Pony In the Pancake – Breakfast Never Looked So Weird
Written by Liam Sweeny on September 26, 2019
There’s a quality to a band, an unspoken quality that tells you you’re listening to music and not windchimes coincidentally keeping time to a busted trash can lid flapping in the wind. Yes, it’s unspoken… but I pay for ink by the barrel, so let me try. It’s solidity. The whole of a song can’t be broken down. As the rhythm wraps around the drums and the melodies and harmonies slither through it all like veins and capillaries, you wind up with a solid thing that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
Pony in the Pancake is a solid band with some solid songs. They’re in touch with what it means to be musicians, and they get their crowds going because they’re just like the crowd, only facing a different way on the stage.
I sit down with the band and we talk about the breeze on a bygone summer day.
RRX: I’m listening to “Dead Inside” and was just watching on YouTube. It’s a great song, something I could relax and kick back to. And the video is very what you see is what you get. It’s refreshing. I don’t think everybody that’s in music gets that at it’s core, it’s people. Was there any overall way you wanted to go when you recorded “Dead Inside”?
PIP: We approach music with the philosophy of The Uncarved Block. We believe that killer tunes exist in nature and it is our job to uncover them. All of our songs are written at the moment we record them. We believe that we need to meet nature half way in order to uncover a universal hit. We take our own experiences/influences, and try to tap into the collective unconsciousness. Through this process, a hit song can be brought into existence. We don’t necessarily write songs, we channel them. For the song “Dead Inside” we tried to capture that feeling when your lover completely and totally has no feeling for you anymore. It is a crushing feeling, one of the worst that a living creature can experience. When this happens, you may look normal and healthy to anyone passing by. But inside, you are dead. It’s called being Dead Inside. You look at the world through your window, and it passes by. You just sit by you window. Dead Inside. We have all been there. The song almost wrote itself.
RRX: Your music has a real solid, driving feel to it. I’m obviously not talking distortion and full “gods of rock” overdriven thing. I mean it seems like it has the purpose of getting people to get off their asses and move. When you all go out and play, do you favor places with a good dance floor, or are you not that picky?
PIP: We are not that picky. We feel it is privilege to play music for anyone, anytime. If people dance, it is a bonus. We definitely feed off their energy, and they, ours. It creates a space in eternity that echos through time and space. When a band and an audience can “merge” together the sun smiles. We play for the sun and the moon and the sky and the air. If any of those things are present, we will play. And rejoice in the glory of existence.
RRX: I like to listen to a band before I come up with questions; in fact I need to – it’s a part of my own jam. And I did find “Dead Inside” and an MP3 on your website, but I’ll always go the extra mile and buy the album. Did I just not see one, or are you either putting an album together or talking about it?
PIP: All of our proper albums are on Bandcamp. I believe we have over 100 or songs currently on it. Listeners can download most of our music for free. We released a greatest hits collection called Cordial Greens through the Canadian label Chuchabta Records. We have really enjoyed our partnership with them and have enjoyed playing concerts in the Montreal area. On September 20th of this year we will be releasing an album, Summer Sun, with the Albany based Five-Kill Records. We re-recorded some of our all time greatest hits. Rick Spataro of Onlyness produced the album and it sounds fantastic. We are really excited to have it see the light of day this fall. We also have live shows posted on The Pony in the Pancake Blog, as well as numerous videos and concerts on YouTube.
RRX: So now you guys do the holiday show, which, incidentally, is what I’m listening to right now, your set at the 2018 show. There were a lot of cool bands at that show, including many I’ve never heard of, a few that will probably find these pages in the near future. Can you tell us a little bit about this?
