New Young Pony Club
Live @ O2 Academy 2 Oxford
March 18, 2010
Interview & Photography: Steve Bateman

“NYPC have picked apart the Gordian knot of their sound, managing to hold onto everything that was initially so alluring about them and ditching everything else. The result is copper-bottomed, stone-clad, liquid nitrogen-fuelled pure pop genius. Like any good disco music, the shine from the mirrorball hides the fundamentally dark and millennial edge that hedonism always produces. Under the lush melodies lies a subtle but rather affecting melancholy... If last year saw The Horrors emerging from a garage-rock/goth chrysalis a beautiful and dazzling creature, then NYPC have done the same thing in disco-punk terms... All of this would be by the by, however, if Ty hadn’t delivered the goods like a slightly world-weary Debbie Harry. She uses her voice like Kevin Shields manipulates the tremolo arm of his guitar; on labyrinthine multi-layered vocal harmonies, she allows one note to drift slowly off-pitch provoking a palpable sense of lovesickness... It is difficult to imagine a better pop album coming out this year.” NME

Joining the ever-growing list of bands who have put out strong second albums in the last year or so. New Young Pony Club’s latest offering, The Optimist, is an accomplished musical evolution from their first record, 2007’s Mercury Music Prize-nominated Fantastic Playroom, with the new rave Day-Glo sonics having now been recalibrated into a much darker metallic disco sound, where the tiniest detail is important and every track is executed with bravura! And yet, each song remains faithful to an early quote from NYPC about their signature style: “We marry the dance ethic with the pop ethic, and make something that you can dance to and sing along to.”

Formed in London in 2005 as a quintet, New Young Pony Club (a name they chose because lead singer Ty always wanted to own a pony when she was growing up but never got to), was originally founded by friends Tahita Bulmer (vocals) and Andy Spence (guitar / producer), with Lou Hayter (keyboards), Sarah Jones (drums) and Igor Volk (bass) later rounding out the line-up – although the latter no longer remains a part of the group. A pair of limited edition 7” singles in 2005, Ice Cream and The Get Go (Tirk Recordings), led to a record deal with the trendy Australian label, Modular, an exhaustive touring schedule and a notable slot on the NME Awards ‘New Rave Tour’ in 2007.

Keeping a low-profile for the past 2 years, The Ponies have now finally resurfaced as fully-independent artists, with the tracks Lost A Girl and Chaos, previewing the quartet’s sophomore long player on their own label, The Numbers. Their press release reads: “New Young Pony Club’s self-produced and more importantly, self-funded and self-released new album The Optimist, is the sound of a band taking full control of their present and future, circumnavigating their own way.” With Clash concluding: “Over time they will adapt, create a greater understanding of what they are trying to achieve and produce some stunning masterpieces. The tricky second album phase has been completed and it’s an excellent product. The future’s bright.”

With Ty and Andy remaining the creative songwriting force behind the group, who describe their new songs as “deeper and more honest, revealing our true inner-selves much more.” Ty talked to the NME about how the end of her 10-year relationship with her boyfriend, and the comedown from the new rave scene informed The Optimist: “It’s on the bands themselves to be good enough to transcend that and be able to move forward… Fantastic Playroom was the fantasy of what I wanted at that time, and The Optimist is like in the wake of having achieved that, where are you now? It’s about the interplay of light and dark which you have in your life. It’s not all Saturday night 24/7.”

As an ardent admirer myself, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak to the three beautiful and lovely ladies of the group, Ty, Lou and Sarah, a couple of hours before NYPC’s dancefloor-destroying display at the O2 Academy 2 in Oxford…

Lucy: Your band have been quite quiet for the last few months. Are you looking forward to playing gigs again?
Katie Jane Garside: I think I give very obtuse ans

1.Talking about The Music Industry, Steve from Blood Red Shoes recently said that for any group, “nobody will ever care about your band as much as you do.” Is this one of the reasons why you decided to self-fund and self-release your new album?
Ty: “Well, I definitely think there’s an element of truth in that, because you know, obviously when it’s your thing, you’re going to put a 110% into it! But then you do get some pretty rabid fans, who are really excited to see you play and they buy everything that you do. So I don’t know. I suppose it depends. In terms of the release, I think with our experiences with Modular, we just decided because we had the advantage of selling the music overseas and having that money to make the record, we thought we might as well, because it would mean we’d have complete autonomy and be able to do things our way. It has been very challenging, but at least you know that you’re getting stuff done in as much as you can the way you want to, plus we’ve had some amazing reviews for the album, so we’re very pleased – I don’t think it could have gone much better (smiling)!”

