Can you hear that harmony? I can hear it in my sleep. I can hear it even louder in outer space. – “Louder In Outer Space”
There's a difficult to describe yet timeless quality to certain songs that transcends genre or era. It's something that you can't fake or contrive and it'swhat lies at the core of Skating Polly's music. The duo of guitarist/vocalist Kelli Mayo and drummer Peyton Bighorse formed in Oklahoma in 2009 when Mayo's father began dating Bighorse's mother and the duo started writing music together on instruments they inherited from their parents. They recorded their debut album Taking Over The World in 2010 and instantly achieved acclaim from underground music icons like X's Exene Cervenka (who produced 2013's Lost Wonderfuls and Beat Happening's Calvin Johnson (who produced 2014's Fuzz Steliacoom.) After the release of 2016's The Big Fit, the group realized another one of their musical dreams when Veruca Salt's co-frontwomen Louise Post and Nina Gordon reached out and said they wanted to work with the band.
“I guess a couple of people showed them our music and the next thing we knew we were flying down to Los Angeles for a writing session with Nina and Louise,” Mayo recalls. Writing with the alternative icons went so well that the foursome decided to fully flush out the song they had worked on as well as a couple of new tracks and the end result is the three-song New Trick EP. “Everything just came together the best way we could possibly imagine,” Mayo continues. Even though the duo weren't used to writing with outside collaborators, things instantly gelled between the foursome, a fact evidenced on these songs. “Nina and Louise really helped us step outside of our usual way of doing things and suddenly we were breaking all of these songwriting rules that we didn't even know that we had,” Mayo adds. “At the same time we were breaking all of their songwriting rules and I feel like we came up with something totally different than what any of us had created in the past.”
Produced and mixed by Brad Wood (Liz Phair, Sunny Day Real Estate) the result is a fully formed collection of songs that sees Skating Polly pushing the boundaries of their sound without losing sight of the playful dynamic of the band that has endeared them to fans all over the world. The EP sets the tone out of the gate with the fuzzed-out pop sheen of “Louder In Outer Space,” takes on a moody, harmony-rich bent on the melodically minded “Hail Mary” and culminates with “Black Sky,” an instantly memorable song that shows that Skating Polly doesn't need distortion or fancy studio trickery in order to craft something that's instantly memorable. “Nina and Louise have an excellent knack for harmony and layers and every time we'd start to record the four of us – five if you include Brad's clever input – kept coming out with more subtle pieces to add,” Mayo says. “If you listen closely there's a lot of layers to every song that translated in a very dynamic way as opposed to being overproduced.”
Admittedly the female-driven alternative acts that inspired the band such as Veruca Salt, The Breeders, L7 and Babes In Toyland (the later of whom Skating Polly toured with in Europe) aren't typical reference points for most of today's up-and-coming acts, but maybe they should be. “I think the thing that a lot of those bands have that Peyton and myself love is that they can be really aggressive and loud while also being super melodic,” Mayo explains. “This was the first time we were able to work as a full band and I think it really just opened up this new level for Skating Polly in the sense that we were able to add other elements and make things sound bigger than they had in the past,” Bighorse adds. In that spirit the band recently added Mayo's brother Kurtis who will be joining them on drums... but in typical Skating Polly fashion there will be plenty of instrument-swapping between all three members during their live performances.
Speaking of live shows, Skating Polly really need to be seen in a club to fully grasp what makes them so special. “It can get pretty chaotic when we're playing; people have said it feels like it could fall apart at any moment but in a good way,” Bighorse says with a laugh. “We try to make our music honest and engaging and I think that's what drew us to people like Nina and Louise; we want to pay homage to the acts that we love while still making sure that it always sounds like Skating Polly,” Mayo explains. “We really try to make the songs the focus instead of showing off or trying to flaunt our musical abilities,” adds Bighorse – and that honesty and optimism is why both legendary musical figures as well as hardcore fans have gravitated toward Skating Polly's music. The New Trick EP is an important step in a collective musical journey that's almost a decade in the making yet is still only getting started. What comes next is anybody's guess.
Starcrawler are a Los Angeles rock & roll band formed one year ago when Arrow de Wilde first met Henri Cash on the high school yard in Echo Park. The rhythm section of Austin Smith and Tim Franco came soon after, found on the streets of Hollywood. They play rock & roll music heavy and loud and their incendiary performances resemble the children of the Cramps, the Yeah Yeahs Yeahs, and Alice Cooper.
