Friday, June 5, 2009

Ponytail Interview

Ponytail are making some most experiemental and creative music right now. A fusion math rock, art rock, impromtu, and insane vocals. So of all the things that could possibly come up in an interview with them, every band memeber saying how great Fleetwood Mac is not the first thing you would think of. But if their music is based on having no idea what will come next, I guess a deep love of 60's music should not be surpising.
David Glickman (Me): So you formed in college, for a college class were your professor grouped you together and said form a band. What class was that?

Dustin Wong: It was this class called parapainting.

DG: So that was part of the class, making a band?

DW: Yeah, that was part of the class. We kind of knew from the beginning what we were getting into. I think we all went into the class thinking we were going to start a band.

DG: So what made you want to continue preforming after the class had ended?

DW: It was just really fun. We had to preform a show at the very end of the semester and it was such a blast that we decided to keep going.

Ken Seeno: It didn’t feel like their was another choice, it was just like natural. It was just ‘let’s keep going.’ I feel that’s what happened to Michael. We was probably just like surprised, because we were like "So when do you guys want to practice next"? It was like there wasn't any talk about stopping and we just got caught up in it, our ex-keyboard player.

Molly Siegal: We kinda knew that it was something that had gotten beyond the class like we practiced a lot and we kind of were all excited about it.

DG: How did you decide on your sound? Was there a decision to be so experimental?

DW: I think it was already experimental, because we all did really know each other you know. But really didn’t kind of it, like we weren’t like let’s make this experimental, more like lets make this work.

Jeremy Hyman: Yea, in the beginning we weren’t really thinking about music as much as we were art just because where we were in our lives, our education. So that kind of has experimental leanings from the beginning, I mean that added to it. Plus our tastes are all so different that you really couldn’t have a unified sound from all these people.

DG: Right, you’ve been compared sonicly to Deerhoof and vocally to Yoko Ono. Are these actual influences of yours, or... I mean I’m suspecting (there is) other stuff.

DW: I mean there are definitely other stuff, but Yoko Ono and Deerhoof are, I mean really love their music, it’s definitely in their. I’m not denying any sort of, were not influenced by these people.

KS: I mean everybody has different influences because everybody listens to different things. I mean we can list some if you like.

DG: Sure, why not.

KW: Well, Molly’s into Minnie Riperton.

(Molly Laughs)

DG: Into what?

MS: Well right now, sort of, I’m sort of getting into Minnie Riperton, who’s like this crazy vocalist. She can just sing in like nine octaves, (or what’s ever a lot, 12 or something). I don’t know, I would say my influences, my direct influences are Pixies and their vocals and...

DG: Kim Deal or Frank Black?

(Smiles and Laughs) MS: Both, I would say definitely both. I mean Kim Deal, is awesome and I like the other bands she’s been in to. But I would say both of them, the way the vocals work with the music and also The Silts, Kathleen Hanna from Le Tigre.

DG: Anyone else want to go?

DW: I really like the Beach Boys.

JH: Some big for me were the Police. They were a huge influence on me. But even newer ones. When we were in school, Lighting Bolt were a huge influence, seeing them. Even bands that are our contemporizes like, seeing a band like Japanther and wanting to start a band. You know, just the live performance aspect.

KS: Yea, I just recently got into The Police too. I don’t know. Just like really recently I just been getting back into jazz and stuff. I was even thinking about earlier today, when I used to be in jazz band. I been really into Sunny Sherlock for a while, he’s like a really noisy electric guitar jazz guy. I see things going that way. I mean I see my tastes going more into jazz.

DW: If I could continue from Jeremy, the Providence music scene was definitely huge influence.

DG: As oppose to the Baltimore one?

DW: Yea definitely. It was definitely that scene really made me want to be in a band. Like Lighting Bolt and the whole Port Thunder music.

DG: So nothing truly that experimental. I mean, you don’t blast Frank Zappa or Captain Beefheart through your speakers...

Everybody At the Same Time: Oh no, yea!

DW: I mean that’s like... when I was in like 5th grade I was blasting Frank Zappa. I thought you were going to say something like Sun O))).