PIP: We have been putting on an annual holiday for 15 years now. This began at Valentines around 2003. We got our start as a band at Valentines. One day we walked in to Jim Lanthrop’s Open Mic on our friend’s Dave’s birthday, looking have a beer. We walked back to our apartments and got our guitars. We put on a show without any preparation. It was our first show. At this point it was just two of us on acoustic guitar. (Cousin’s Robert Flynn and Dan Prockup) With the support of Jim, Mike McGrath, and Barry Muscatello we became a staple of the open mic. Howard started booking us to play shows. We added members, and the rest is history. We are forever grateful to Valentines and the people who supported us. Howard really gave us a chance to mature as a band. Our Holiday Show is our celebration of Valentines and our beginnings. Our first Holiday Shows would be on Wednesday nights. Dan and I would play for 4-5 hours. It was epic. We eventually moved to Friday/Saturday nights and started to invite other local bands that we were friends with. Bands that have played are Brother T, Bear Grass, Abyssmals, Rechorduroys, Haley Moley, Onlyness, Christina Abbott, Los Espejos, Neversink, Better Pills, Great Mutations, Sea of Trees, Sinkcharmer…There are probably over 100 bands that have played our holiday shows over the years. We will continue this year at the Low Beat on Saturday, December 21st. We are working on the line-up now. It is always a magical evening full of love and surprises. The Birth of the New Sun is something we take very seriously.
RRX: I mentioned in an above question that, at its heart, music is people. And that’s something I definitely pick up off of listening to Pony In the Pancake, is that it’s a family feel, not necessarily the blood kind, though I’m sure that too. Are there any bands, or venues, or “nodes” of the Capital Region musical experience that you’re up to sharing?
PIP: We believe that everything is connected. And as musicians, we try to ride that connectedness. There are different genres and styles, but the kind of music we play is intwined and rooted in the Sun and the Spirits of the North East of America and Outer Space and Time. We do not make up songs. We uncover them. If you open yourself to the magic of the universe, it will flow through you. We just try to channel existence and joy through our playing. Play is at the root of our music. Improvisation in our live shows is just as important as our pop songs. We love to play as a band. We love to dance in the whirlwinds of eternity, riding the Sun’s waves with our instruments and our smiles.
RRX: I noticed Pony In the Pancake is very “earthy.” Very to the roots, to nature. You guys alluded to that in your influences on social media – “the ocean and the clouds and outer space” (outer space counts.) How does nature, or the great outdoors (or the great outer space) affect your songs, your playing, the gear you use?
PIP: We are currently part of the Swordpaw Collective Studio in Troy. It is a studio practice space in the basement of the Oak Wood Church. There are a number of bands that belong, write, and rehearse there. (Bear Grass, Great Mutations, The Elements, Haley Moley, Front Biz, and Paint Brush Charlie). We share instruments, ideas, and play on each other’s albums. It is an awesome collective to be a part of.
Through the local music scene we also met the other members of our band. Bob Forget is a member of the psych rock band the Abysmals. He plays the smoothest bass in town for Pony and has a voice like an angel. Ben Garret of Party Boat and Rherodorys plays guitar and has the pop sensibilities of Neil Young and Brian Wilson. They are both indispensable members of our band. We met through playing local shows. The Capital District has a great music scene. We’ve played shows with so many bands and have played with so many killer musicians over the years.
As a band we hope to keep communicating and merging with nature to uncover more hits. We love what we do and do it for the joy it brings. We would love to share it with the whole world. We feel honored to live under this sun. Pony in the Pancake is our love letter to the wonders of being alive.
RRX: This is where you get to answer the question I didn’t ask. Does a pontoon boat in the middle of a lake have good acoustics? Do they rent pontoon boats to bands? Enlighten, educate, emote – the floor is yours.
PIP: Pony had the opportunity to play on a Tom Sawyer like raft a few years ago. It was put together by some friends. We floated on Saratoga Lake and played. We had a generator on the raft and speakers to blasts our sounds out over the water. We must have passed 100 boats that day, each sharing smiles and waves. Our friends also hooked up speakers under the water so they could listen while SCUBA Diving. We have always pictured ourselves as a band with an awesome underwater sound. That day, our dream became a reality. I can remember at the height of our jams the water began to eddy and swirl all around the raft. I think our sound even lifted the raft a bit towards the heavens. It was one of the greatest concerts we ever played. We hope to do it again someday. We would like to take our sound to the ocean in a submarine or play Howe Caverns.