Ugly Pop Pioneers: Skating Polly

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Skating Polly, consisting of Kelli Mayo, Peyton Bighorse, and Kurtis Mayo, were on tour with LA indie band Starcrawler. After having recorded their most recent EP with members of Veruca Salt, they prepare for the release of their newest album next year and discuss what ugly pop is and where it’s going.

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Antonio Villaseñor-Baca: What are you currently up to?

Peyton Bighorse: We actually just got done in the studio, recording our new album and this tour isn’t to promote that but it’s our last tour of the year, promoting the EP [New Trick] right now.

Kelli Mayo: We are playing songs off the album on the tour though. Ever since we saw Starcrawler live, we played a show with them back in LA back in May, I believe, and ever since then we’ve wanted to set up some dates together. And it’s cool, because I think that it’s both of our last tours before we release, they’re also about to release their album.

A: How long has this album been in the works?

K: Well, we’ve been writing for it probably kind of the past two years. It’s only two songs we started before Kurtis [Mayo] was in the band. Everything else we wrote together and dealt from the ground up. All of our home time has been writing time and when we’re on the road we’ll play with song ideas. We played a couple live before they were finished, because you get tired of doing the same stuff over and over and you want to try to something new out.

A: How did this EP come about? A lot of your biggest influences are these bands from the 90’s and part of that really big movement; how did you end up working with Louise Post and Nina Gordon [from band Veruca Salt]?

P: Our publisher and the guy who runs our label, we met up with him and he wanted to set up a song-writing session between us and Veruca Salt. They presented it to us like, ‘hey do you guys want to want write with Nina and Louise? And we were just like yes of course! If they want to!’ And we were down there for about a week maybe and we wrote some songs in the studio.

K: I guess Louise had actually already heard our music and so she kind of new about us and she’d come to a couple of our videos. Right before we even got the green light that it was going to happen, they shared our video “Ugly,” which was really cool.

A: And having been together for almost ten years, what was the experience like and how does it feel working with them and being recognized by not just Veruca Salt, but also working with Exene [Cervenka, from the band X], and others?  

K: it’s been crazy. I thought we’d be a band forever and as soon as we started the band I never thought we’d quit. I thought we could do many cool things but it’s a whole other thing actually sitting down and writing songs. With Nina and Louise specifically, they taught us a lot about harmony and kind of just watching them; because yeah we were forced to sit there and talk with them. It was just enough confidence with them. They knew that my voice could do things that I didn’t even know my voice could do.

P: Yeah it’s like Kelli said. It’s been great working with our heroes.

A: Your music falls into this scope of indie-punk music but you have coined your own genre, “ugly pop.” Do you see that growing more? What reaction have you seen to that?

K: I think people have made fun of it, we just made patches out of it and we played a festival out in Florida, it was our first time over there and a lot of people hadn’t heard of us so we were doing it for the first and they were like ‘ugly pop, that’s cool. I like it.’ I think people really identify with scruffiness and ugliness and rough-around-the-edges and imperfection you know? And that’s kind of like what we have and it’s awesome but it’s also pop because it can be lighthearted, it can be sweet, and it can be sugary. I always felt that, before we came up with out own genre, it felt like punk was misleading, because we weren’t always loud and pop was misleading because we aren’t as smooth as a lot of pop. And trying to say we were grunge just felt weird not just because it felt very 90’s but also because I don’t know a lot of specifically grunge bands other than I guess Nirvana. I just feel that’s the best way to discover our music. Anytime I’m in an Uber and someone asks me what type of music I play and I say ugly pop and they go ‘I’ve never heard of that one before.’

A: As you near that ten-year mark as a band, what is next? What is Skating Polly and where do you see it going?

P: I think we just want to keep building it, keep going, and put out lots more records.

K: I would like to just keep making music that would push armies in different directions and finding really cool bands that will inspire me.

– By Antonio Villaseñor-Baca

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