KS: I mean I really like Captain Beefheart. I got into a later record recently, Ice Cream for Crow. That record is pretty cool. I think it’s from the 80's. It’s pretty sweet. I like Zappa too. I mean, I don’t even need to mention them because they are so natrual or something. I thought you were going to say Deathstorm or something. I like nosie too.

DG: So this has been asked a million times, so I am going to make it a million and one. What lead to Molly’s vocals? How did you decided to do screeches and yells and noises or traditional vocals?

MS: Well, when we started, obviously, none of us new each other very well and I didn’t know what I was going to play in the band. They all played their instruments and I didn’t play any instruments, so it was one practice were I didn’t know what I was doing and I mentioned that I might want to sing, and so Dustin, he kind of heard that and was like ‘why don’t we practice alone, just me and you’. I actually knew Dustin before a little bit, the most out of anyone. So we got together and jammed and came up with... I feel it was a combination of not really thinking I could sing traditionally at all and also just... I don’t know, I knew I didn’t want to do... I just knew there a lot of vocals I wasn’t interested in. I feel I just found a way that worked, you know, it was the only thing that worked for me really. I couldn’t imagine singing really like, normally; so that’s how it happened. And then it just developed (and it’s still developing) , but it developed over years to be less crazy, more actual singing.

DG: Right because on Ice Scream Spiritual you actually sing some tangible English.

MS: Definitely. Yea actually... on Kamehameha I was saying words too. I think that with Kamehameha it was just different because we recorded, I feel we recorded that like kind of early or something. Right after we wrote everything and I feel like I was still unsure about some of things I was doing and I was actually really sick during the recording. Just like, I feel like... just the way I, for example we still do Bermuda Triangle, which is a song from Kamehameha, and we do it sometimes with cassettes, and I do it completely differently that the recording. Well not completely different, but to me, it’s really different. Anyway, I feel for Kamehameha there were words, but you can’t really hear them because of the way I was doing them was more screaming.
KS: And through a telephone.

MS: Yea and I was singing through a telephone actually. Like, a microphone that was made from a telephone speaker...

(I laugh and butt in) DG: Really?

MS: Yea, so that also contributed to the sound. Which I liked the distortion at the time a lot, but now I really won’t want that.

KS: Another Japanther influence. They influenced us.

DG: The lo-finess?

KS: Just the idea, straight up was cool. Yeah I guess the lo-finess, but just the way it sounded, using a telephone as a microphone.

DW: It was just this telephone we found in the trash. We didn’t need to buy a microphone.

MS: Yeah, I had never been in a band before and this was a class project so I wasn’t spending a lot of money on the project. So, they had all been in bands before and they all had equipment already and I was just starting from scratch. So Jeremy just took this telephone, this plastic telephone...

JH: It was a really weird looking phone.

MS: It was weird, actually.

DW: A cordless phone...

KS: Without any second guessing, it was just ‘Yea, Molly gets to use that’.

(Molly bursts into laughter)

KS: Never a question or an issue.

DW: We were ‘We had a microphone’ lets...

(Still laughing) MS: I was never like, ‘Oh, we could do this differently.’

KS: It was never a specific idea or a specific not idea.

MS: I was never really thinking about, I was just doing it. We were all really distracted by school too. We had a lot going on, so it was this other thing we were doing. And now it’s like, center of our lives.

DG: Speaking of, Ice Cream Spiritual was a big jump from Kamehameha. Kamehameha was these 10 super sonic bursts of sound and energy. But with Ice Cream Spiritual you draw out the sound and build it and build it and exploded it and build it again. What lead to this shift? Was it because J. Robbins was producing or was it just the musical direction you were going in?

DW: No, we had written all the songs before we had gotten into J’s studio. I mean, all the songs on Kamehameha were pre-written pretty quickly I feel. I think we all knew we wanted to challenge ourselves. We took a long time writing and I think it took a lot more refinance.

KS: It’s like natural, I think with art, the way that we did it. It’s just like paintings. You start on one theme and you keep trying to stretch it and work it to its essences. Jay just helped us capture the sound...all of it was written. I mean, he had some great ideas but...

MS: Well I was just going to say that, I feel like the first album, for me, was more cathartic. I was screaming a lot, there was a lot more anger. I just feel we got a lot out of our system. It was a maturing thing. We wanted to slow down a bit and become a bit more reflective.

