Poolside Rewires Sonic and Lyrical Blueprint on Fourth Album ‘Blame It All On Love’

By 2011, Jeffrey Paradise had no idea how far the music would go. While DJ-ing in Los Angeles, Paradise started crafting his own “daytime disco” with former partner Filip Nikolic and released Pacific Standard Time as Poolside in 2012. After that, Paradise wasn’t sure where his music would go beyond the backyard parties. After Nikolic’s departure in 2017, and the release of the second Poolside album, Heat, Paradise continued expanding sonically, and lyrically, and released Low Season in 2020, followed by High Season a year later.

A decade later, Paradise began writing and recording what would become his fourth release Blame It All On Love at his home in Malibu, California where he just moved with his girlfriend. Midway into working on the album, Paradise witnessed a motorcycle accident at the side of the road near his home that was linked to a kidnapping scam taking place at his neighbor’s home. The entire incident left Paradise with a sense of unease. Coupled with his new life in Malibu, and new love, there was an irksome feeling that something was awry, which found its way onto the album.

“There’s a theme of thinking you found something and believing it’s going to work, but there’s always that Shakespearean dark side you don’t know is coming,” Paradise said of the album in a previous statement. “There’s a shadow side to everything when you pursue the things you love. Whether it’s romance or ambition, there’s always this trade-off of harsh realities that comes with it.”

Self-produced by Paradise, Blame It All On Love plays around with the two parallels of wanting love and the realities around everything tied to it. Initially, Paradise began writing with Cut Copy bassist Ben Browning, and their demos for “Ride With You,” “Moonlight,” Lonely Night” and “Sea of Dreams” made the album.

Blame It All On Love is a nighttime cruise, riding out any regrets through some yacht-rock and funk-lit plays around stories of multi-dimensional ideas of love. “Moonlight borders on more unconditional love—Like the moonlight / I will brighten your dawn  / Like the moonlight / I’ll be watching from above—and “Where Is The Thunder?” pokes are more indie-pop. Everything circles back to the dance floor grooves imagined by Paradise with the brisker “We Could Be Falling in Love” and the lo-fi drift of “Ventura Highway Blues” and all its enjoyable troubles of love. Munya’s misty vocals close the stories up on the dreamlike close “Lonely Night.” 

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Along with Munya are a collective of special guests pulled by Paradise, including Panama, Vansire, Slenderbodies, Mazy, Ora The Molecule, and Life On Planets.

“I feel pretty lucky to be in the struggle because I realized that being in the struggle of where you want to be has meaning,” he says. “There are challenges when you pursue what you love, and the heartache behind that is interspersed in the album. I think I’m at a mature enough place in my life where these don’t catch me as a surprise. There is human error, and that’s something I always put into Poolside. I guess that’s my rebellious act now.”

Paradise spoke with American Songwriter about the evolution of Poolside, writing now, and creating something beyond “daytime disco.”

American Songwriter: Love is an overriding theme of the album. What were some other things that surfaced as you worked through the songs?

JP: This record was more around the concept of love and how it sort of inspires. Sometimes we focus on romantic love as meaning love, but when you zoom out, everyone is doing something based on this concept of love. If they’re doing something they hate, it’s usually because they want something they love to come from it. Dreams and love, in a sense, are the same where you have this “I want to go do this thing, or go on this vacation, or have this car, or get this girlfriend or boyfriend. You’re always inspired by this feeling or this experience. Then, the human part of it, which is almost Shakespearean, is that it’s never what you wanted in the first place. It’s not what you thought it would be. That’s what I tried to pull together for the album, and it just started taking shape from there.

There’s this ephemeral quality to getting something you thought you wanted and going back to this baseline. I find that pretty interesting because it makes you think “Well, what matters?”

AS: There are some ‘70s-80s loungey vibes, and indie and funk elements that make Blame It All On Love sound bigger than “Daytime Disco.” Sonically, what did you want to capture on this album?

JP: It became that without being this wallpaper version of that music. I’ve been evolving the sound with each new record. Poolside had this very functional element to the first record, so the next two albums were about “How do you expand on that?” You don’t want to become something so distant from it that people are like, “What the hell’s this,” but you also don’t want to become some sort of factory making music that “fits your sound.”

For the fourth album, I just wanted to ignore everything and start over like I was in high school making songs again. I came from more of a punk, indie rock background before I was a DJ, so it was almost a return to my inspirations. It’s not a punky record by any means, but just that spirit of “Let’s write a song. Whatever you’re feeling, let’s just put that out there.”

I felt more attached to this record in a “this is me” way than I’ve ever felt. The others felt like “This is me making music for backyard hangs,” but this record sounds like me. It sounds like songs I wrote when I barely knew how to write music. It’s a more evolved sound but the essence of that time is still there.

AS: Over time, it just becomes more refined, because you learn more about yourself and what you’re creating, so how did you tap back into something so early on?

JP: I started bands before in high school where I barely could play the guitar chords, and I’ve gone back and visited some of the songs I wrote when I didn’t know music. There were no rules to obey, and you have no catalog to live up to, so it’s just “This song is better than the other two songs I wrote before this,” and you have this freedom to do whatever you want.

Poolside’s Jeffrey Paradise (Photo: Jasmine Safaein)

I got back in that space and it reminded me of what I did when I had no rules or no skills to even obey any rules.

AS: You said that you never imagined Poolside would ever reach this level when you first started.

JP:
Poolside started as “We’re making music for this purpose: there was no cool music.” I had just moved to Los Angeles from New York. I lived in New York for a year, and I got chewed up and spit out. I was just old enough—in my late 20s—and when I got to LA it was during peak dubstep. The difference between Los Angeles and New York is that in New York, you’re going to a restaurant or club. The pinnacle of things to do in LA is to go to someone’s backyard. So we were going to these backyard parties and there were no mood playlists yet or any of that. So my buddy (Nikolic) and I had been making music for a few years already and thought “Let’s make some music that we would want to hear in that space—the backyard hangs in Los Angeles” not knowing that this would become a job, a career, or even be moderately successful. It was: “This would be fun ” That was the blueprint of poolside.

AS: Thinking back on Pacific Standard Time (2012), Heat (2017), or more recently Low Season (2020) to now, how has songwriting shifted for you?

JP: I’ve always been a little bit of a rebellious spirit. With Heat and Pacific Standard Time I wanted people, if they dug in and read the lyrics, to realize that it wasn’t just complete nonsense. I also wanted it to feel more like house music. When Pacific Standard Time came out, people were calling it chillwave, and I was like, “What’s chillwave?” I was not inspired by chillwave in any way, so it was a little bit of this rebellion against the idea that you had to write a song about being heartbroken and your girl leaving you or your suburban dreams crumbling in The Shins of Pavement kind of way, who I love. This was the opposite lyrical style.

I’m an indie kid. This music was for indie kids, but Pacific Standard Time was more house music lyrics. On Low Season, the shift was “Let me write songs,” and “Around the Sun” was the first autobiographical song I had written.

At the same time, obeying the rules of something you’ve experienced is limiting. It feels like writing a mini-movie, and sometimes my life’s too boring to write a movie about, so I need to embellish it with a little drama.

Photo: Andrew Rosas / Courtesy of Falcon Publicity

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