For seven days in September, one of the U.S underground music scene’s more talented bands will be touring through England and you’ll be damned to miss them. Skating Polly, formed in Oklahoma back in 2009, is one of the more eclectic bands on the scene deviating between indie-pop, grunge and a dash of riot-grrrl – the band themselves call it ‘ugly pop’. They’ll be touring in support of the fifth album The Make It All Show.
Skating Polly – originally made up of multi-instrumental step-sisters Kelli Mayo and Peyton Bighorse – smashed their way into my record collection in 2016. I became engrossed by third and fourth albums Fuzz Steilacoom and The Big Fit. Fuzz Steilacoom is a Babes In Toyland-esque whirlwind ride, raw and powerful. The Big Fit showed an evolving sound; that same ugly-pop but now with added tenderness (check out “Picker Of His Words”).
With two girls thrashing their way across the U.S, supporting bands such as Babes In Toyland, X, and Kate Nash – it made sense to add Kelli’s brother Kurtis to the band. Another multi-instrumentalist, Kurtis has refined the band. Skating Polly hasn’t lost their sound or uniqueness in their refinement, but have created with the extra pair of hands, a larger canvas in which to experiment and explore with their fifth studio album. The Make It All Show is a thousand miles away from the old days of Lost Wonderfuls (click here for the title track of album two).
Still young, Skating Polly is not to be tried as teenagers. The lyrics and musicianship of “Little Girl Blue and The Battle Envy” are beautiful. A creative story-telling of a soldier leaving her post on the surface, but the pressures of the expectations of others and the adjoining anxiety deeper within. “Camelot” meanwhile is raucous, punk and I can’t turn it off. Another personal favourite is “They’re Cheap (I’m free)”. Unmistakingly a song for cheaters.
The release of The Make It All Show has shown Skating Polly to be a band bursting from the seams with creativity with homegrown creativity and maturity. With the English tour quickly approaching, The Punk Lounge caught up with Skating Polly to talk ‘The Make It All Show’ and for an insight into tour life, we just wouldn’t want you to miss out…
Congratulations on the new album – I love it! With The Make It All Show being Kurtis’ first full-length album within Skating Polly there’s a noticeably fuller sound. Do you find that it’s easier to write and record as a three-piece in being able to get the sound that you want? Is there much of a difference when writing with as three bandmates as opposed to just two?
Kelli: It gives us the ability to have more layers! The actual instruments can harmonize with each other and depart from one another instead of just the vocals. Then when we just follow each other, it’s a whole person bigger and beefier. I think that’s the obvious difference in how it improved our songwriting process. It’s harder to write this way in that it takes longer to write three parts instead of two, but it’s actually a lot easier for me to keep a song interesting by bringing a new part into the mix. Instead of having to keep changing the foundation of the song over and over again we all kinda weigh in on each other’s parts, because we can all play the same instruments. I think that also makes the process take longer, but makes the end product much more solid.
Songwriting and the tone of the new album is definitely more matured in places – i.e. Little Girl Blue and The Battle Envy – and shows the progression of the band musically. Was this something which was a conscious goal, to develop, or was the writing more organic?
Peyton: Furthering our songs and songwriting is always a goal for us. We want to write interesting and complex music, which we can’t do if we don’t grow. We try to mature our songwriting without changing what makes our songs special to us.
The videos for this album so far are amazing! Who decides the concepts for them? Which were the most fun to make? From all of your videos which would you say are your favourites?
Kelli: We do! I mean, it’s a collaborative process with the director but with the exception of 3 or 4 videos we’ve dreamt up the whole concept with the director. I go back and forth on my favourites but right now it’s Little Girl Blue And The Battle Envy, Across The Caves, and Pretective Boy.
Peyton: I had a lot of fun filming Hollywood Factory. I got to drive around Hollywood in a beautiful old Mustang which is probably the coolest I’ll ever be. That’s one of my favourites. Other favourites are Hail Mary and Oddie Moore. Hail Mary is probably my favourite of all time.
Following along from that last question, if you had an infinite budget for a music video – what would you film?
