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THE PONYS

It's hard to convey the feeling that was going through me when I first saw the Ponys live, but it went something like this: from the opening chords I was captivated by what I was hearing. Here was a band that truly stood out amongst the heap of groups, both the superlative and the insipid, trying their hand at squeezing new life out of the tired and true clichés (archetypes if you're feeling generous) that constitute the vast majority of rock n roll fifty years past it's birth. That's not to say the Ponys' sound is 100% original; it's not. However, the way they reassemble the component parts of seemingly disparate bands into a convincing and uncontrived whole is totally refreshing and inspiring. They've taken the lessons of thirty-plus years of pioneers who experimented at the outer fringes of rock n roll (from the Velvets in the 60's, to Television in the 70's, and even to Sonic Youth in the 80's) as a starting point and managed to go them one better by taking the results of all those years of sonic deconstruction and putting the pieces back together as a cohesive whole. Whether you call it controlled chaos or a perfect synthesis of art and pop, the Ponys' sound is not quite like anything you've heard before, yet instantly recognizable. Every show and record is a distinctly memorable experience that peels away the curtain of mediocrity and lets you see how great music can, and should be. I caught up with the Ponys after their latest show at Minneapolis' Triple Rock to talk about their past, present, future, and pro-hoes. This interview was conducted in the men's room of the Triple Rock after the Ponys/Beans/Unicorns all ages show there (see live reviews section). Ian and Nathan were quite drunk.

Ponys are:
Jered- Guitar/Vocals
Melissa- Bass/Vocals
Ian- Guitar/Organ/Vocals
Nathan- Drums

Terminal Boredom: What's the deal with the Japanese in place of the lyrics for "Trouble Trouble" on your lyric sheet?
Jered: Um, basically it was like the first song the Ponys ever learned and I didn't think the lyrics were that interesting. She (Melissa) had this magazine sitting around and I cut out this Malcolm McLaren interview. We have no idea what it says.
Ian: It says "sex" at the end.

TB: How did you guys all get interested in music?
Jered: I've always liked music. My parents liked music, but not the music I like. My first punk record was Misfits "Walk Among Us."
Nathan: Yeah I collected all the Misfits singles.
Jered: The Misfits were definitely rad. I was like 11 or 12 and I skated. That was like everything to me in junior high.
Nathan: All that kind of Orange County punk stuff I think was like really important to us growing up. And skating cause that was all we could do in our small towns we grew up in.

TB: Did you guys know each other growing up?
Jered: No not at all. Most of us grew up in different small, shitty towns were there was nothing to do but skate.

TB: Were you guys all into skating?
Jered: Yeah. But, Melissa did you skate?
Melissa: No, I was kinda a betty that watched 'em.
Ian: A skate betty? (Laughs)
Jered: They call that a "pro-ho" now I guess.
TB: So it's not an amateur ho anymore. Jered: It's all pro now!

TB: One thing that I hear a lot about you guys is that your songs are so "carefully crafted." What do you think about that?
Jered: Um, that's cool I guess. I think that we try to write good songs. I don't know if they always are.

TB: But do you put a lot of work into writing songs?
Melissa: Yeah.
Jered: Sometimes, yeah. We write everything basically in the practice space for the most part. If someone has something they bring in, it usually changes. It's usually us in the practice space for hours doing the same fucking song.
Nathan: We kinda flow on something that sounds good and then he steps up to the mic and that's basically when it becomes a song.
Jered: We just kinda get the music together and then whoever's singing it just kinda fits their lyrics in. Even if we don't have lyrics at the time we just kinda mouth some shit. Most of the lyrics aren't even written until the song is done. Then you come back and write the lyrics after it's done.
Melissa: Or way after it's done.
Jered: At least I do. I don't know about Ian over here.
TB: So how about you Ian?
Ian: I…I have a lot of ideas. (Laughs all around.)
Jered: I think these guys (Nathan and Ian) have been hanging out with Beans at the bar all night.
Nathan: We were playing pool with skinheads! They were threatening to like beat us up and stuff.
Ian: I didn't like that; it threw off my game. That dude had Minneapolis tattooed on his forehead and I didn't want to deal with them. Like I could fight any of those guys anyway, even with a stick in my hand. And there was like twenty of them in a bar. Fuck that.
Nathan: He had like three stab wounds in his flesh.
Jered: He had a Suicidal Tendencies tattoo! (Laughs all around)
TB: Wow that's awesome. As a band could you guys take him?
Jered: I doubt it.
Nathan: [At random] Melissa's hanging out by urinals…it's hilarious.
Jered: [Continuing the randomness] The Weirdos are playing in Chicago tonight with the Black Lips.
Ian: And the Functional Blackouts. How about the Functional Black Lips? (Laughs) There's been no information about the Ponys in this interview has there?
Nathan: We're all just a bunch of big gays that like stabbing each other with our dicks.
Melissa: I'm not gay.
Jered: Um, I don't like stabbing any of these guys with my dick…
Ian: He's a super bottom. He loves it.

