Inspiration for a song can come from anywhere, and often when you expect it least. That’s what happened to Shallow Pools—the Boston-based band comprised of drummer Ali Ajemian, vocalist Glynnis Brennan, guitarist Jess Gromada and bassist Haley Senft—with “Say What You Want”, the four-piece’s first song for Equal Vision records. Its genesis stems from a Pride event Shallow Pools—all of whom are proud members of the LGBTQ+ community—were playing. Because amidst all the celebrations at the event, there were also, sadly, some protestors. “Glynnis actually went up and talked to them,” remembers Gromada,“and we channeled that experience into this song. It’s basically our response to them.”
“I feel like we always want to make some kind of statement,” adds Brennan, “and after that show we wanted to write something that basically said ‘Fuck the haters’. As members of the LGBT community, this song just feels really important to us.”
“We also just wanted to come out with a bang,” says Senft. “Signing to Equal Vision is huge for us, and of the songs we’ve recorded so far, this is definitely our favorite. It’s our most hard-hitting one, as well.”
Co-written with PVRIS frontwoman (and fellow Massachusetts native) Lynn Gunn, it’s a powerful assertion of identity that came together quickly and naturally. Recorded at Reclaim Studios in Thompson, CT with Chris Curran, the song’s jaunty, poppy, danceable vibes are underpinned by the serious message at its heart and the conviction with which that’s delivered. All of which highlights and showcases the immediate bond that was formed between the band—who collaborate on their lyrics—and Gunn when they met for the first time.
“It was super comfortable with her from the beginning,” remembers Ajemian. “We realized it was the perfect song to write with another queer artist, so we just said ‘This is the topic, let’s go off’ and it just came out immediately. It was the fastest lyric writing process we’ve ever had.” Not only that, but some five years of playing together as Shallow Pools, the band—who started out playing together as friends in school around a decade ago—think that they’ve now finally hit their sound. Slick and sophisticated, it’s a far cry from those early days, but the band acknowledge how important those days were in terms of finally getting to where they are now.
“We started playing acoustic covers when we were in high school,” explains Gromada. “Back then, we were just playing what we were listening to, but as we got older everything kind of changed. We spent a lot of time experimenting with genres and writing songs that we didn’t necessarily like playing live. Now, we play songs that we like writing, playing and listening to.”
“This song is the most us-sounding song,” confirms Ajemian. “I feel like we’ve reached a final form almost!”
Much of that is down to the close relationship between the four of them. Not only are they close friends who share a house, but they all also share similar political views. Such is their interest in activism, in fact, that they feel Shallow Pools is about much more than just the music they make. It’s a vehicle for sharing their views and message, and a way for them to offer people what they felt they needed and wanted from bands when they were younger. As such, both the idea of representation, and turning something negative into something positive—as “Say What You Want” so effectively does—have very much become the band’s purpose and reason for existing, not least then when LGBTQ people still face prejudice on a daily level.