Often the best musical experiences are unplanned. The time you went to a festival and were completely blown away by a band you had never heard of or that album your friend raved about that you cynically listened to and got totally obsessed with. Much like those pleasant surprises, Baltimore’s Ponytail came together by chance as part of an art school project. The connection has since yielded firm friendships and two albums of vibrant, chaotic, celebratory music.
Guitarist Ken Seeno is on the line discussing the last couple of years and the unexpected place he finds himself in with Ponytail and their new album Ice Cream Spiritual. “The three of us guys have always wanted to be in a band and play and tour and it’s like an amazing coincidence that we came together. A couple of years ago I thought I was going to be an artist, maybe I still am, I don’t know,” he muses. ” I could never have foreseen any of the stuff that has happened to us really, or believed it would happen. It’s crazy; I never thought I’d be doing an Australian interview!”
Playing live has been a cornerstone of Ponytail’s success, with a European tour already completed this year and another US jaunt about to begin. The romance and hospitality of Europe was a highlight for Seeno and it burnt away the monotony of travel. “In Europe they treat you so differently to other places. They put you up in really nice hotels, they cook you meals and it’s just like over the top, more than you expect. So every time we would go somewhere we would get blown away. It’s just fun to relax and enjoy everything instead of driving eight hours through Utah or something.”
Between tours Ponytail ventured down to SXSW for another round of industry showcases. This time though they made sure they enjoyed the event by changing their routine. “It was good. It was our third SXSW so we knew what to expect but we decided to do things a little differently this year and we rented a house which was way more comfortable. It was actually the house of this Zen therapist lady so it was really relaxing,” he explains. “Usually at SXSW you can take money or you can take badges [the event currency] and we usually take the money but this year we took the badges and got to see tons of awesome bands.
“It was more fun that way because we got to actually experience the festival instead of just running around playing shows. The shows were fun too, don’t get me wrong, but that was the first time in a while that we actually got to be like in the audience, giddy, getting all excited – it was cool.”
A feature of a Ponytail gig is the physicality of their performance. Molly Siegel leaps and staggers the stage emitting her coos, squeals and yelps while the twin Telecaster guitars of Seeno and Dustin Wong battle for riff space over the hyper drumming of Jeremy Hyman. It is a type of show must wear them out over a long tour. “I think some of us are really tired after a show to some extent. Jeremy is usually pretty exhausted at the end of the set; he’s done. I get this weird adrenaline kick and I like to walk around and hang out at the merch and talk to people. I guess I get pumped a bit after playing a show, it depends. You often get a real sensory overload thing happening,” Seeno explains.
The explosion of creativity on stage also permeates the rest of the member’s lives. Their art school origins have ensured art in its many forms fills their spare time. “Molly and Dustin are really video heavy and they do a lot of video pieces. I’m kind of focusing on photography right now and some computer based stuff. Jeremy has always been a painter but he’s not really painting at the moment. Supplies are expensive, processes are expensive. Once you have the instruments (which are expensive) it’s free to play the music. We are trying to keep art really close to it though,” Seeno stresses.
Having four minds overflowing with ideas means that songwriting is a truly collaborative process. “We try and keep it really democratic and collaborative so it takes a long time but it makes it way more rewarding in the end cause then everybody is satisfied,” says Seeno. “It can take a long time because everyone writes their own parts, we really try and not tell each other what to play and everybody wants to write their best part; like something new and challenging for themselves personally and for the band.”
Collaboration and a community of like minded individuals is the hallmark of the so called – “Baltimore Scene’, which includes Dan Deacon, Beach House and ex-pats The Death Set.
“With those bands that you hear about, there is definitely a core group of people, but now everyone is touring. When we started nobody was touring, so you would get everybody in the same room. It was really cool because we’d play these big shows, round robin style,” Seeno reminisces. “A lot of the time people leave, they just always go to New York because we are so close but we keep in touch with them and hang out on tour so it’s still a community but not the same.”
Sessions for the next album are already on the radar for the northern hemisphere summer and a trip down under is a possibility later this year. “No specific dates have been set but we are leaving the fall for that kind of thing. I’m really excited about the idea. I think we’ll definitely try and make that happen. I’d love to come there; I never thought I’d even be thinking about so it’s really cool!”
Ponytail’s brand of positive energy noise pop would be the perfect summer festival band, but in the meantime more drives across Utah beckon. We will have to be content with Ice Cream Spiritual to keep away the winter cobwebs.
Ice Cream Spiritual is out now through Popfrenzy Records.