Skating Polly have been busy. The youthful sister act performed seven shows at this year’s SXSW festival, knocked out audiences at the sixth annual Norman Music Festival, released their second full-length album, Lost Wonderfuls (produced by L.A. punk rock legend Exene Cervenka and mixed by Flaming Lips drummer Kliph Scurlock), and just finished their second tour in six months, opening for The Flaming Lips in Indianapolis. All while keeping up good grades in school and continually writing material for their next release. Did we mention that they’ve also released a steady stream of music videos in support of the new album?
Stepsisters Peyton Bighorse and Kelli Mayo joined us, along with Kelli’s father, David Mayo, plus a video crew from Rev Hi-Fi for an interview during a 3-day break in the middle of the tour.
Mercury Photo BureauYou guys just came off of the first leg of a tour, I understand.
Peyton BighorseYeah, we played with the Flaming Lips in Indianapolis. It was a lot of fun […]; Kliph [Scurlock], actually, before we played, got on stage and introduced us to the crowd. It was really nerve-wracking; there were like, 2600 people there. So, it was the biggest show we ever played.
Kelli MayoAll those guys [in the Flaming Lips] are really nice to us; like, their new light show is super cool — we love The Terror so much; it’s one of our favorite albums. So it was really cool; we were, like, backstage watching them and chillin’ and [watching] how everyone was taking it in. Everyone took it in pretty well; everyone liked it […].
MPBI understand your drumkit came from Kliph?
MayoUm, yeah. We did a music video with the people who did their music videos, Delo Creative, and, so I guess Kliph saw one of our videos on their [website], and he was like,
Oh, who is that? And then George [Salisbury] is like,
Oh, it’s Skating Polly. And, so, Kliph came to one of our shows, and after that, he was just super, super supportive; like, he bought Taking Over the World and he, like, invited us to one of his shows, and he got us backstage passes and we saw one of their shows. And it was, like, really really fun.
We met Wayne [Coyne], and Wayne came to one of our shows, and after that, it was just like, you know, Kliph’s the most important person we know. He gave us his drum set ’cause he got a new silver drum set for The Terror, and, it’s — yeah, he’s like — I couldn’t really ask for anything more from him. We always go out and eat dinner together with him; he’s boughten us some cool records before.
MPBPeyton, you were a drummer first, right; before Kelli? So, how did you pick up the drums?
BighorseIn, like, I think it was either 7th or 8th grade. Probably 8th, actually; I started taking drum lessons, about half a year; and then I just decided I wasn’t really — I wasn’t really wanting to go in the direction that the drum teacher was, like, taking me? Because he was wanting to teach me all this, like, technical “metal” drumming, which is cool if you’re gonna be in a metal band, but I don’t want to be in a metal band. So I just kind of stopped it and started doing my own stuff […].
MPBThat brings me to one of those questions that I’m sure you get asked a lot, which is,
How would you describe your music?
MayoUm, well, that’s always a tough question, because, like, we don’t necessarily want to classify our music as punk music, because it’s not really completely punk music; I mean, we have some more louder, grungy sounding songs, but we’re not completely a punk band. We also have really “poppy” sounding songs. So, I really don’t know; whenever I describe [our] music to people, I kind of just say it’s like a mixture; it’s just — we do have some stuff that’s more like grungy … and punk. But then we also have really “poppy,” more “indie,” “alternative,” stuff.
MPBKelli, if I did my research right, you started playing the basitar (Sidenote: Basitar /ˈbæs-ɪ-tɑr/: Kelli’s 3-stringed hybrid bass-guitar instrument The instrument began with two strings, but added an “e” string since this interview first posted.) because your dad gave it to you?
MayoWhenever we first started our band, I couldn’t — I was, what? 9? I think? And I would whine about how my fingers hurt from holding down the guitar strings […], so my dad made me this instrument called a basitar […], and the Presidents of the United States of America made 1, and my dad, like, heard about it. And what it is, is like, you can hold down any two bass strings anywhere on it, and it creates a chord, and so that’s why I play it, because it was pretty simple, and I could come up with — well, I would try to come up with, you know, little simple melodies off of it.
On our first record, most of the songs would have only two or four chords in them [laughs].
MPBI was gonna ask about your family if you don’t mind talking about that. You’re a blended family; correct? You’re stepsisters?
BighorseWell, our parents have just been together, for a while now. Like, um, we’ve known each other for … a really long time. I don’t know how long it’s been …
Mayo… Five years, maybe?
BighorseA few years ago, maybe, when I was in 9th or 10th grade, we moved in together and just — I guess that’s when we started getting pretty close. So we like — there’s [Kelli]’s dad, and my mom, and I have two brothers, and she has a brother, so we have, like, seven people in our family. And we’re all pretty close; I mean, like, we all hang out with each other; like, I remember a few years ago I did not want to hang out with my family. I felt lame. But, I’m like — it was just a phase. I’m glad I’m out of that phase. I really enjoy hanging out with my family.
MPBKelli, your dad, David, is a musician? Can you tell me a little bit about that?
