Can you hear that harmony? I can hear it in my sleep. I can hear it even louder in outer space. – “Louder In Outer Space”
There's a difficult to describe yet timeless quality to certain songs that transcends genre or era. It's something that you can't fake or contrive and it'swhat lies at the core of Skating Polly's music. The duo of guitarist/vocalist Kelli Mayo and drummer Peyton Bighorse formed in Oklahoma in 2009 when Mayo's father began dating Bighorse's mother and the duo started writing music together on instruments they inherited from their parents. They recorded their debut album Taking Over The World in 2010 and instantly achieved acclaim from underground music icons like X's Exene Cervenka (who produced 2013's Lost Wonderfuls and Beat Happening's Calvin Johnson (who produced 2014's Fuzz Steliacoom.) After the release of 2016's The Big Fit, the group realized another one of their musical dreams when Veruca Salt's co-frontwomen Louise Post and Nina Gordon reached out and said they wanted to work with the band.
“I guess a couple of people showed them our music and the next thing we knew we were flying down to Los Angeles for a writing session with Nina and Louise,” Mayo recalls. Writing with the alternative icons went so well that the foursome decided to fully flush out the song they had worked on as well as a couple of new tracks and the end result is the three-song New Trick EP. “Everything just came together the best way we could possibly imagine,” Mayo continues. Even though the duo weren't used to writing with outside collaborators, things instantly gelled between the foursome, a fact evidenced on these songs. “Nina and Louise really helped us step outside of our usual way of doing things and suddenly we were breaking all of these songwriting rules that we didn't even know that we had,” Mayo adds. “At the same time we were breaking all of their songwriting rules and I feel like we came up with something totally different than what any of us had created in the past.”
Produced and mixed by Brad Wood (Liz Phair, Sunny Day Real Estate) the result is a fully formed collection of songs that sees Skating Polly pushing the boundaries of their sound without losing sight of the playful dynamic of the band that has endeared them to fans all over the world. The EP sets the tone out of the gate with the fuzzed-out pop sheen of “Louder In Outer Space,” takes on a moody, harmony-rich bent on the melodically minded “Hail Mary” and culminates with “Black Sky,” an instantly memorable song that shows that Skating Polly doesn't need distortion or fancy studio trickery in order to craft something that's instantly memorable. “Nina and Louise have an excellent knack for harmony and layers and every time we'd start to record the four of us – five if you include Brad's clever input – kept coming out with more subtle pieces to add,” Mayo says. “If you listen closely there's a lot of layers to every song that translated in a very dynamic way as opposed to being overproduced.”
Admittedly the female-driven alternative acts that inspired the band such as Veruca Salt, The Breeders, L7 and Babes In Toyland (the later of whom Skating Polly toured with in Europe) aren't typical reference points for most of today's up-and-coming acts, but maybe they should be. “I think the thing that a lot of those bands have that Peyton and myself love is that they can be really aggressive and loud while also being super melodic,” Mayo explains. “This was the first time we were able to work as a full band and I think it really just opened up this new level for Skating Polly in the sense that we were able to add other elements and make things sound bigger than they had in the past,” Bighorse adds. In that spirit the band recently added Mayo's brother Kurtis who will be joining them on drums... but in typical Skating Polly fashion there will be plenty of instrument-swapping between all three members during their live performances.
Speaking of live shows, Skating Polly really need to be seen in a club to fully grasp what makes them so special. “It can get pretty chaotic when we're playing; people have said it feels like it could fall apart at any moment but in a good way,” Bighorse says with a laugh. “We try to make our music honest and engaging and I think that's what drew us to people like Nina and Louise; we want to pay homage to the acts that we love while still making sure that it always sounds like Skating Polly,” Mayo explains. “We really try to make the songs the focus instead of showing off or trying to flaunt our musical abilities,” adds Bighorse – and that honesty and optimism is why both legendary musical figures as well as hardcore fans have gravitated toward Skating Polly's music. The New Trick EP is an important step in a collective musical journey that's almost a decade in the making yet is still only getting started. What comes next is anybody's guess.