TB: I read a thing were Jay Reatard was talking about how you guys started off as a garage band, but then had the idea to incorporate post punk production…
Nathan: We never started off as a garage band.
Melissa: Oh, is that that shit he posted on the Garage Punk board? Shut up Jay!
Jered: Yeah, I saw that. He also said there's too much compression on our album. We were more of a pop band actually. We love Jay though. When we first started off we were definitely more pop oriented. We still play a lot of the same songs that we used to, but with more guitar. I think when we got Ian we've been able to add a lot more. ["Paradise City" by Guns N Roses starts to play in the background] They're playing Guns N Roses…we better get out of here.
Nathan: It was always guitar oriented.
Jered: We still play a lot of garage influenced songs; I just don't think we're going for a particular thing. Whatever we come up with is what we come up with and that's what you get, y'know? [In mock anger] Jay!

TB: So who's gonna win in a fight, you or the Lost Sounds?
Jered and Melissa: The Lost Sounds!
Nathan: Yeah, they're pretty hungry.

TB: One comparison I've heard about you guys, that I don't really see, is to the Cure, especially with your song "I Wanna Fuck You." How do you feel about that?
Jered: People say I sound like Robert Smith a lot but I don't really see it.
Nathan: When we were first playing that song, when he first came up with that riff, I mean I didn't hear anything out of it.
Jered: Like the first time we played that song someone was like, " hey that's J Mascis!"
Ian: There's something about that song that totally is [like the Cure] though. I remember seeing you guys and being like hey, that's a great Cure-y song.
Jered: We don't wear any makeup, except for Melissa.

TB: How was SXSW?
Jered: It was awesome. We did really good. We played four times in two days. We didn't get to party so much.
Melissa: I had so much fun.
Ian: It was kinda rough, but the shows went really good.
Jered: The only band that we really saw was the Black Lips, but that was really good. And the In the Red Showcase, we saw like the Hunches and the Lost Sounds. It was awesome.
Nathan: The showcase was amazing. And there was a line consistently throughout the night. There were a lot of industry dicks…

TB: I have to ask you about that actually, I read this thing in Horizontal Action talking about how you have "crossover" potential…
Nathan: I don't know what that means.
Ian: Does it mean we sound like DRI? (Laughs all around)
TB: Exactly!
Ian: Get your peanut butter out of my chocolate!
Jered: I dunno, man I guess like we can play a lot of different shows. We'll play punk shows and garage shows in Chicago, and indie rock shows. This show tonight was way fucked up. It's fun.
Ian: Well it's like we go from being the quietest band to the loudest band. Like all those spazzy punk bands and we're like the quietest, moodiest band. And then we play shows like this and we're the weirdest…
Jered: It's hard to play "garage" shows when we go on after like AC/DC or something… It's kinda rough to go on after a band that wants to be AC/DC.
Nathan: The last two shows that we played here we were like the polar opposite [of the other bands]. And we loved that. I thought it worked in our favor.
Jered: I felt weird at Paddy's birthday party because everyone was crazy and punk rock and then we were kind of depressing that night. And then the Tyrades came on after us and broke everything, including themselves! Obviously you can't please everyone.
Nathan: I mean that's what I think about the last show we played here. I know all of the Heartbreakers songs, I love that stuff too, but we're going for something different, I mean…
Jered: But I guess I suppose those bands are going (in a derisive voice) "yeah we know the fucking Cure." It's all preference. I just…my ears are blown out man. I've seen enough AC/DC wannabe bands.