2.I read that writing and recording The Optimist was a painstaking task, and as synthesisers, guitars and bass still play a prominent role in your overall sound, I wondered from all of your favourite artists / songs, if are there any synth, guitar or bass lines that have stuck in your head?
Lou: “Hmm…”
Ty: “That’s an interesting question.”
Lou: (starts singing the hook to Mantronix’s Got To Have Your Love)
Ty: (laughs heartily) “Yeah, there’s always Mantronix, that’s a good one!”
Sarah: “I like the Tom Tom Club’s Genius Of Love as well (smiling), that’s great!”
Ty: “Yeah, and I like Dark Sneak Love Action. It’s usually the simple ones that get stuck in your head.”

3.On a similar note, I think Lost A Girl has a very memorable chorus, but what do you consider to be some perfect choruses?

Ty: “My God, there’s loads of perfect choruses! I think Let’s Dance (David Bowie) has a perfect chorus and Girls & Boys (Blur) has a perfect chorus. Loads of ‘60s stuff obviously, most Beatles songs have perfect choruses don’t they?”
Lou & Sarah: “Yeah!”
Sarah: (singing) “Baby, you can drive my car…”
Ty: “Exactly! They’re so effortless and really uplifting (big smile)!”

4.Not so long ago, artists / bands used to release around 4 singles from every album, and one of my all-time favourite set of singles has to be from Nirvana’s Nevermind – Smells Like Teen Spirit, Come As You Are, In Bloom and Lithium. But, which records do you think have spawned a great series of singles?

Ty: “Probably the first Suede album, that had 4 amazing singles when it came out (The Drowners, Metal Mickey, Animal Nitrate and So Young). The new Beyonce record, but that’s probably got more than 4 (laughing), there’s probably been about 6 great singles off that!”
All: (laughing)
*I joke that it’s going into Michael Jackson’s Thriller territory*
All: (laughing again)
Ty: “Yeah, definitely (laughing) – it’s going from strength-to-strength for that record!”

5.Continuing with this train of thought, what’s the one LP that everyone should own?

Sarah: “Oh God (laughing)!”
Ty: “That’s so hard – that’s really hard that one!”
Lou: “Revolver.”
Ty: “Or Nevermind, that would be another one.”
Lou: “Yeah.”
Sarah: “Hunky Dory.”
Ty: “Or Low.”
Lou: “Low, yeah.”
Ty: “Unknown Pleasures… There are so many though, that it’s hard to just pick one. There’s probably about a hundred!”
Sarah: “Steely Dan, The Royal Scam is probably my all-time favourite album by them.”
Ty: “It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, The Blueprint… I mean, my God, where do we stop (laughing)?”

6.Musically and creatively, how do you stay fresh and hungry?
Ty: “I think creatively, it’s just a desire to push yourself really and to try and be better. And also, I think in terms of how people respond to us, there’s always been people who really love the band, but then there’s also been people who aren’t sure. So, you’re always wanting to convert people and bring them round to your way of thinking – so that keeps you kind of creatively hungry. Obviously, if you love music, you always want to hear new stuff – although as you get older, you get more cynical – but you keep looking and when you do find something new that you’re into, it’s really exciting!”

7.Of all your achievements to date, which are you most proud of?

Ty: “Um (thinking), probably getting this album out and just the experience we’ve gained in releasing it; commissioning videos, finding stylists and finding people to work with. There’s very much a sense of mutuality about doing that now, because obviously we haven’t got as much money as a massive record label, so it really is a case of playing people a track and if they like it, then they’ll go, ‘OK, we’ll do it!’”

8.How difficult is it returning to normal life after coming off tour?

Sarah: “It always takes a few weeks, and those first few weeks are a really weird time (laughing), because you’re like, ‘What am I doing?’ But then you kind of slip back into normal life quite naturally and I think we all like being back in London and seeing our family and friends.”
Ty: “Yeah, definitely, it’s good to reconnect!”

9.Is there anything that you can tell us about yourselves, which may surprise your fans?

All: (laughing)
Ty: “Well, I’m quite shy.”
Lou & Sarah: (thinking)
Ty: “Sarah makes great Banoffee Pie!”
All: (laugh heartily)
Sarah: “I like Black Metal, but I’m not into the macabre things associated with the scene, just the music outside of it (laughing).”

10.Are you aware that you have an audience when writing songs, and how do you feel when they do eventually become public property?
Ty: “It’s not hard letting them go, but it is hard waiting for reviews to come in. Because to a certain extent, I think that everybody writes to please themselves and obviously you’re just one person among millions – you’ve no idea whether anybody’s actually going to like what you do. So that’s nerve-wracking, but you always have hope that it will reach somebody and make them happy.”