Kelli: Oh god I don’t know. But I’d want to work with Autumn De Wilde, Paul Thomas Anderson, or Spike Jonze. I always start watching their videos and trying to break them down for ideas when it comes time to make another Skating Polly video. Me and Thomas (the director of Little Girl Blue and The Battle Envy) actually based our video concept around Autumn’s video for The Lemon Twigs’ song “As Long As We’re Together”.
I’ve heard that you guys stay inspired by the bands and artists that you listen to. For instance, the guitar from ‘Free Will At Ease’ was inspired by the guitar playing of Charly Bliss. Who are you listening to/inspired by at the moment?
Peyton: I’ve been listening to Potty Mouth who we just toured with. I can’t get enough of their new album. I also really love Phoebe Bridgers. I think I played her album over a hundred times on our last tour. I love it.
Kelli: Same. And The Breeders new record and a bunch of good authentic country like Tammy Wynette and Merle Haggard. There are so many great songs from that era that Kurt’s shown me. In Nashville he got to go see all the old studios and random country landmarks. We all wore cowboy hats that day!
Who would you LOVE to play live with? Any band, whether still touring or not.
Peyton: The Replacements! They’re one of my favourite bands and it would be such an honour to play with them. Their shows are legendary and it’s thrilling to even watch a video of their live show.
Kelli: Two-way tie between St. Vincent and The Breeders. Honestly Fiona Apple too, but I’m not sure how well it would mesh.
What do you guys get up too when not playing music? I heard Kelli did some theatre work awhile back; outside of music do you tend to gravitate to other art mediums or do you use any free time as an opportunity to recharge for the band?
Peyton: We do a lot of other artistic things when not playing music. We love painting and writing and creating things. I also read a ton and I love spending time with my dog. I try to get as much time in as I can with my brothers when I’m home. I also go to my favourite comic shop in the world; Stargazer Comics. They’re our best friends and they own the coolest shop.
Kelli: Yeah! I got cast in a Paramount/Hulu television pilot back in 2016 but it didn’t get picked up. I do a lot of self-tapes (just auditions where you film yourself and send them in) even when we’re on tour haha! It’s really fun. I’ve always liked pretending and dressing up so it’s right up my alley. I like to use free time to be a hermit. Not always but at least for a few days. If I don’t, socializing just feels like another thing on my to do list and I just get anxious waiting for it to be over. And when we’re home it’s a lot of working on other things for the band. Like art, photos, new songs, new merch, planning tours, updating the website (which we always forget to do), responding to emails and messages, etc. It’s a lot easier to do at home though since you don’t have to do it on gas station WiFi after you just drove four hours or instead of getting to take a nap haha!
Any fun traditions or stories from tour life? This will be your third trip to the UK I believe, do you get much of a chance to be tourists?
Peyton: My favourite tour tradition: stopping at Panera Bread. It always feels a little like home when we find one. Do you guys have those in the UK? When we have a day off we like to treat ourselves to a slightly nicer hotel for the night and watch movies together. It’s the nice relaxing things in between shows that move us along. I also love going to museums when I can. I got to see my favourite painting on one of our recent tours and I was frozen in front of it for at least half an hour.
Kelli: On off days a lot of the times you’re so beat or you need to fix something like equipment or your voice or your back that you don’t want to do much of anything. It was funny because when we’d pick our hotels we’d look for perks like pools or fitness rooms and never had time to use them! Or if we did a lot of the times we would sleep instead haha. That being said we do manage to make time for some pretty rad stuff. Last tour we saw the Grand Canyon which was everything it’s hyped up to be. We’ve also spent about forty minutes in a casino spa (my first ever spa experience) and been to the City Museum in St. Louis which is like this crazy adult playground immersive art exhibit.
Why should people NOT miss out on the upcoming tour?
Peyton: The show is heavier than it ever has been. With Kurtis and the new songs, it feels more powerful and exciting and we want everyone to hear it!
Kelli: Most of the set is the new record and it’s our best one yet!!! Annnd this might be UK/EUROPE’s only time to get to see a set with The Make It All Show as the focus. We might be a reggae band by the time we come back touring our reggae record, and who wants to hear a Skating Polly reggae record? Don’t answer that. Just come and see us play this one, it’s much better than that would ever be I guarantee.
Skating Polly will be playing shows in London, Newport, Bristol, Leicester, Glasgow, Birmingham, and Grimsby. Click here for their website where tickets are also available.