TB: Yeah, as you get older you do tend to get a lot more selective. Speaking of which, generally speaking are you guys mostly into older or new bands?
All: Old.
Jered: On that way up here we listened to the "Songs the Cramps Taught Us" compilation.
Nathan: Yeah all that shit's amazing! "The Human Crusher!" It's a great song, but it's so gross! It's so ridiculous. It's fun.
Jered: That's the Novas right? That song is rad.

TB: If you guys had a novelty dance song what would you call it?
Nathan: "Discoteca." Or, "Trouble, Trouble."

TB: What's "Virus Human" about?
Jered: It's kinda about recycling (Laughs). No, there's a line, "I use it once and then I leave it behind." Basically about how everyone just wastes everything. I'm a hippie. It's just about how everything…the whole world's going to shit, and it's just gonna keep going to shit, and nobody cares, and I don't care either man… We're just like a gnarly ass virus eating away at everything.

TB: Your new single is called "Prosthetic Head." If you had to have one of your limbs replaced by prosthesis, which would you choose?
Jered: Um, my head. And them I wouldn't have to think anymore.
Ian: I want a prosthetic good foot.
Nathan:How about a prosthetic girlfriend? That's a hard question.
Jered: Actually I'll change mine. I like to think. How about a chest plate?
Ian: By 'good foot' I meant cock. Then I wouldn't have to answer to it.
Nathan: I want some prosthetic boobs. Can we go back? I don't even care about prosthetics anymore. That song is so old.
Melissa: I like that song.
Jered: It's been sloppy lately. I slop it up really bad.
Nathan: [To some guy who just got done using the urinal] Hey, if you had a prosthetic, what would you have?
Aaron: Any prosthetic?
Jered: [To the tape recorder] This is a random gentleman in the restroom here.
Aaron: I'm not a random person!
TB: What's your name?
Aaron: My name is Aaron, I'm a member of the John Wilkes Booze.
TB: So Aaron what would your prosthetic be?
Aaron: Um… I need a minute here. Maybe…wings?
All: (Various sounds of approval.)
Melissa: Maybe you should interview them!
[Aaron exits]

TB: What kind of pop culture artifacts are you into?
Nathan: That's why he wrote the song…
Jered: I like pop culture. I like TV a lot. Any sort of shitty ass TV show, dating shows, game shows. I like anything, advertising. Anything except for like Nike or something. I'm embarrassed cause I like it. Like, going to the grocery store and stuff lined up down the aisles, I like that. I don't like Guns n Roses.
Ian: He likes LA Guns though.
Jered: I met LA Guns in Portland. They were at our show we played with the Hunches.
Melissa: Tell him the story, it's good.
Jered:Some guy stole our microphone and he kept singing like Cookie Monster during our songs and I got mad so I threw my guitar down, followed the mic chord and stole the mic back…
Melissa: He almost fought the guy…
Jered: He was a cool guy, but he was just pissing me off. I took the mic back from him and there was no violence. After the show we were standing around on stage and the guy from LA Guns comes up to me and he was like, (in heavy metal washout voice) "blah blah blah! I'm blah blah blah from LA Guns man! We don't take that shit in Hollywood either!" (Laughs) It was fun when he first took the mic and was screaming in it cause it was during a guitar/organ solo. We're not really a rowdy punk band and that show was kinda turning that direction. I was flattered at first.
Nathan: Can I say something here? Tucson sucks.
TB: Why does Tucson suck?
Nathan: Like Tucson is a bunch of malignant people with ponytails, and people in college way away from the world that we live in…
Melissa: There were like eight people at our show! How can you judge them?!?
Nathan: We went for breakfast at this place and the guy was angry and he was kind of disturbed and I don't know why. He just didn't like us and we made him a bunch of money. We had this huge group of people. We walked in there with like 15 or 20 people. Everyone we met in Tucson was like a total fucking prick bastard. Really, really crummy like, "I love my mom" sort of…
Ian: I love my mom.
TB: Loving your mom is crummy?
Jered: They gave us fifteen minutes to play, and we played two songs.
Nathan: We didn't even have that! Once we got up on stage it was ten minutes!
Jered: We basically just made feedback till they kicked us off.
Nathan:Everyone's just concerned with wearing sleeveless shirts and having glistening ponytails. That's what Tucson's about.
Jered: But they did give us a hotel room. Actually I like Tucson.
Ian: We were in good company though. We played with the Cuts.