11.In terms of songwriting, some musicians talk about how although it’s rewarding to finish writing a song, it’s also equally as fulfilling knowing when to take a musical idea / lyric away, that isn’t going to work. Is this the same for you?

All: “Yes!”
Ty: “It’s definitely a learnt skill, knowing when to say, ‘OK, that’s enough, it’s not working.’”
Sarah: “We tried for ages with different drum patterns didn’t we (looking at Ty), especially with Stone.”
Ty: “Yeah.”
Sarah: “The track just went through some crazy different sounds, until it ended up…”
Ty: “As it is now.”
Sarah: “Yeah.”
Ty: “With Chaos as well, I mean we wrestled with that song for a long, long time – it was just like a monster that we couldn’t control, and finally, we learnt how to pacify it (laughing)!”

12.What’s the most interesting story behind one of your songs, and have you ever been left with the feeling, “We couldn’t have written that when we first started”?
Ty: “Um, I don’t know? I suppose maybe something like Lost A Girl, because obviously that has personal resonance for me, but also, I think that’s the track that we went through the whole of writing Fantastic Playroom, kind of going, ‘We could never make a track like that.’ And then when we started writing songs for The Optimist, we kind of went, ‘Let’s try and write a song like that,” and that’s what came out. So, we proved ourselves wrong (smiling)!”

13.Ty has great stage presence, but who for you, have been / are some of the greatest frontmen and frontwomen in the history of popular music?
Ty: “Crikey (thinking), Grace Jones, David Bowie…”
Lou: “David Bowie, yeah.”
Ty: “Elvis Presley, Madonna…”
Sarah: “David Byrne…”
Ty: “But as with the ‘What’s the one LP that everyone should own?’ question, there are so many to choose from.”
All: “Yeah.”

14.If you could have been at any gig in the history of music, which one would you have most liked to have attended?

Ty: “Hmm…”
Lou: “If I could have seen David Bowie during the Low era, or on the Station To Station Tour, that would have been amazing! I saw him later on at the Isle Of Wight Festival and he was so good, but I wished I could have seen him during those times.”
Ty: “I would’ve loved to have seen James Brown playing live actually, when he sort of had all of his fine ladies…”
Lou: “Yeah.”
Ty: “That would be pretty amazing, seeing Bootsy and all of those people playing together, that would have been pretty rad!”
Sarah: “I would have loved to have seen when they had the expanded Talking Heads line-up – they had like 25 musicians onstage!”
Ty: “I would’ve liked to have seen The Stooges at the Scala, when there were 15 people there…”
*I joke that it’s one of those legendary gigs which lots of people claim to have been at, but in reality, nobody was probably even there*
All: (laugh heartily)

15.As well as playing your new tracks live, what has it been like revisiting older material – have those songs been given a new lease of life?

Ty: “I think the older songs have the same lease of life that they always had, because I think the stuff on Fantastic Playroom is so vibrant anyway, it kind of lives long after you perhaps feel like you’ve moved on – you return to it and you’re in that moment of when they were written again.”
Sarah: “I think there are some people as well, who are listening to the new album and they come to the gigs and when we play Ice Cream, they go, ‘Oh, it’s them!’”
All: (laugh heartily)
Sarah: “It’s good (big smile)!”

16.As a group who also remixes other artists’ tracks, can you tell us how you approach this?
Ty: “Well, when we get the opportunities, it’s great…”
*I ask Ty if the band know in their minds what they want to achieve sonically*
Ty: “No (laughing), we probably should do (smiling)! It depends what you’re given as well, like with the Amy Winehouse remix, I think they just sent the vocal but they sent it too slow, so we had to try and speed it up and then work with it, so we’d be able to track around it kind of thing. But, I think it just depends what they give you – it’s usually a drum stem, the vocals or whatever they think the good bits of the track are. I’d love to remix Jay-Z (laughing), or M.I.A, that would be cool!”

