New Young Pony Club can’t agree on anything.
Correction: vocalist Tahita Bulmer and guitarist Andy Spence can’t agree on anything. As the band’s unofficial spokespersons, their repartee is quick fire, boisterous and, more often than not, contradictory.
A case in point. After a grueling morning of putting on bright clothes and jumping around in front of the camera, I lock the pair in a small, stuffy rehearsal room to ask them about their new single ‘The Bomb’. The following exchange occurs:
Andy: “It’s an older track.”
Tahita: “It’s not that old.”
Andy: “Okay, it’s a new old track.”
Tahita: “It’s a song about Albert Einstein.”
Andy: “It’s not about Albert Einstein.”
Tahita: “It is. It’s about that and other things.”
Andy: “I love it. It’s one of my favourites.”
Tahita: “It was one of my favourites then I fell out with it.”
“Image is important. We’re instantly recognizable but it’s not super contrived either.”
You get the idea. Not about the song itself (I’m still none the wiser) but about what makes New Young Pony Club tick. Namely good old-fashioned irreverence.
The quintet is having an unbelievably hip moment right now and these two know it. Balancing an insouciant charm with tunes that hold up to the hype, it’s a winning combination they’ve been perfecting since around 2004. Unsurprisingly, the pair disagree on how they originally became acquainted. “It was at that Rapture gig wasn’t it?” jokes Andy. “No, we actually met at a sci-fi convention,” retaliates Tahita. Uniting their backgrounds in dance music (him) and punk bands (her), their first limited run single ‘Ice Cream’ sold out in days so they went about recruiting a full band they could “get sweaty” with. Enter Lou (keyboards, looking gamine), Igor (bass, looking very tall and hairy) and Sarah (drums, looking hot in purple dungarees) stage left.
Although female drummers have become the noughties must-have, Tahita claims it wasn’t a premeditated move. “We tried out loads of drummers who were male then we got Sarah’s number from Barry 7 from Add N to (X). She sounded so sweet on the phone we thought her drumming was going to sound like wind chimes. Then she came in and it was more like standing in the Somme hearing the cannons go off. She blew us away.”
With the girls outnumbering the boys three to two, is NYPC a matriarchy? Andy says: “No!” Tahita says: “Yes! Andy throws a hissy fit and generally can get his own way unless we want to go shopping. Igor comes too and he sits in a coffee shop and sulks.” Much huffing and puffing from Andy ensues. “I don’t sulk, I have lots of fun on my own.” 1-0 to the ladies.
The truth of the matter is that Andy as chief producer wins on matters of music while Tahita ensures the band’s lyrics, artwork and wardrobes rock. “Image is important. We’re instantly recognizable but it’s not super contrived either. It’s more a smash and grab raid on whatever clothes are there. We’re vintagey. And I love a jumpsuit, although they’re hard to wear when you’re drunk.”
Tahita thoroughly enjoys the tongue in cheek wardrobe supplied by Jeremy loves Ksubi for today’s shoot. She completes her outfit by wrapping gaffer tape around her bosoms while the rest of the band dive into the dressing up box with gay abandon. Apart from Andy that is, who grumpily acquiesces to change his belt. It’s just as well the retro MTV T-shirt he arrived in is so rad.
Tahita came up with the name too. “The Pony Club is about the dual ideas of little girls at gymkhanas and middle aged men pulling around carts and being whipped. I like the layers of meaning.” NYPC is also an acronym you can have fun with, hence the band’s T-shirt design that plays on the iconic I heart NY tourist T. Tahita thinks the concept was her doing. Andy claims it was his girlfriend’s bright idea. Let’s beg to differ.
Moniker, merchandise and a record deal with Australian imprint Modular (home to like minded beatniks The Presets, Cut Copy and Wolfmother) in place, NYPC re-released ‘Ice Cream’ and shot a confection-filled video featuring the girls sitting on lots of cake and Tahita gulping down sugary goo. Anyone would think the song was actually about two scoops. “Someone said it was about oral sex the other day. I wasn’t thinking specifically about that sexual act before I wrote it. It was more about consumption and sensuality and how all those things work within the food analogy,” she answers, all innocent.
