I’ve discovered some absolutely amazing new (to me) bands in the past year, but the one that stands out the most is Oklahoma’s Skating Polly.
Since receiving their promo in April, it’s been a sheer delight working my way through their back catalogue of 4 stunning albums online, singles and 31 official music videos.
Indeed Grace Jones was #2 on my “people I’d like to photograph” list (Sade is #1 in case you’re interested) and when I got my photo-pass approved it was a punch-the-air moment, and yet it was still Skating Polly’s gig next week that I was looking forward to the most in my gig calendar!
So, what’s so special about them?
Well some bands, particularly young bands you get the impression that they’ve done their market research, identified a niche demographic to exploit, done their financial projections, and try to emulate bands who’ve been successful in that market space.
With Skating Polly, I get the impression that they are 3 people who are passionate about music, with an encyclopedic knowledge (They did a Half Man Half Biscuit cover – I mean how does an American band even hear about our treasured Tranmere scallies, let alone understand their very obscure British sense of humour!) and they put their all into creating music that they would want to listen to themselves.
They don’t paint themselves into a narrowly defined genre either, which is something I love. Every song sounds different, and yet unmistakably Skating Polly.
Some people try to dismiss them along the lines of, “well this song sounds a bit like The Pixies”, and “that song sounds a bit like Nirvana if they had a female lead singer”, and “this one is a bit like Babes in Toyland”, but lets face it, there was so much music created between the 50s and the 90s that in a way music has “been done”. I can’t even remember the last time I heard a song that I couldn’t lazily describe in terms of a band that went before. A band could use an F# b major e minor bridge riff arrangement (Ok, so I know nothing about musical theory and that’s just gibberish!) some nerd will pipe up and accuse them of ripping it off from the 2nd bar of a lesser known extended dance remix of the German release of a Wombles 12″ B-Side! It really doesn’t matter.
Their songwriting abilities are consistently impressive, and get better with each listen.
The band comprises of siblings Kelli Mayo and Peyton Bighorse, who are interchangeably on vocals, guitar and drums. More recently they added their brother Kurtis Mayo on drums .
For a while I thought Kelli was the lead singer, and she makes a great front person – bags of attitude, very expressive, great voice, and comes across as the real deal. Then I saw a couple of videos where Peyton does lead vocals, and what an incredible voice and her own distinctive style! Such a talented family!
Kelli is just 19, and yet they formed the band 10 years ago when she was just 9. When I first read that, I kind of thought of the horrific “Grandma we love you” by St Winifreds School Choir! It’s hard to think of many credible artists who are so young. I can’t find their 2011 debut album “Taking over the world” on Spotify, but 2013’s “Lost Wonderfuls” is already amazing, and they just keep getting better and better!
I don’t think I could name my favourite Skating Polly song, they are all so good!
Indeed If I were stuck on a desert island and could only listen to one band – I’d choose Skating Polly as they have a song for every mood!
(One commenter on YouTube said he’s into death metal, and this is heavier than a lot of the bands he listens to!)
Just listen to this:
And just when you think they can’t get any cooler, as I mentioned earlier, they’ve only gone and done a Half Man Half Biscuit cover! I’d love to know what Nigel makes of it, but when I moved to Merseyside, my mate who played 5 a side with him, knowing how much he hates sycophantic fans, as a joke told him I’d moved to the area because I was an obsessive fan who wanted to be as near to them as possible! Scouse humour, hey! I love their music, though of course they weren’t a factor in me moving to the area! However I don’t think he’s ever put him straight, but if he ever lifts the restraining order I must ask him what he thinks of it 🙂 I would love to hear a Skating Polly cover of “Joy Division Oven Gloves”! Just putting it out there!
Since discovering Skating Polly, they have have never been far from my Sonos, barely a day goes by where I don’t listen to at least one of their songs, and often a full album or all 4 if I fancy a treat!
Their unbounded creativity extends to their videos too – always different, always fun, always well worth watching.
As a fan, I’m in good company with the likes of Rosanne Cash, Sean Lennon, Django Django, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Ty Segall, Wayne Coyne (The Flaming Lips), Kate Nash, Wavves, Lori Barbero of Babes in Toyland and the actor Viggo Mortensen all proclaiming to be fans of the band.
It can’t be easy being in a band in the 21st century. Looking through the band’s FB page, in between videos, tour dates, reviews and so on, I spotted this:
It’s heartbreaking to read this kind of stuff. How sad must people’s lives must be when instead of finding their own positive creative outlet, choose to deliberately bring down people who are doing something positive with their lives. It really boils my piss (as my Geordie friends would say).
The way the industry is these days, there are no major labels waving around big advances, they at least created a layer between the band and the fans, who could filter out poisoned pen letters. But these days, every fruit cake has a direct line to the band via social media. If the band are anything like me with self doubt, I might get 500 likes on a post, but if there is 1 nasty comment, instead of being able to put it into perspective, it cancels out the positives in my mind and brings me down.