MayoWell, um, both of our parents kind of work on music. But, my dad’s actually, like, a lawyer. He was in a band before, whenever he was, like, in his early twenties […], but, like, yeah, right now he’s just a lawyer. I mean, they still work on music, but he’s not technically a musician. He recorded our — he was the one who really had all of the, like, music equipment in our house, and that was all his stuff. And that’s kind of how me and Peyton got interested in playing music, because […] we had instruments and we could just mess around with [them]. And he […] showed me how to use that stuff. And he recorded […] most of our first album, except for, like, the drum tracks, and a few vocal takes, just on a home recorder.
MPBYou reportedly had some problems with the record deal falling through, initially, on your second album?
BighorseWe were on this record label, and it was really cool; like, they were really nice. But, I guess they just didn’t have as much money as they thought they did? So they didn’t […] have enough money to put our album out. So we were kind of just sitting there with an album to be released, but we didn’t have a label to release it on. And we had this manager who was trying to get us, like, these really big record deals, which would have been really cool, if she could have gotten them for us, but it was just like a really … far shot […]. She was trying to get, like, Third Man Records, and then, like, uh —
MayoThere was just a lot of dead time, really, where we weren’t really doing anything, or we were just trying to do stuff. So that’s how the album got delayed. And then we got an offer from S.Q.E., and we were like,
Yeah, yeah! Yeah, let’s just release this! We love our new label; we love all the people there. Everyone’s really nice.
MPBAre you workin’ on a third album?
BighorseWe’re recording some music; we don’t know if it’s all gonna go on our third. album. But we have a bunch of piano songs we recently recorded, and we’re gonna start working on some of our louder songs. […]
MPBI saw the other day that you posted something about — you were doing a video for Placer, was it; or was it re-recording Placer?
BighorseWe did a video for Carrots on Saturday.
David Mayo[to Peyton and Kelli] I know what he’s talking about […]. It was Daytrotter. Yeah, you guys posted a photo of you recording Placer for Daytrotter. (Sidenote: Daytrotter has released the session; you can listen here.) […] [turning to me] They have all these bands come in — it’s cool — they have a lot of bands that aren’t such a big deal, but then they’ll have, like, Counting Crows, you know, huge bands and smaller bands. You go to this place in Rock Island, Illinois, and you record these sessions, and they, later, put them out. And you pay, like, two dollars a month for access to all these songs. […]
MPBDo you guys want to talk about working with Exene [Cervenka], and how you met her?
MayoWe met Exene … 2008? I still had red hair, so yeah. 2008, we met her at one of her solo shows at the Conservatory. And, like, it was really just a dream come true for us, because we really really really loved X, and we really liked her solo work, and it was just, like, crazy meeting her, and the second we did meet her, we were just, like, you know, asking her all these questions, and just telling her, like, just how much we loved her music, and how much we loved X, and just how awesome she was, and maybe a little bit about our band.
Like, we even played […] some of our demos on Peyton’s phone. It was a really really bad sound quality, but, like, I think, just our talking about our taste in music piqued Exene’s interest […], because, like,
Oh, well, let’s just exchange emails, and that’s what we did. And then we actually sent her, like, good demos, as we would come out with them, from Lost Wonderfuls. As we’d record something, we’d send it to her. And then, after a couple of songs, she was like,
Well, how about I come and produce this new record? […] And then she came down for a week, and she produced our record.
MPBYou mentioned showing those demos to Exene, and, actually, the first thing I saw by you was a YouTube video where you were in a moving vehicle, singing a song. It was Chris Sanders from the Venditos who sent me the link [when Skating Polly played at Kamp’s Lounge in December 2012], ’cause he wanted me to come up and photograph the show, and he wanted to make sure I heard some of the music and made a decision about whether I even wanted to see these bands. Boy, was that a
Yes! And, it was really from seeing that video of you two […].
MayoOur friend, Nathan Poppe, and, who else was in that?
BighorseJonathan Fowler and Emily Fowler were also there.
MayoWell, Nathan Poppe does these things called VDub Sessions, where he takes bands, and, he usually has them pretty stripped down — I mean, they have to be able to play inside of a car. And, they have to do it in the SPY van. And he just films them, and, like, puts a song up on his page. […] I think it was right before we released Taking Over the World. […] So, it was kind of one of our first recordings of a song that we had — it was No. 4.
Kamp’s 1310 Lounge
Skating Polly opened for the Chloës at Kamp’s 1310 Lounge in Oklahoma City . We were impressed before they even started playing by their calm, professional demeanor during the sound check. The show itself was anything but calm — Peyton and Kelli unleased a torrent of rock ’n’ roll, holding their own against both of the other acts (the Venditos also played that night). We left the show hungry for more Skating Polly. Fortunately, they’ve been very active in the Oklahoma City metro since then; be sure to check out part 2 of this interview for pictures from some of their subsequent shows.
The lighting at Kamp’s wasn’t always friendly for color photography, so we present two galleries: black + white, and color.