Tiny Horses in a Big, Big World: An Interview with the Ponys
Every little girl wants a pony and never gets one. Every teenage boy wants to be a rock star and never becomes one. There is hope, however, in this world full of forgotten dreams and empty stables. Enter The Ponys, the Chicago four-piece responsible for making some of the most exciting music in years.
[The Ponys]With their second In The Red full-length, Celebration Castle, which will be released “sometime in May,” The Ponys prove that the term “sophomore slump” need not apply to them. The Ponys are back, three inches taller and driving a Trans Am. Celebration Castle is a unique musical cocktail of 80s post-punk, 60s garage and 90s indie rock sure to please the ears of even the most pretentious scenesters this city has to offer.
Jared Gummere, lead singer and guitarist of The Ponys, is as humble as they come. I spoke to him over the phone one afternoon in April before he had to go to work at a Chicago dog kennel.
SLUG: How would you describe The Ponys’ sound?
Jared Gummere: A lot of guitars. We’re all into lots and lots of music and I just really like rock n’ roll. A lot of the bands we get compared to aren’t really even ones that are my main influences. They’re bands that I like, but they’re not ones that I grew up listening to.
SLUG: How did The Ponys get the opportunity to work with legendary musician and producer Steve Albini on the new record?
JG: We really wanted to record in Chicago. I didn’t want to travel anymore, and that was the first name that popped into my head. So we went to go tour the studio, which is a really awesome building … a really nice place, and basically called him up and said, “Can we record here?” He said yes. “Can we use you?” He said yes. It was a lot easier than I really imagined, and the label was excited about it, which is always a good thing.
SLUG: What is your favorite Albini-produced record?
JG: I really like the Brainiac record. That was one we were definitely rockin’. We just went through our record collections and tried to find records we liked. Most recently, I really like that Electrolane record.
SLUG: Is there a My Little Ponys connection with the title of the new record, Celebration Castle?
JG: [Laughs]We’ve been trying to figure out what we want to call this new record and we were in a hotel room one morning and the [My Little Ponys] commercial came on. We were like, “That’s fuckin’ hilarious.” When we were recording with Albini, we told him about that name and he was like, “That name’s awesome!” So we decided to go with and just see what happens.
SLUG:I heard through the record-store grapevine that some of the songs on the new record are actually old ones. Any truth to that?
JG: A few of them are … at least, three are almost three years old that were demos that we never got onto Laced With Romance. Most of the record is brand new stuff- seven out of three is newer stuff that we wrote last year. “Today,” “Get Black” and “Discoteca” were super old, but they were good songs … otherwise they’d just go down in demo history, and I’d like to see them make the cut.
SLUG: Do you have a favorite song on the new record?
JG: I really like “We Shot The World.” I think it’s a cool one … it’s really dark.
SLUG: The Ponys recently had a little lineup change. Why did Ian [Adams] (second guitarist/vocalist) leave?
JG: I can’t really speak for him, but obviously he wasn’t happy with things and didn’t like the touring aspect. It really sucked, actually. We have a new member now, and we just did a two-week tour, and it went fuckin’ really good.
SLUG: Who’s the newest Pony?
JG: Brian [Case]. He plays in 90 Day Men. We were just kind of acquaintances from around town. We were talking one night, and he said he’d jam … and it worked … the first time it sounded really awesome.
Melissa Elias, Jared’s girlfriend, plays bass and keys in the Ponys, and makes her singing debut on “She’s Broken.” Former Mushuganas drummer Nathan Jerde does an outstanding job behind the kit, allowing Jared and Brian to explore numerous musical tangents, an attribute that keeps the listener on the edge of their seats.
SLUG: Do The Ponys have a format for writing songs, or is it more organic?
JG: It kind of just happens. Usually whoever is singing writes their own lyrics. A lot of it is done in rehearsal when we’re just dicking around like, “That sounds really cool, let’s work with that,” and we end up working with it for hours. Some people have parts of a song together; they’ll be like, “I need help with this,” and we all give our two cents and get it together.
SLUG: What do you think about the post-punk revival going on in pop music today? Is it a fad like swing was in the late 90s?
JG: I’ve always really been into punk rock music, and that term itself is so loosely used these days … I didn’t really even know what post-punk was until people started calling us that four years ago. I had a bunch of records that would be considered post-punk; I just had no idea know that it was a term. Everything comes and goes. We’ve been doing our thing for quite awhile now.
The Ponys will be playing Kilby Court 5.16 with The Gris Gris.