One Eleven Heavy’s third album, Poolside reads at first glance like a road movie. With cartoon dreams of escaped criminal ciphers (“Tyrant King”), stoned musings on the history of coastal mountain roads (“Michael Landon”), rebound coke binge recollections (“Rizzo In The Wig”), and tales of sasquatches crossing the Alabama state line into Florida (“Bama Yeti”).
“It’s not one of those brooding, scorched-desert paeans to one’s own masculinity, or whatever,” asserts co-founder, guitarist, and vocalist, Nick Mitchell Maiato. “Rather, we wanted to make a kind of gothic western album in the spirit of Richard Brautigan’s novel, The Hawkline Monster,” he continues. “So, it’s more picaresque romp than full-on journey to the center of the navel.”
On first listen of the new album, you may not perceive anything overtly “gothic” or “western” about Poolside. It’s an almost indecently joyful-sounding record that deepens the band’s connection to the cosmic American heritage that inspired them to form back in 2016. Read between the high-flying lines of jubilant guitar revelry, though, and you’ll find a wry sarcasm that cuts through the record just as sharply as the novel that inspired it.
Take the album’s title, for starters—Poolside. The three-year gap between this and the last One Eleven Heavy record (the critically acclaimed Desire Path LP) might suggest that the band has been busy putting its collective feet up. Truth is, however, after the departure of former members Hans Chew (piano) and Dan Brown (bass) in early 2020, Mitchell Maiato and co-conspirator James Toth were forced to work twice as hard to make sure this record even came to pass.
“The title is definitely not reflective of our experience making this record,” agrees Toth. “We had to corral a lot of people and really push each other harder than ever before to get it record made,” he continues. “We were super lucky to have Jake Morris (Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks) at the ready to play drums, off the back of the 2019 tour we did with him. Nick had his English pal, Guy Fowler —who’s fantastic—play bass on the record, too. Then we had a host of other small but invaluable contributions here and there from various friends—Samara Lubelski, Michael Troutman, and others. Finding a piano player was probably the hardest part of the whole process, so in the end, we didn’t. Nick taught himself how to play piano in three months and just then nailed all the parts. The guy is a dynamo.”
Guided by mysterious producer Colin Sick, One Eleven Heavy spent the best part of a year writing, arranging, and piecing together the tracks that form Poolside. It shows in the music, which feels more complete, more unified, and more comfortable than either of the band’s first two albums, which were each recorded in the space of a week. From the John-Cale-plays-The-Faces stomp of Toth highlight “Bama Yeti” to the sprawling Mitchell-Maiato epic “Fruit Loops,” this is a more accomplished One Eleven Heavy—one that appears to have truly found its groove. Both lead members play multiple instruments on the album and the vocal harmonies between them gel like prime Mick ‘n’ Keef.
“Ultimately, what it boils down to is friendship,” says Toth. “Nick and I made a pact when we started this thing that One Eleven Heavy would be a band, not a project. The harder we work together, the closer we become as friends, and the more we trust each other. I think you can hear that on Poolside and I hope you’ll hear it more and more as we continue.”