-released by Enclaves - all digital platforms worldwide

October 1 2012: 'Safety School'/'Absentees'
Released by BATTLE - double A-side 7" single & digital download
- Digital/publishing handled by Frenchkiss Label Group
- AUS/NZ distribution by Fuse
- UK/EU/exports by Proper

March 11 2013: 'Small Talk'
Released by BATTLE - 7" vinyl/digital single
- Digital/publishing handled by Frenchkiss Label Group
- AUS/NZ distribution by Fuse
- UK/EU/exports by Proper

August 9 2013: 'Exploded View'
First single from debut album premiered on SPIN

August 26 2013: 'Exploded View'
Released by BATTLE - digital single
Backed by remixes from Menomena and Thought Forms

November 4 2013: 'Saturn Reruns'
Album released by BATTLE on special edition CD and digital

Set List

Exploded View
Vanderbilt Cup
Safety School
Small Talk
Small Talk Part 2
Medium Wave
Holding Pattern