Skating Polly came to Pittsburgh this week, playing Smiling Moose on Tuesday. CP music writer Meg Fair caught up with them by phone to discuss parents, working with your idols and their new album.
Skating Polly makes rock music that feels big. It moves between brash and bratty, triumphant and solemn, but it’s held together by smart riffs and catchy hooks. The band takes a great deal of influence from the riot grrrl movement, but to say its music fits precisely into that category would be a disservice, as Skating Polly’s music moves easily between genres.
When City Paper chatted with Skating Polly on the phone, they set the cell on speaker so guitarists and vocalists Kelli Mayo and Peyton Bighorse, as well as their drummer Kurtis Mayo, could hear the questions and respond. They were jammed into a van with lots of merchandise and gear piled in, and they joked about dodging cops.
When we spoke, Kelli and Kurtis’ father was driving the van. He takes turns driving with Peyton, as Kelli and Kurtis only have permits. The members of Skating Polly are all under 25, and the band started when step-siblings Peyton and Kelli were 14 and 9 respectively.
Skating Polly used to be a two-piece with Peyton and Kelli, but after recording their last full-length, they recognized the potential upsides to bringing someone else in.
“I was really envious of what having an extra person can add,” says Kelli, “Listening to the masters, I thought, ‘What about asking Kurtis to join?’ He’s an amazing musician and has really good taste.”
Now a three-piece and complete family band, the sound is bigger and has more texture. The members are tight-knit, laughing together and politely giving each other a chance to answer the questions.
They recently moved to Tacoma, Wash., together, from their hometown in Oklahoma.
“Tacoma is a lot different from where we grew up. We feel much more comfortable there,” says Peyton. “Even though we miss our family, we never really felt like we fit in Oklahoma.”
Even through the phone, it’s clear they have lots of fun together. Enough fun that they can comfortably live in a new city while making music together without extreme bickering. They laugh a lot.
It’s almost hard to believe such goofy, fun people could write songs as dark as “Alabama Movies” from Fuzz Steilacoom and “Hail Mary” from their latest, New Trick. The EP was written with Louise Post and Nina Gordon from Veruca Salt, a band that their parents played a lot when they were younger.
“Nina and Louise made us feel super comfortable and supported,” says Kelli, “It was a little intimidating to share half-baked ideas with musicians we grew up idolizing, but they were so nice.”
“It was surreal to work with them after listening to them our entire lives,” adds Peyton.
The band has performed with a lot of bands that it grew up listening to. Part of Skating Polly’s current tour is with seminal punk band X.
“It’s been great because a lot of the bands we’ve been able to play with and meet, my dad raised me listening to. We get to bond over this music and meet the people and develop relationships with them. It’s really magic,” says Kelli.
The band uses another old-school technique when creating art, and that is in the form of the music video. Despite Skating Polly’s small video budget, the band loves making visual art to accompany the audible art.
The video for “Hail Mary” is a dark venture full of great, antique costuming and spooky symbolism. “We wanted it to be more serious without being cheesy as hell,” laughs Kelli.
“We found this house full of antiques and told ourselves that we were going to use all this symbolism that only we understood. We know what each thing represents, just like the song, so everyone gets the gist of the story without getting too personal of a view into my life.”
Ask about their relationship with their parents and they immediately gush.
“Our parents always drove us to shows, sat through us making noise at practice. I’m sure so many movies and TV shows were ruined by the sound of Skating Polly,” jokes Kelli.
Ultimately the support of their parents is something the band continually values.
“I don’t have a prouder feeling than when I can show a completed song to my family,” says Kelli.