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Interview: New Young Pony Club

2010-10-04 09:56
London’s New Young Pony Club is hitting South Africa this October. The dance-hungry indie outfit plays Rocking the Daisies (CT) on October 8 and Rocking the Gardens (JHB) October 9 – sorry Durban.    

From The Balkans to Australia, New Young Pony Club has been all over the world promoting new album The Optimist (read the review). Now they’re heading south (again). I spoke to guitarist and producer Andy Spence, who seemed mildly excited – he was in a park eating a muffin at the time.  

So, South Africa, are you excited?

Ah-hum. Never been there before. Pretty special.

What’s top of your to-do list?

Er… I don’t know. You tell me? I don’t know anything about South Africa. 

Most bands tend to go “on safari” or swimming with sharks?

Well the girls aren’t really fans of the water, so I don’t think they’ll be going near any sharks. 

What was the last country you played for the first time?

We’ve done quite a few this year. The Balkans. Croatia, Slovenia… Places like that. No, Bosnia was the last one. That was pretty cool. There’s no airport in Bosnia. It got trashed in the war and they haven’t fixed it since. 

Where are you right now?

In the park.

What did you have for breakfast? 

I’m having a muffin right now. I guess that’s kind of breakfast. Ha ha…

New Young Pony Club gained worldwide publicity when “Ice Cream” was used in a Nissan ad. Have you seen the dubbed John Lennon Citroën ad?

No I haven’t.

To me, it seems less ethically dubious when it’s a new young band using an ad to promote themselves. What’s your take on artists selling songs to car and computer companies, any moral dilemmas? 

It depends. It’s difficult. These days there isn’t really… It’s a way to make money. People aren’t buying records. You really are in a position where you have to consider these things. When we did the Nissan advert I checked out the car first. We don’t want to be involved with some gas-guzzler. We’ve turned down a lot of unethical stuff. But it’s a modern world. Gone are the days when you could say, “Oh I won’t sell out.” Unless you’re Radiohead. If you’re Radiohead, then you’re alright.

You released The Optimist on your own label, The Numbers. What made you leave Modular? 

It was kind of a mutual decision. They were having some financial issues. We hadn’t been entirely happy on the first album. They’re an Australian label, so it was great in Australia but not the rest of the world. But thanks to Nissan, Nissan paid for this album (The Optimist). 

In interviews, you’ve mentioned having to “beg, borrow and steal” to get the album made. Was the DIY approach self-inflicted?

Well, sort of. We did deals with everyone. We had to work with people that wanted to work with us. Like Craig Silvey. He’s a big name. He did the new Arcade Fire album (The Suburbs). But he did it for us for next to nothing.

Would you do your next album the same way?

We’ve got our own studio. We like doing things ourselves. It feels comfortable to us. Big studios are not what our sound’s about. It works for us.

Overall, despite the title, The Optimist sounds darker and moodier than Fantastic Playroom. Were you all listening to a lot of Joy Division or is it just how things turned out?

We’ve always listened to a lot of dark music. It’s just the way we were feeling at the time. Where we needed to go. We weren’t listening to anything, specifically. But I think there was a more gothic influence going on.

Have the new songs still been getting people dancing?

Yeah, absolutely. The new album’s kind of dark and light. There are some dark moments. But then there are also a lot of fun moments. Don’t you think?

Definitely. What new music are you listening to at the moment?

Darwin Deez, Teeth…

Do you listen to your own music when you’re chilling out?

No, not really. I listened to the new album when we finished. But when you listen to something for a year and half, you have to kind of let it go.

And what’s your take on bands wearing their own T-shirts?

I mean, everyone’s got their own taste. Personally, I’m not that keen on the idea. I think it’s a little bit naff.

What’s the worst description or comparison you’ve ever heard or read of yourselves?

Oh, ha ha… The best worst one was we got called “the Steps of nu-rave” by NME. Which was a double diss, ‘cos we really didn’t wanna be called nu-rave. It’s funny though, makes me laugh. 

I’ve read a few interviews where you mentioned you’d like to win a Grammy or a Brit Award. So is that, like, your Holy Grail?

No, not at all. Maybe Ty (Tahita Bulmer) said that. It would be something to put in the manager’s office. But would it change the way I feel about music or anything? No. It would be fun. I certainly wouldn’t hand it back. 

Was there any fun rivalry between you and Klaxons over the 2007 Mercury Prize?

I do remember James (Righton) coming up to me just before they announced the winner. He was gurning his tits off. He said, “We’re gonna win, we’re definitely gonna win!” I don’t know if you’ve seen their acceptance speech? We weren’t the favourites. It was a good night out. It was nice just to be nominated.

London's New Young Pony Club is hitting South Africa this October. Channel24 chatted to guitarist and producer Andy Spence.

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