The Beating Heart of Boston’s DIY Culture

An Interview with Boston Band, Pool Boys

by Erin Christie

We all grow up having dreams. Whether we wanted to be the world’s greatest gymnast or a
world-renowned veterinarian, we all came into our own with aspirations reaching higher than the tallest skyscrapers, thoughts of success and glory unprecedented. For many, those dreams manifested as thoughts of performing in front of audiences, screaming their own lyrics back at them and entering the recording studio with a fantastic air, music coursing through their veins. Our favorite bands and artists all begin somewhere- whether in the nooks and crannies of the big city or in a small, cramped basement in the heart of suburbia. Your local “hometown heroes” might become something big someday and when they enter the surreal world of flashbulbs, blood-thirsty press mongrels, and the glitz and glamor of Hollywood royalty, the fact that they arose where they did will never change. Even when your favorite local band is performing to sold-out arenas all over the world, the fact that you once saw them at a house show in your neighbor’s friend’s living room will always be true, speaking to the importance of those beginnings and what our upbringings mean in the sum of our lives- whether we intend to be in a multi-platinum recording band or not.

Do It Yourself or counterculture seeks to overthrow the idea that in order to thrive, one must have everything- production, organization, globalization, and more- done for them and in a professional sense. The DIY scene directly goes against the general expectation that “the Man” must somehow be involved in creative efforts of any kind in order for them to be successful, creating a living, breathing example of how despite popular opinion, art, music, and more coming directly from the source- not butchered or shopped by “hotshots” within the industry- can still thrive and make an impact on audiences local and not, this self- sustaining powerhouse being much more than a mish-mash of kids with their “heads stuck in the clouds,” but rather, entrepreneurs in the making.

Though it may not seem like it at first glance, Boston’s underground culture is thriving with hidden gems, whether in terms of sporadic pop-up shops, filled to the brim with local creatives aiming to sell their various handcrafted wares (such as pins, patches, and prints), mixtapes, and more or house gigs packed with dozens of local music- lovers.

photo by Austin Quintana

photo by Austin Quintana

Among the contributors to the intricately diverse, local band, Pool Boys, comprised of Lorenzo Rossi (bass and backing vocals), Nick Acari (drums), Will Petrillo (keys), Scott Hermenau (lead guitar and backing vocals), and Jasper Coté (vocals and rhythm guitar), ironically rises above their peers, adding a unique flair to the scene holistically.

Recently, I had the chance to sit down with Jasper Coté of Pool Boys to gain his perspective regarding the scene itself, his experience being in the band, and his own musical influence- from Bowie to Father John Misty.

em Mag: In regards to music, have you always been interested in playing? When did you realize that you wanted to start a band and/or turn to music professionally?

Jasper Coté: I have definitely been intersected in music for a long time. My family (Lorenzo and Nick in the band are actually my relatives) all kind of play music so it was just something I grew up in. I didn't start playing an instrument until middle school really where I picked up the bass because everyone else played the guitar or drums. In high school, I was in a group called The Lovely Static and we made a garage album. Then I came to Emerson where my brother Lorenzo was going (and still goes) and Nick, my cousin, goes now too. We always loved playing together and after Lorenzo introduced us to Scott and Nick with Will, we all really just kind of clicked and started to write songs.

EM: Did you have any strong musical influence when you were growing up? Who would you say has inspired you the most to either pursue music further or travel down the path that you have in terms of sound, genre, and more?

JC: I think we have a lot of influences from all over. Rock, indie rock, jazz, funk, folk etc. which I think we kind of all blend together. For me, my influences come from the  Cure, Swell Season, David Bowie, Arcade Fire, White Denim, Father John Misty, T. Rex and a lot more.

EM: I’m sure it’s a bit nerve-wracking to perform in front of crowds—have you found it to be that way or do you feel relatively calm in terms of live performances? What’s your favorite part of gigs?

JC: Gigs were kind of nerve racking but now I fricking love them. As a group, we only wear short bathing suits and splash our bodies with water before we go on just as a thing we do. I find it makes the gigs a lot more of a performance and though I take it seriously, it makes me feel less serious, which makes me feel more comfortable to be weird or good around on stage, to put on more of a show. 

EM: If you could play a gig with any artist/group living or dead, who would you most love to play with?

JC: I would’ve loved to play with David Bowie or, now, White Denim but I'm sure my other band mates would have different answers too. [laughs]

EM: What is your usual songwriting process? When you write, where do you draw most of your inspiration from?

JC: As of right now, I have written most of the chords and lyrics and that I wrote over the summer and brought to the band, but we all kind of really took off from there and wrote the songs as a band. Most of my inspiration comes from other bands I like, a past relationship, and a lot from some of my favorite movies. 

EM: Have you been working on anything recently? What are your plans for the future?

JC: I have been working on other stuff recently, but the band is actually dying as of next semester because Lorenzo is graduating and I am going abroad and it just wouldn't be the same Pool Boys if we didn't have Lorenzo next year. So listen to our album dropping Dec. 9th! But I am definitely still writing new material for a later date.

photo by Austin Quintana

photo by Austin Quintana

JC: I freaking love our band. It really has introduced me to people I consider to be life-long friends. It is the highlight of my college experience so far.

For Pool Boys, as for many bands globally, their experience would’ve really been changed if not for the environment around them- without all having been at Emerson and without having access to the scene around here, who knows if Pool Boys would’ve even come to fruition (a daunting thought, surely)? In not having access to such the diverse and multi-layered scene within the Boston area alone- especially with such a higher concern for artistic efforts including those having to do with music, Pool Boys’ upbringing, as well as that of countless other local acts, would not have been possible. The DIY scene, especially concerning the music industry, allows for a great sense of independence, freedom from the restraints of the warped mentality of the “Industry,” one focused primarily on capital growth and marketing instead of personal connections to the audience, having the free-will to be expressive and creative outside of the set “norms,” and being willing to step outside of the box in all areas. DIY allows for the continuation of local creatives to get together and organize the house gigs and pop- up shops that define the movement and join together those invested in the scene, creating a platform by which artists and visionaries, like Pool Boys, can get their start and establish roots in their own communities.

photo by Austin Quintana

photo by Austin Quintana

Instead of having to start from scratch and immediately find a record label to carry them, bands can start producing their own records and putting on their own gigs. Artists no longer need to have a storefront within a crowded mall or shopping complex to get their art out into the world- they can operate out of local markets and through online shops of their own.

In a general sense, in being let loose from the shackles of the traditional system, such allows for creatives- musical, or not- to thrive regardless, as shown by Pool Boys and their peers, as well as countless other members of the DIY- culture country-wide. Again, we all have dreams, and without the Man stepping in the way and trying to squash them, they may be able to become reality, especially with the aid of the DIY- community.

photo by Austin Quintana

photo by Austin Quintana

To keep up with Pool Boys, check them out through their social media: @poolboystheband on Facebook- and keep an eye out for the upcoming record (soon-to-be-released via Spotify, Bandcamp, and Apple Music)