New Young Pony Club: Always The Optimists

The band, whose second album 'The Optimist' is released this week, are preparing for a national tour.

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Posted 1st March 2010 in Features & Reviews, New Young Pony Club | By Anna Dobbie
New Young Pony Club

In 2009, New Young Pony Club’s optimistic disco-pop stomper 'Ice Cream' featured on a 30 second soundtrack for a Nissan mobile device, achieving the highest chart position of the band’s career, despite extensive media coverage due to their Nu-Rave branding, not to mention a glittering debut album. Unfortunately, such is the music market these days. The band, whose second album 'The Optimist' is released on 1st March, are preparing for a national tour. Anna Dobbie caught up with guitarist and producer, Andy Spence.

So, how are you today?
We’ve got a gig tonight in Sheffield. It’s packed, sold out. There are three bands on tonight and the venue’s capacity is about the same as the number of band members here.

Do you prefer being a guitarist or a producer?
I learned to play guitar when I was a kid but the first thing I remember doing is recording my own songs so it feels like I’ve been producing since then, it’s really what I love doing. I’m not really a great guitarist, I’m an OK guitarist. The writing and producing, that’s really what I love to do.

How do you write your songs?
Me and singer Tahita Bulmer get in the studio and I’ll try to get sounds that excite; she’ll give it a vocal and it’ll go from there really. There’s a little bit of crossover in roles with the making of music.

Would you recommend producing your own music?

Not trying to blow my own trumpet but I would generally not advise bands to produce themselves because it’s very hard. The ultimate role of a producer is to be that third ear. A lot of the time, it’s difficult and I rely on management and other people we know to come in and help. Tahita will sometimes have the perspective that I won’t, having been there everyday.

What makes you stand out as a band?
I think musically you can’t link us to anything specific. I think people often say that we sound retro and reference the 80s, but we were one of the first people to heavily reference it. Actually, we weren’t even! Now it’s everywhere and no one even mentions that, it’s just accepted. You go back and everyone’s referenced every era you know. Oasis referenced The Beatles to fuck, Kasabian reference 60s psychedilia, everyone’s referenced everyone. With this new material, it’s less reference and much more of its own kind of sound.

How is the new material different from older stuff?
The previous stuff was disco-punky although it stretched into a lot of different genres like new wave. That’s kind of where we started off with Ice Cream, that disco kind of thing. We wanted to re-start the journey from almost the other side of the world musically so we tried some other things on the new album, but there are still things we love about new wave.

Are there still things you love about Nu Rave? Was it a blessing or a curse?
I don’t really know what it means to be honest. It was both a blessing and a curse. At the end of the day, it got a lot of press. We did the NME Indie Rave Tour in 2007 with Sunshine Underground, CSS and Klaxons and got to play to a lot of people. I think probably it wasn’t so good because a lot of Nu Rave bands were sort of fair-weather and the people who have stuck with us have been music people, the people that have a real understanding of what we are.

Do you stay in contact with the other bands from the NME Indie Rave Tour?
Yeah, we’re still in touch with Klaxons because our drummer, Sarah Jones, went out with Jamie for a long time. We’re in touch with CSS now and again - we get the odd email, it’s quite nice. It was a really good tour and everyone really bonded on that one, more than on any other tour we ever did. We’ll all remember that for the rest of our lives.

Any truth to the internet rumour that the bassist from We Smoke Fags might be joining your line-up?
He was in the band for a short time, that’s true. We never really announced it because he was filling in for someone. It was one of those things that would never have been official. Yeah, he did help us out for a bit for some festivals and stuff but no, he’s not in the band. He’s very good – he’s a great stand-in.

Your new album’s called The Optimist – are you an optimistic band?

Yeah we are an optimistic band. I can’t say the album is happy pop music. A lot of it is a bit darker, people are going to think it’s an ironic title and a joke but actually in a lot of ways, even though we were making really dark music it was making us feel positive, making us feel good on the inside. This whole album plays on the dark and light really. The single Chaos is a bit of a red herring because it’s not really about chaos,

In an interview for My Tower Hamlets, you said you “didn’t want to be biggest band in the world”…
Well, that’s all worked out great, hasn’t it? I think we were being a bit flippant and for some reason that comment ended up on Wikipedia so literally everyone thinks that’s our attitude. I think we’d be happy if we were much bigger and had more fans, but we’re happy as long as people are coming to gigs and we’re making the music we like. The point we were trying to make is that a lot of people going into this industry imitating bigger bands and they make music specifically with that ambition of being a big band. They write big choruses and they try to be Coldplay from the moment they start. If what we write becomes big then that’s great. Often the public are removed from what is good because they’re fed a lot of X Factor dross; if it’s got a hook and it stays in your head and it’s got someone pretty singing it, then that’s good enough for the majority. There are the hard-core music fans out there, I believe in music and that it will always be around.

What was it like being signed to Modular?
We did well in the Australian market but the rest of the world was awful because the record went through Universal and because it wasn’t on their label, it was in their ‘to do’ pile. We’re on our own label now, and our marketing and distribution company have been amazing, really supportive. It was our choice, we were given the opportunity to move on because Universal didn’t have any money left. Already we’re doing lots of press, it’s just been non-stop.

Do you think it’s a good time for female singers?
I don’t know, it’s funny. Part of me thinks it’s a good time because there are a lot of female singers but then the other part thinks it’s going to swing back to male singers next year. You never know and I think you just can’t think about that type of stuff and you just have to do what you do, come what may.

What are you most excited about on your next tour?
I think it’s the new album. We’ve only played a few tracks from it so far - we know it’s different, I think some people were surprised and I think it might take them a while to get used to it, but I think everyone’s going to see that it’s better music that will last a lot longer to be honest.

What are your ambitions for this year?
To tour, do the festivals and I’d like the album to sell fucking millions of copies! Humility’s gone out the window this time!

Have you any advice foir up-and-coming artists?
Be prepared for a long, hard slog. Anyone who says that you can make it quickly is lying. If you’re going to make it, it probably won’t happen with your first band or your second band or maybe your fourth or fifth, but if you want to do it and you think you’ve got the talent then stick with it.