The New New Young Pony Club
There's a lot of guff talked in music circles about bands and how they evolve. You would think, the way some of them talk, that the idea of putting a guitar next to a flute next to a drum next to a synthesizer was an act of artistic astonishment on a par with inventing a brand new colour. There again, you can't be too modest about your achievements or no-one will care.
So, hats off to Tahita Bulmer from the newly-refurbished New Young Pony Club. She's honest enough to admit that their previous new rave incarnation had run its course and that they were a bit stuck for inspiration until they went back to their old record collections and had a bit of a delve.
And the good news is, it's all paid off. 'The Optimist' is a great album, poppy and rocky and dancey, and also happy and grumpy and sleepy and bashful.
Here's what she had to say about it...
ChartBlog: Hi Ty, how are you?
Tahita: Very well thanks. We've just arrived in Sheffield and are unloading the van.
ChartBlog: Have you got somewhere quiet to do this interview?
Tahita: Yeah, outside, basically.
ChartBlog: Ah. Best keep it brief then. So, new album out, and a definite change in emphasis with regard to the sound...
Tahita: Well, I think the last album was a product of that time. We'd been really obsessed with and into that sound - electropop or discopunk or whatever you want to call it - from 2002 onwards. And we had a really great time making Fantastic Playroom. But when it came to making this new album, obviously as that sound has become more popular it's gotten more watered-down. So there wasn't really, as far as we were concerned, a lot of inspiring stuff going on within that genre. We were so tired as well, I had a lot of personal crap going on, it's just a reflection of a different kind of headspace.
And we're not just people who like that sort of music. Andy and I have been in bands for the past 10 years, longer in fact. I've come out of a punk background, so to come back to a sound which is harder and darker and a bit more guitar led feels totally natural. I'm not saying we'll never do another album like Fantastic Playroom, but at this precise moment in time, particularly the way the world is now, we're in a darker place than we were in 2006-2007.
ChartBlog: We often hear bands claiming every move is a step forward, and here you are saying you'd taken your sound as far as it would go, there were no signposts as to where next, so you've gone back to the sounds which inspired you before you went in that direction. This seems like a healthy thing to admit.
Tahita: Yeah, that's really where this album has come from. Imagine if you'd never heard any of that music, where would you be, what were you listening to? And I personally found myself going back to stuff that going me listening to music in the first place: the girl guitar bands of the early and mid-90s, the Breeders and Belly, Elastica and Curve, things like that. It's a very different place and I responded emotionally more to that in terms of my headspace than all this "yeah let's have a party!" stuff that was still going on.
ChartBlog: Kate Nash has just put out a free song that sounds a lot like the Breeders.
Tahita: Sort of...I think it sounds like Yeah Yeah Yeahs more, to me. I think that kind of squeally, screaming vocal is pretty much Karen O. We were sitting around saying the verse sounds like the B-52s or the Pixies and the chorus sounds like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. It's shocking for her in terms of a direction, but cool. I'm glad she's ditched the Skellies.
ChartBlog: There are a lot of rocksnobs out there struggling with whether they're allowed to like it or not.
Tahita: No I think you're definitely allowed to like it. Without being horrible to Kate - I think she's a really nice person - that last album...I know a lot of people loved it, but it was one step away from a My Little Pony annual. I much prefer this musical direction. Those of us that are very cool and have special hair are allowed to like this record.
ChartBlog: Oh I wish I had special hair...
Tahita: You could have special hair, just get the clippers, do one side of your head, that's very in now.
ChartBlog: I think you'd need to see me to appreciate why that's not going to work. I look pretty much like the lost Mitchell brother.
Tahita: Phlant Mitchell.
ChartBlog: Precisely. Now I notice you've had the Manic Street Preachers doing remixes for you, and they've brought a murky rock thing to your poppy dance thing.
Tahita: I think with the last record we were thinking "what kind of a band are we? Can we do this? Can we do that?", and to a certain extent we sort of boxed ourselves in. We thought we weren't the kind of band who could write a song people could busk, for example. And then when we were making this album we said no, and agreed take all these things that we perceive ourselves as not being able to do. And as James has proved, you can do 'Chaos' or loads of the other tracks in a more traditional rock way and they still work, and they still sound like us.
ChartBlog: I'm not imagining you having band meetings to discuss feeling musically boxed in...
Tahita: No, you definitely don't. And I don't think we're kind of zeitgeist masters in that way that someone like Damon Albarn was, where he could see a wave coming and say "right, sod this, we're not that any more, we're this". It was an emotional change, and I think everyone these days is so conscious of what's going on around you, whether you're inspired by your context or not. So I think that shift was inevitable for us. We had to draw on our bed of influences, which is vast. And cos we'd already done the dance thing, it was like "well, where are we gonna go?". It would be either rockier or...jiggier. It's either gonna be a hip hop record or a rock record.
ChartBlog: And is album number three when you go folk?
Tahita: No I think album number three will be the hip hop album. I'm working on my flow.
ChartBlog: I want somebody to build on the work Timbaland did on Bubba Sparxxx's second album, which was all bluegrass and sampled wooden things being hit together, but still obviously a hip hop record.
Tahita: Well I'm all about those crazy fusion things. I mean I love that stuff, so you never know. But I think Timbaland's a bit out of our price range.
ChartBlog: You've got imaginations! YOU can do it. He's just a person with a sampler!
Tahita: We just need somebody to make those cow noises that he makes.
ChartBlog: Get a cow!
Tahita: [Timbaland-ish mooing noise]
ChartBlog: I also want you to rebrand each time you get a new sound. So this album should be by NEW New Young Pony Club...
Tahita: No this is Neuro Young Pony Club.
ChartBlog: Oh yes! Make it a different language each time!
Tahita: Yes it makes us more sophisticated.
ChartBlog: And eventually you're all sitting around in zoot suits and no-one can pronounce your name, or even spell it.
Tahita: That seems to be the way to get noticed these days.