JH: It was like you (Molly) was saying. The first album was more escapist and now this is our lives and we’re trying to grow up and be in a band.

DG: So how a Ponytail song made? Is it instrumentation first and Molly adds vocals or is it Molly creates the vocals and you add instrumentation to match it or is it improved and made on the spot?

DW: It depends on the song too. Like some songs were written where Jeremy and I, like Celebrate the Body Electric started with Jeremy and I. We emailed it to Ken. Ken wrote on top of it and that became the central part of the song. And then we got together as a band and then started with the beginning. It’s a very non-linear way of writing and when we put it all together it just comes together.

MS: I usually do stuff after. I would say most of my parts become solidified like after the music is written and after we’ve played it a little bit.

KS: There’s definitely an element of repetition; then it gets to the point were we want to introduce it to a live setting ,but that doesn’t mean the song is necessarily finished, because the more we play it, the more we fine tune it. And then it... you know what I mean...

DG: It evolves?

KS: Yea, it kind of, sometimes evolves a little bit. So yeah, there’s no like set writting.

DG: So you made video’s for some of your songs and ... you can really tell you came from art college. Why do these types of videos over traditional, like you preforming the song and it’s recorded in some odd way, and why are you trying to induce seizures?

(Everybody Laughs)

DW: I never thought we were trying to induce seizures. Were we?

KS: Not as much as the band we played with in Phoenix. They were really trying to induce seizures. Just straight up strobe light sludge metal.(Pause) I mean to be perfectly honest, as much as we like to curate certain elements of the "Ponytail Ascetic" or whatever, we usually just ask our friends that we know our great artists and we believe in them, if they would be interest in doing something and then it’s kind of like their interpretation of us and then we get it back and we laugh and say its cool. (Laughs)

DG: So you basically just had it over to them and say "Go nuts."

Everybody: Yeah

KS: We like that.

DW: I mean they definitely have to like the song. They have to enjoy the music. If we gave it to someone who doesn’t like the music, I don’t think we could trust them.

KS: Our friends are really supportive, it’s cool. We want to be supportive of them; we try.

DG: So were do you see Ponytail moving sonicly? Back to Kamehameha style or more of an expansion of Ice Cream Spiritual?

DW: I don’t know. I don’t think we’re going to go back.

(Everybody chuckles and agrees)

KS: I don’t think we’ll ever go back. I just think we’ll keep moving in whatever why we go.

DG: So 15 minute prog songs.

(Everybody laughs)

DW: Well, maybe not that direction. There’s just of branching out I guess we can do.

KS: I mean we all want to try new things. It’s always the most exciting when we do something unexpected. We want to keep it that way.

MS: I mean, I keep getting excited because one of our newer songs starts really slow and I keeping about doing something slower. Just more different sounds we’ve used and samples.

DG: Because there’s a build to it?

MS: Just because I was want to do new stuff and I feel like I just want to do new stuff. To me it feels like an expansion to Ice Cream Spiritual.

DG: This could just be based on Molly, and this is the final question, do really, honestly like Fleetwood Mac?

KS: Yes

DW: We do.

MS: Hell yeah.

DG: Honestly?

DW: Yea, have you listened to them?

DG: Uh, no.

(Ken laughs)

DW: Why, you should give it a shot. Get Rumors.

KS: Start with Rumors.

DG: Not Tusks?

DW: Tusks is cool but is much harder to get into.

KS: Yeah, yeah. Start with Rumors, Tusks later, Garage later.

DW: Like the clean sound maybe apprehensive at first, but just give into it.

KS: You might even want to start with The Best of Fleetwood Mac. That’s how I started it. It
was just so good, one after another. Then I got into Rumors. I listen to it all the time, it’s so good.
MS: It’s just like the best pop music ever. It’s...

(Butting in and sarcastically) DG: How dare you defy The Beatles! They’re the pop masters!

(Everybody laughs)

MS: Not for me.

KS: Not for me either. There good, their great.

DW: The Beach Boys for me just go up and beyond. I was a Beatles fan due.

KS: Just like the sounds of Fleetwood Mac are so harmonies when you listen to it. Just the way it works when it is mixed and comes together just... washes you know.

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