There are only about a dozen or so pop punk band fronted by women that are worth listening to, and The Same Mistakes is just long enough to prove Ashley Cadwallader has enough talent to be added to that list. She easily powers up the lyrics while maintaining the band's melodic-driven punk.
Add the still-obscure Los Angeles pop punk band to the watch list.
Cadwallader isn't the only person to lay down great vocals either. Both Billy Miranda (guitar) and Russell Ladia (guitar) deliver strong enough backing vocals that often rise up to create the illusion of a duet. In fact, it is often the counterbalance between male and female vocals that help the Smalls avoid sounding like just another pop punk band.
They use all three vocalists to great effect. In the video that highlights the EP closer Tired, the male backing vocals add some welcome depth as Cadwallader belts out her reluctant breakup vocals. It works even better when laid over the aggressive tempo held together by Gus Limon on bass and Brittney Rosales on drums.
Interestingly enough, neither Miranda nor Ladia deliver the final male vocal crush. The caped crusader is Dominic Padilla from Stanley And The Search. His band is more punk than pop punk and lends some needed harshness to close out the song and complement Cadwallader's toughness.
Still, the guys in the band do have enough chops to hold their own. Miranda turns Brand New into more of duet after Cadwallader leads off with some addictive melodic apathy. The opener might be less than 40 seconds, but it's surprisingly impactful. The verse, accompanied by the acoustics, serves up some solid songwriting in the shortest space possible.
Brand New is somewhat indicative of the band's roots too. Originally brought together by a " musicians wanted" ad, Smalls started as a duo with Cadwallader and Miranda, who immediately meshed after meeting up. The rest of the band came much later as the two struggled to find like-minded talents willing to let the melody be the hero but without sacrificing any frenetic energy.
The duo put out their own 4-track EP, Expecting The Worst, with Ladia tapped to play bass as a favor to his childhood friend. In fact, although not being circulated on every digital version, the acoustic Game Of Kings was part of the pre-band debut. It was also one of the most fiery compositions.
If you have a chance, give the acoustic and the original a listen. Game Of Kings is another relationship crush that centers around erasing the evidence of a relationship. Without that track, the best of The Same Mistakes is easily The Internet Is A Terrible Place And I No Longer Wish To Be In A Band. The Internet smack down captures the allure and angst of being in a band nowadays.
It also leans a littler closer to the hardcore presence that Smalls can almost pull off. After that, Guilt keeps the band soaring with its natural edge while We're Taking It Back sound fine but lacks some of the same substance as its companions. Still, there is a groovy guitar lick or two tucked inside Guilt.
The Same Mistakes By Smalls Bangs Out 6.7 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.
For an EP that barely breaks a sweat in under 15 minutes, The Same Mistakes packs a punch that just wasn't possible when the band only had three players and a friend. The five-piece lineup feels complete and we're hoping they hold it together while delivering some fiery live shows in LA.
You can download five tracks from The Same Mistakes on iTunes or find The Same Mistakes on Amazon. There seems to be a pressing pending.
For all six tracks, Negative Progression Records offers the acoustic Game Of Kings with a complete album download off a dedicated bandcamp page. For everything else, visit the band on Facebook.