It must be so hard for the band when all they want to do is create great music and share it with the world – if it’s not your cup of tea, you don’t need to listen to it, no band in history has ever been universally popular after all, but FFS if you spend your time harassing bands you don’t like, get a life!
Social media really need to up their game – they ban some innocuous posts and yet sometimes leave up offensive ones.
Hands Off Gretel toured with Skating Polly – what a great double-bill that must have been!
When Lauren their lead singer did a similar post about being harassed at gigs by blokes, in between the messages of support from women who have been through the same shit, and support from blokes who aren’t dicks, there were guys actually accusing her of double-standards because she wears makeup, shows a bit of flesh (I bet the same guys criticise muslim women for covering up too much) and acts sassy in her videos. I mean c’mon, I thought we lived in enlightened times. It’s not rocket science! People, male or female can dress how they want, act how they want, it’s never an invitation to touch someone up, or treat them disrespectfully. Even if they have “F*ck Me” literally tattooed on their forehead, it’s not meant literally! That’s just page 1 of “How not to be a dick for dummies!”.
Then there are the guys who weren’t happy that she didn’t qualify her post by saying “some men” because they feel they are the good guys.
I think it’s very dangerous to assume you’re a good guy, I mean you might not be some creepy bloke, but it doesn’t mean to say you’ve never inadvertently made a girl uncomfortable.
Perspective is a very funny thing. When I was 18 I was actually jealous of women! As a shy bloke struggling to step out my comfort zone to talk to a girl without breaking out in a sweat, voice quivering, as a once great artist put it “(Go to a club) … You stand on your own, you leave on your own, you go home, you cry and you want to die”. So in that context I thought women were lucky that they just had to sit there and have the opposite sex throwing themselves at them on a plate. But with a bit of life experience, though I’ve never experienced it first hand, (I’m not quite Brad Pitt. more like his lesser known brother Cess 😉 ) but joking aside, I can see now that it must be an absolute pain in the arse to be out with your mates when you’re in a relationship or just not looking, to be constantly bombarded by people who either won’t take no for an answer, or turn nasty when you turn them down, not to mention the ones who try to touch you up.
It’s like my personal experience of the internet as a bloke isn’t too bad. I don’t tend to post in political forums any more because whilst I enjoy genuine debate, even with people with very different views, I can’t be bothered with vicious circle bun-fights, but when I did post a lot, I’d sometimes get someone coming on messenger giving me abuse, I’d just block them, life is too short to engage with such people who have nothing better to do. But many years ago, my then girlfriend rang me to ask to find something on her computer. Her chat program ICQ started automatically, and I was gobsmacked by the constant stream of sexually explicit messages from people she had no connection with. Fortunately, you couldn’t send images on ICQ or I hate to think what they would have sent. It beggars belief how many blokes seem to think that because they want to see women’s bits, that women will be thrilled to see a picture of theirs! As Clive James once put it, a man’s body is like a badly made car with bits sticking out.
When I spoke to her about it, she said something like “you just get used to it and ignore it” but people shouldn’t have to.
The point I’m making is that If you’re not a woman, you shouldn’t presume to know what women’s lives are like. In our mind we may think we are good guys, but the important thing is, do girls think we are? If we genuinely want to be good guys, we need to listen carefully when women try to explain what they have to deal with, and not just turn defensive and dismiss their concerns just because we haven’t seen what they have to deal with first hand. To presume you know better than them is the ultimate in man-splaining.
This interview with Kelli paints a pretty grim picture of what Skating Polly have had to endure. We all need to play our part in stamping out this kind of stuff. Nobody should not have to put up with this shit, there is absolutely no excuse for it!
I think Sexism/Mysogony, Racism, Homophobia and so on are largely the product of low self esteem. People who feel crap about their own lives, feel the need to demonise a group of people so that they can convince themselves they are better than that group of people. As a society I feel we need to ensure that everyone feels good about themselves so that they don’t sink into that kind of self-destructive crap that brings down others as well as themselves. So much advertising is aimed at making us feel incomplete and worthless so we buy products with the lure of feeling better about ourselves, though of course in reality they never do.
Individually, we all need to encourage our sons to treat all women with the same respect they treat their mother with, and encourage our daughters to be strong like Kelli and Peyton, and indeed Lauren and Becky who stand up for themselves and not take any shit!
Ok, so that turned a bit heavy, but we need to start speaking out about this kind of stuff – it’s too important to sweep under the carpet.
Skating Polly truly deserve to be playing stadiums if that’s what they want to do, I hope they can continue to rise above all that stuff and continue doing what they are doing, and have fun with it.
UK dates of their European tour are as follows:
14th Oct – Gulliver’s MANCHESTER (UK) SOLD OUT!
15th Oct – The Cluny, NEWCASTLE (UK)
16th Oct – Broadcast, GLASGOW (UK)
17th Oct – Beta, NOTTINGHAM (UK)
18th Oct – Lexington, LONDON (UK) (Low Tickets)
19th Oct – Swn Festival, CARDIFF (UK)
20th Oct – Hare & Hounds, BIRMINGHAM (UK)