Up-and-comers at Pitchfork Music Fest: Ponytail

A&E interviews the Baltimore band.

Ponytail was formed in art class. Yeah, they got an A.

Jules Ameel

Ponytail was formed in art class. Yeah, they got an A.

Ponytail is a four-piece act from the experimental band incubator that the city of Baltimore has become. They met in an art class and found that they shared a proclivity for chaotic but structured soundscapes, complete with vocals that have been called everything from âÄúYoko Ono-likeâÄù to pre-linguistic. In person, Ponytail are a friendly group, half of them donning pink pants and the other half in blue pants. Kind and excitable, they were even polite enough to give this A&E reporter suffering from laryngitis a few tips on herbal remedies (no, that doesnâÄôt mean weed). What bands are you most excited to see? Dustin Wong (guitarist): I think Lindstrøm because I donâÄôt know anything about them. Ken Seeno (guitarist): If we can see Yeasayer, theyâÄôre playing right after us. IâÄôd like to see them. Fucked Up (the band). All around: Killer Whales Seeno: We didnâÄôt even know who was playing âÄôtil we got here. You guys are from Baltimore. Are you part of the Wham City [arts collective] scene? Do you work with Dan Deacon? Wong: WeâÄôre good friends with him. WhatâÄôs the scene like? Molly Siegel (vocalist): ItâÄôs a supportive, small town. Seeno: ItâÄôs like a small âĦ nebulous. I read that you guys met in a class âĦ it was called âÄúparaphotographyâÄù or something. [Laughs] Wong: It was called âÄúparapainting.âÄù What is that? Can you explain? Jeremy Hyman (drummer): The main idea is that youâÄôre working with music the way you would work with painting âĦ in parallel. It has nothing to do with painting, just like the methodology and the practice and the observations a painter would make. How did you apply the theory to your sound? Hyman: ThereâÄôs really no theory. It was just the fact that we all didnâÄôt know each other [the people in the class had to form bands with other class members]. Wong: Four different colors meeting. Hyman: Now weâÄôre brown. Seeno: If anything, the class is supposed to see what happens if you get an artist perspective on a new medium. We studied as fine artists starting a rock band. Do you apply painting principals to analyzing music? Like figuring out foreground /background? Wong: Sure âĦ but it can be even more abstract than that. Siegel: The idea of parapainting is like, âÄúWhatâÄôs going on with these different movements in art and painting? WhatâÄôs going on parallel to that? What was the scene? âĦ What was happening in culture? Now weâÄôre playing a festival, and weâÄôre in a band, but weâÄôre not doing traditional music and weâÄôre sort of using all these different ideas. Wong [sarcastic]: ItâÄôs all about departures âĦ you know âĦ for the sake of liberation. Changing gears, IâÄôve read a lot of reviews and they seem to concentrate on your [SiegelâÄôs] vocal stylings a lot. I was wondering, are they influenced by Xena: Warrior Princess at all? Siegel: Not directly. Subconsciously? Did you watch it as a kid? Siegel: Maybe. I watched âÄúXenaâÄù a little bit. Wong: SheâÄôs a strong woman. What about The Sims? Seeno: ThatâÄôs never come up before. Have you played The Sims? Sielgel: IâÄôve seen it. Seeno: You canâÄôt really understand it. You guys donâÄôt have a bass player. Do you feel a connection with The White Stripes because of that? Wong: IâÄôve never thought of that. Seeno: IâÄôve never connected with The White Stripes, like ever. ItâÄôs just not my band. All Around: I like them. Do you ever get asked to justify not having a bass player? Wong: TheyâÄôre fine with it. Siegler: I think itâÄôs one of the biggest complaints we get about our songs. Seeno: But weâÄôre working on that. When you write your songs, do you improvise? Wong: ItâÄôs all nuanced improvisations, little tweaks. A lot of improv bands have a bass player. Seeno: Yeah, to hold it down. Do you have a Japanese influence in your sound? Wong: I grew up in Japan, so maybe a quarter. Seeno: When we started playing, I got really into a lot of Japanese bands âĦ Flower TravellinâÄô Band âĦ Yellow Magic Orchestra and stuff âĦ old Japanese psychedelic stuff. Then thereâÄôs the new stuff; people notice the influence, like Boredoms.