From smashing pumpkins to burning pools, Ginger Pooley is the master of chaos
Best known as the former bassist and backing vocalist of alternative rock band ‘The Smashing Pumpkins’, Ginger Pooley’s latest musical project – ‘Burning Pools’ – sees her forcefully challenging the powers that be on the themes capitalism and racism in just two punch-packing song releases so far.
Led by Pooley on both vocals and bass, complemented by husband Kris Pooley on drums, and friend Max Bernstein on guitar, ‘Burning Pools’ is self-described “sludge pop noise rock” with just one motive: “power to the people!”.
And their debut single ‘Bang Bang‘ inspires just that. Accompanied by a music video release earlier this month, the track is a memorable first introduction to the band, entwining remnants of the 90s grunge scene with a punk-like critique of modern-day structures. The guitar riff oozes grit and distortion, making for a hypnotic ‘cool girl’ melody that wouldn’t be too out of place as the opening track in a teen coming-of-age movie. “The guitar riff of Bang Bang is the backbone of the song. It was the first part of the song to be born. It really was just picking up a guitar, putting on some distortion and the riff just came. After that, the melody started flowing and decided [itself] what it wanted to be about.”
Pooley’s vocals are effortlessly suave as she delivers harsh truths on the world around us – “your world is made of cash”, “your gold throne won’t save you”. “It is a critique of capitalism and what the powers that be tell us we need to value. I think the inspiration was from what lyrics started popping up from the melody. There was a search for something deeper and more meaningful than what we’re told by our culture that we need. There was a real longing and searching for something more and I knew I wasn’t alone. The chorus is pushing back on the distractions of material things and saying, “no, I know there’s something more here inside that is more valuable”.”
Whilst some insist on the separation of music from politics, it’s becoming more of a prerequisite in today’s age for various art forms to play more of a role in pushing for positive societal change, and ‘Burning Pools’ doesn’t shy away from the re-emerging wave of protest-driven lyrics: “I think music and art in general has the power to transcend strategy. It touches our souls. So, even if something doesn’t make sense on paper, art will pull on our hearts to lead us to truth.”
Their second single ‘White’ is testament to this commitment to political outspokenness, offering both substance and style in an unsubtle lyrical denouncement of racism in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, and a call to arms “rise, rise, and mobilise” against such injustices. “For me, it’s more about putting a spotlight on truth. It’s about being true to myself and others. I think truth and justice go hand in hand. Within the band, some may be more politically outspoken than others, but as a whole we’re just speaking truth.”
For a band with only two songs under their belt, ‘Burning Pools’ has kicked off with a bang (pun intended) thanks to their combined musical expertise that has seen them rack up an impressive list of artist accreditations to date; from The Smashing Pumpkins to Slash, Gwen Stefani, Siouxsie Sioux, and more. “All we can do is take all of our past experiences and build on that. Kind of how anyone in any field builds upon their knowledge and experience they’ve accumulated over the years. We’re definitely not afraid of any genre of music but I think fundamentally we are a loud rock band, and I don’t see that changing any times soon.”
One thing I’ve always admired about Ginger Pooley on a personal level, is her ability to carve out her own space in typically male-dominated genres, and hold her own. On this, Pooley states, “I’ve only discovered recently that I’m a highly sensitive person. The touring world is mostly dominated by males. There is a lot of male energy going around for sure. I had to push down a lot of my feelings to “man up” and do my job. Having now done a lot of growing to know myself better, I could have used some tools to identify my feelings and work through them. Even though that would have added more to my plate at the time, it may have made me stronger to be able to deal with situations that had come up.”
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges that contributes to this is the lack of female predecessors within the scene. Although, it has to be said that this has slowly started to improve in recent years. “As a bass player, the first females I saw playing bass when I was a teenager were D’arcy Wretzky. who was playing in ‘The Smashing Pumpkins’, and Sean Yseult from ‘White Zombie’. They were really inspiring and so cool. It was awesome to see women who shared the same passion for bass, but doing it on a professional level.”
So what’s Pooley’s advice for any aspiring female musicians out there? “I would just say, keep your love of music alive. Whatever excitement you felt after hearing the music that first made you want to play or sing: keep that.”
And for anyone looking for new music to listen to, Ginger Pooley has kindly recommended we check out Emily Moore’s project ‘Total Brutal’. “Her music is awesome and she collaborates with mostly female musicians. I love that I got to play bass on her first single ‘Willow!’ Check it out!”
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