Nevertheless lines like “Drink me like a liquor / C’mon and dip your dipper / Show me what you’re here for, guy” would still make Ben and his buddy Jerry blush. They also hint at what really matters to NYPC. “We’re a foody band. It’s all about food, music and sex,” Tahita smiles while shooting a knowing glance at Andy. In that order? “Well, when we’re on tour, yes. There’s a lot of eating, then we do music and there isn’t that much sex afterward. Girls don’t really get groupies.” Andy interrupts: “Yes, you do.” Oh dear. Here we go again. “Yeah but it’s all weird, old guys who look like Oliver Reed coming up to you at gigs and saying something like, ‘I’m really into Siouxsie Sue. I think you’re great’.”
“It was more like standing in the Somme hearing the cannons go off. She blew us away.”
The group has spent a lot of time on the road recently recruiting fans having supported Lily Allen on tour last year and just completed the NME Awards tour. The music rag touts the band as the leaders of the burgeoning alternative dance scene and even went so far as to dub Tahita the ‘Queen of New Rave’. NYPC take such accolades lightly. “NME always does that. They brand some band with a label. The band rages against it. It’s a game. But no one is going to buy a record because of a name,” fight talks Andy. “Sooner or later new rave will be gone and there will be two bands remembered from that scene -us and Klaxons.”
Tahita, who came 15th in the NME’s Cool List 2006, also shirks the hard sell, despite her born-to-do-it front woman swagger. “Essentially we just want to be a pop band. We’re not trying to be a new rave band. It’s not about sounding like robots, it’s about good songs. We remember the time when pop hadn’t become this monstrous hydra that it is now. Pop was what was in the charts, which could have been anything. Pop was Madonna and Prince.”
The upcoming debut album will prove that their influences reach far and wide. From the dirty rock of The Stooges to the dirty disco of Blondie to the dirty punk funk of LCD Soundsystem, they’ve got a fuzz box and they know how to use it. Reprising previously released tracks such as ‘The Get Go’ and ‘Jerk Me’ alongside newer cuts including ‘Hiding On The Staircase’ and ‘Grey’, the LP will hold some surprises too. “There’s a song called ‘F.A.N’ which is almost R&B. It’s not a sound we’ve done before,” says Andy. “All the songs are like our babies. We’re mixing the album at the moment and it’s hard going back to the older ones and trying to give them a make over. They’ve turned into teenagers and they don’t like their new clothes. They’re sulky and they don’t want to come out of their bedrooms.”
Today though, NYPC are showing no signs of growing pains. With live dates lined up at Texan industry schmooze South by Southwest as well as a European and UK tour ahead of them, the group has a grounded approach to the circus of being in a band. Far from taking a purist stance (they’ve already licensed a track for use on an advert) they’re still reticent about what the big time might throw at them. “It sounds really earnest but all we want to do is make albums that we can live with forever and if that means getting a bit famous then fine but I don’t want photographers outside my house. Fame is a really weird thing to aspire to. It’s so transitory and meaningless,” muses Tahita. So she won’t be appearing on Celebrity Big Brother any time soon? “No. Igor would be really bril-liant in it though!”
For Andy though, fame and fortune comes back round to food. “I want to be big enough that we can take our own caterer on tour. That’s what James Morrison can do, appar-ently. He said in an interview that he sold a million records so he can afford a caterer now. That’s what I want.” They look at each other, subconsciously licking their lips. “Oh, and I’d like us to have our own NYPC cartoon series too.” “Yeah, that would be cool,” concurs Tahita. At last. Something they agree on.
WORDS BY HELEN JENNINGS // PHOTOS BY SARAH CRESSWELL