TB: So how has your tour been so far?
Ian: Really, really good. The west coast was awesome.
Jered: The west coast was super good. We played with the Intelligence in Seattle and they were awesome.
TB: They were good live?
Jered: Yeah, yeah. They're like a real band now.
TB: I thought the record had like four good songs and the rest were pretty unspectacular.
Jered: Lars did the record by himself, but now he's got a band. They were really good. I like the A-Frames a lot too. Once we got out of the Midwest we played with really good bands. The Cuts fuckin' ruled. They were great every night.
Ian: They were super fun to hang out with.

TB: Where do you see yourself twenty years from now?
Ian: Dignified and Old.
Jered:Me personally, I'd like to play music for the next twenty years and buy a little house in L.A.
Nathan: I see myself suing all of these guys for song rights.
TB: And starting up the Ponys again by yourself?
Jered: Just the drummer! "That's my drumbeat!"
Nathan: I see myself walking around with a cart from the grocery store with all of the skizz. I'm sure of this.

TB: What's a question you don't know the answer to?
Ian: Is there a God?
Jered:Actually I don't know why Jack White beat up Jason from the Von Bondies. (Laughs)
Nathan: My question is, "what's with all of the added attention?" I'd love to be filled in? Why are we a great band?
Jered: I don't think we are.
Nathan: But that's my question. Thing have been really, really cool. People have been really nice to us.

TB: So it's completely different from the bands you were in before?
Nathan: Oh, fuck yeah.
Ian: People fought between themselves over who liked us the least. That's a weird question.

TB: Jered, you're in the Hot Machines also. What makes a Hot Machines song different from a Ponys song?
Jered: All I can say is that like the Ponys have three or four chords and the Hot Machines have two chords.

EMAIL ADDENDUM:
Conducting an interview in a men's room was a first for me, and unfortunetly I must confess it threw me off my game a little bit. Jered and Melissa were nice enough to answer via email a few burning questions that were left unanswered in the bathroom...

TB: In your live set you guys play a lot of songs that haven't come out on record yet. Do you have more unrecorded? Another single in the works?
Jered: Basically we've been trying to play some newer stuff in towns we play a lot, just to try and keep things fresh. We haven't recorded anything in a while so it would be cool to do so soon. Don't really have anything in the works right now, just touring a lot.

TB: What's the name of the songs Melissa sings? It's great.
Melissa: Thanks. It's called 'She's Broken'.

TB: I touched on this a little bit in the bathroom interview, but you guys seem to be getting a lot of praise right now and building a lot of momentum, so much so that you've got a shot of success beyond the confines of the "garage" scene. I heard that the college radio station in Minneapolis is playing the shit out of your record. How do you feel about this? Is it a little bit frightening that you might end up the latest band that gets over hyped in the media and then ends up getting written off once you get "too popular?"
Jered: I think getting reviews of your record is a good thing, whether they be good reviews or bad reviews. Definitely over hype is a bad thing. But what it really comes down to is people either like your band or they think it sucks. So if you're getting a lot of reviews it's really up to how you perform live and if people like your record. As for getting out of the confines of the garage scene, to me I like tons of different music and bands and I go to a lot of different shows, and I think probably a lot of people in the "garage" scene probably do too. Like I said, people like what they like and that's the way it should be. If everybody thought every thing was great then music would be super shitty.

END INTERVIEW

Check out the Ponys website: www.theponys.com
Interview and pics by Steven Strange



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