Last month, us folks at Cleveland Bachelor World Headquarters started up a new lazy interview feature with the artists and musicians coming through town that have us most excited. (And by us, I mean me, as CB HQ is an operation of one.) In June, I was stoked to do Q&As with Monty Miranda (director of new indie film Skills Like This), Andrew Kenny of Wooden Birds and American Analog Set, and the fellas from new San Diego lo-fi outfit Crocodiles. Today's edition features an e-conversation with Ken Seeno, guitarist in the critically acclaimed Baltimore, MD-based art-rock band Ponytail.
The official CB take on Ponytail is that they are doing some wild, challenging work and that I am quite stoked to see them on the bill with Yeasayer (whose last album is one of the best released by anyone in recent years) and Unsparing Sea (the indie rock outfit in Cleveland doing perhaps the most original work around). The band is perhaps the most visible group in a community of bands from the Baltimore area that share a connection with the Maryland Institute College of Art, with the art-school emphasis most evident in the work of this group. The bands first album came out on the Baltimore-based label Creative Capitalism, and the Pitchfork-blessed recent release, Ice Cream Spiritual, is out now on We*Are*Free, the label and management group also affiliated with other stellar indie acts such as Beach House, Indian Jewelry, and Yeasayer.
The interview below is formatted just as the previous iterations have been, with many of the same questions included, though some specific focus on Ponytail-related topics added in, as well. Special thanks to Ken for agreeing to do this. If you haven't already made plans to see Ponytail THIS THURSDAY AT THE GROG SHOP, I'd like to take this opportunity to suggest that you make those plans now.
1) What are your influences on Ice Cream Spiritual? In particular, I'm interested in sources of inspiration other than other bands/musicians? I mean, is there a certain type of art or artist, idea, spirit, etc.
I think we have always been influenced by each others energy. The most important part of how we write music is the vibe and feeling we are experiencing at that time as a band. If we get excited, it's a good thing!
2) It seems like there is a lot of great music and energy coming out of Baltimore right now, especially with the way art is clearly influencing music (I'm thinking of bands like Lo Moda and Double Dagger, as well as Ponytail). To what do you attribute the development of that scene? Has community there shaped your development in discernible ways?
I think our friends from art school (MICA) and Baltimore have always influenced us, and although Baltimore is always changing, just thinking back to the relationships we've had with other bands in Baltimore gets me smiling. We share many exciting memories and moments!
3) If you were asked by a younger musician about to embark on his/her first tour, what advice would you give him/her?
Try to have fun and stick together. Bring a sleeping bag because your going to be sleeping on a lot of hardwood floors over the next couple years.
4) The unique vocals of Molly Siegel get a lot of attention from reviewers and critics, and for good reason. Do you think this vocal approach is going to be consistent across future albums, or is there any temptation to take a more mainstream perspective toward vocals on future releases?
I can't really say right now. We try to be natural and go with our instincts. We also make musical decisions individually, even when working together as a group to write music. Only time will tell I think. Maybe we'll do a concept album...
5) Any favorite artists/songs out there you'd love to cover, but just haven't done it yet?
We've debated about this A LOT. We wanted to do Fugazi, and the Grateful Dead, and loads of other bands, but the only thing we were able to conjure was a pretty lite cover of ESG's "You Make No Sense" which actually turned out really sort of cheeky!
6) Last but not least, any memorable Cleveland experiences?
We played at this apocalyptic space. There were many shadowy figures smoking pot at that place. It was a fun night, but it was very sparse and lacked any rising action. We slept upstairs at the venue. There was a very annoying young man, but a lot of nice people. This was our first or second tour ever. It was raining. I hope our next Cleveland experience is more colorful!!!
(Speaking of color, credit on this pretty wild video for Ponytail single "Celebrate The Body Electric (It Came From An Angel)" was directed by video artist Sophia Peer - check more of her incredible work out here.
2 years ago