"Ants," a song they recorded days after first playing together, was quickly discovered by London DJ Matt Wilkinson and debuted on Apple Beats One radio just as the band were playing their first few shows. The DJ loved it so much, he played it twice in a row. Soon after, it found its way to Sir Elton John, who spun it on his "Rocket Hour" radio program, as well as to Zane Lowe, who played it to further accolades. Much media interest both from the music and fashion worlds has quickly followed. "Ants" & the forthcoming "Used to Know" are from an early session recorded by Steven McDonald (Red Kross) and document the unhinged beginnings of the group taking their first steps into the public eye. They have only now found the time to take a breath and are recording their more fully realized debut LP at Pax Am studios in Hollywood with Ryan Adams producing, due out later this year.
As a group, Starcrawler embodies that strange archetypal mojo that one finds in certain gangs of young rockers, only once or twice a generation; all the while still kicking and screaming as they sprint toward finding something new and entirely of their own. The band consists of Arrow de Wilde on lead vocals, Henri Cash on guitar, Austin Smith on drums, and Tim Franco on bass.
Pinky Pinky have good gut instincts. During an era of limitless distractions, societal pressures and sonic trends, the three best friends are focused on being happy and blissfully on the outside of all that noise. The trio grew up together in Los Angeles and there's a shared understanding of what makes them all tick. Together with her punk cohorts Anastasia Sanchez (vocalist/drummer, 20), guitarist Isabelle Fields (19), and bassist Eva Chambers (19) have a clear understanding that Pinky Pinky's modus operandi is in not overthinking their decisions. You can hear that on their debut album, 'Turkey Dinner' due on Innovative Leisure. It follows their two prior EPs, most recently 2018's 'Hot Tears'. Their first full-length, however, is even freer than their previous efforts. It's a patchwork quilt of garage rock and oddball indie. It's rooted in classic bass, drums, guitar, but it's bolstered by the perspectives of a trio of LA youths writing about their everyday observations, anxieties and passions. For instance, “My Friend Sean” is a young fantasy about the dreamiest boy in class, “Mystery Sedan” is an LA story about a car being the only thing there in times of distress, “Lady Dancer” is about a stripper at a bikini bar in Los Feliz. When lead lyricist Sanchez met Chambers in the girls' locker room in High School they knew that they'd be in a band together (Chambers and Fields had already met in Middle School). All three of them had always dabbled in bands. Originally born in New York but moving to LA during childhood, Chambers began life in a band with her three older sisters, playing keys. She picked up a bass at the age of 13 after their endeavors had died a death. Fields, on the other hand, trained as a violinist but rebelled and taught herself guitar from the age of 12, while rearing herself on the Sex Pistols and riot grrrl bands. Sanchez's father put sticks in her hands as a little girl. She was a prodigy in classical violin but also wanted to get back to the sheer pleasure of playing and so canned the anxiety-ridden music studies for her DIY drumming. She became a singer by necessity for Pinky Pinky, referring back to her love of Fiona Apple and even Heart for vocal chops. Pinky Pinky itself had a few iterations before settling on its three core members. “We were really trying to be punk at first then psychedelic then blues,” recalls Fields. “Finally we got to a point where we knew we didn't need to focus on just one thing. Growing up you think you only should listen to one type of music but we got to a certain age and realized we don't need to do that.” During their High School years they flew beneath the radar. “Nobody cared I was in a band,” says Field. Their first gig was at the MOCA museum in Downtown. To date it's the most nervous they've ever been. “I'd still be scared to do that,” laughs Sanchez, admitting to almost having a full-on panic attack due to the swathes of cool teenagers that turned up to watch them. Only recently have they hired a booking agent after already building a solid reputation on the LA scene hustling by themselves. When they played Dave Grohl's inaugural CalJam festival in 2017 they didn't even have a manager. “I got a call from someone who works with Dave Grohl: 'Dave really likes your band',” recalls Sanchez. “And I was laughing like, 'Weird? But cool?! It was a little surreal'.” In company, the trio exhibit an airtight ease together. In the studio too, their process is super collaborative. They tend to jam out a song idea first then pick out lyrical themes. Whereas their first EPs were overcomplicated and limited by a prior standard of musicianship, their LP has been created with more confidence alongside producers Jonny Bell and Hanni El Khatib in Long Beach. “It took a long time for our EPs to come out,” explains Chambers. “And by the time they did we'd grown a lot.” Indeed, by the time this album arrives it'll be the most accurate representation of where Pinky Pinky is currently at live onstage and off it. They aimed to make a live-sounding record that didn't feel too shiny in its production. As a result, 'Turkey Dinner' is unpretentious, raw and unpredictably zany.