17.Do you have any favourite recording studios?
Ty: (looking at Sarah and Lou) “I’m sure you two do, you’ve probably been in more than I have to be honest.”
Sarah: “RAK, and AIR Studios as well, where we did that charity thing (looking at Ty)?”
Ty: “Oh yeah, it’s somewhere in Hampstead, George Martin owns it.”
Sarah: “It’s amazing (excitedly), and Abbey Road is a favourite of mine as well!”
Lou: “We all like going and doing Maida Vale sessions don’t we (looking at Sarah and Ty)?”
All: “Yeah.”
Ty: “That’s pretty amazing!”
Lou: “Because everything’s just really ‘60s and ‘70s…”
Ty: “There’s all these bits of obsolete kit, like lying around and they have such top class engineers as well.”
*I mention how The Smiths released Hatful Of Hollow, comprised of BBC Radio 1 sessions, because both the band and their fans thought the recordings were far superior to the re-recorded versions on their debut album proper*
Sarah: “Did they (surprised)?”
Lou: “Yeah, Hatful Of Hollow.”
Ty: “It was cool for them to have had the opportunity to do that.”

18.Earlier this year, Jarvis presented the NME Awards – but is there anyone who you think would be an ideal host for the 2011 ceremony?

Ty: “David Mitchell (without any hesitation)!”
Sarah: (giggling)
Ty: “Or Stephen Fry would be good, because people respect him so much.”
Lou & Sarah: “Yeah, that would be good!”

19.If you could form a supergroup as a side-project, which musicians would you most like to play in the band with you?
Ty: “Sly & Robbie for the rhythm section…”
Sarah: “Yeah.”
Ty: “James Williamson, Graham Coxon on guitar and I don’t know who I’d have on keyboards.”
Lou: “I’d have (inaudible)…”
Sarah: “And I’d have Robert Fripp (laughing).”

20.You seem to have a very strong sense of self, and have clearly taken great care and consideration over the band’s style and artwork. Is this important to you?
Ty: “Oh, very much so! Especially in this day and age, with everybody being so media literate you know? People expect more, so I think it goes hand-in-hand now, for bands to be really involved in their artwork and their merchandise and everything else, and there are so many talented individuals who can do it for themselves, which is always cool!”

21.Would you agree that the twin staples of any successful group are ‘Chemistry and Compromise’?

Ty: “Yes (without any hesitation)! Absolutely!”
Lou & Sarah: “Yeah!”
Ty: “But also, I think with all of the great bands, there’s that sense of tension as well. So, I’d add that to the mix, tension, because I think you need that too.”

22.If you weren’t a professional musician, what other job would you most like to do?
Ty: “I’d be a doctor.”
Sarah: “I would like to work in film (pausing), I went to the cinema the other day actually, so if I wasn’t involved in music, it would have to be film, but I don’t know what I could do (laughs heartily)!”
Lou: “It would have to be music, because it’s the one thing that I really love and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. So, if I wasn’t in this band, I’d find something to do with music.”

23.For the sake of new music, do you think it’s important that BBC 6Music is kept on air?

Ty: “Yes, very much so! I don’t think there should be any debate as to whether or not it’s kept on air, it’s plainly obvious that 6Music should continue!”
Sarah: “Yeah.”
Ty: “Because there’s not really anywhere else for new musicians, especially where they’re so heavily supported. Everyone’s given a chance there, it’s not like Radio 1…”
Sarah: “Yeah, especially because of the way Radio 1 is, you need something else.”
Ty: “But it still has so much power, even though it’s kind of useless in a lot of ways.”
Sarah: “It’s just that name, Radio 1.”
All: “Yeah.”

24.One reviewer described The Optimist as ‘Dark Glossy Disco’, so what are some of your all-time favourite disco songs?
Ty: “Oh Christ, I’m probably the worst person to ask! Mine would probably all be Diana Ross.”
Sarah: (laughing)
Ty: “I used to listen to her with my Mum when I was very small, because she liked Diana Ross.”
Lou: “Mine would probably be any of the Arthur Russell ones, and then there’s one called Like An Eagle by Dennis Parker, who used to be a porn star…”
All: (laughing)
Lou: “I’m not sure how many records he made (laughing), but Like An Eagle is one of my all-time favourite disco songs (big smile)!”

25.Lastly, chips or cream buns?
All: “Chips!”
Lou: “Chips with salt & vinegar, but if there’s no salt & vinegar, then…”
Ty: “Mayo.”
Lou: “Yeah.”
Ty: “We usually have chips with Mayo!”

A very special thanks to Ty, Lou and Sarah, to New Young Pony Club’s Tour Manager Liam, and to Rob @ Sonic PR, for all of their time and help.

Oxford Set List

Get Lucky
The Optimist
Lost A Girl
Ice Cream
Tight Fit
We Want To
The Bomb
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Oh Cherie
The Get Go

“The architect of love
Does not remember us”

wers to questions...It's never about looking forward to it. Actually maybe I should change the
script, maybe we are looeir musicm the 3rd album?