Skating Polly Interview
Hello Kelli and Peyton! It’s such a thrill to have the chance to touch base with you about your music and outlook and get some details about your upcoming 4th album, The Big Fit. How are you doing and how are preparations going for the release of this album? Does it have a solid release date yet?
Kelli: The Big Fit will be released on March 25th. Every instrument, word, effect, and subtlety has its purpose on the record and all the thought and time we put into it really shows. I feel like there is such a big jump from Fuzz Steilacoom to The Big Fit. We were able to make the exact record we heard and saw in our heads. There’s so much to do to prepare, but it feels so good to be busy with what we love. I feel so alive when we make teasers or take promo photos or start routing the tour. This is going to be the most touring we’ve ever done and Peyton and I are absolutely ecstatic – we can’t wait to get going!
Peyton: Yeah, we are thrilled to bits.
There are rumors online that you’re also recording a 5th album right now in a different style than what you have created so far. Is there any truth to those rumors and, if so, how will that album differ from your previous ones?
Peyton: We have a set of songs that we recorded before we started working on The Big Fit. They’re all softer and slower, mostly piano and acoustic songs. They’ve been put on hold for the time being, but we plan on revisiting and reworking them!
Kelli: We are definitely going to release those songs, we want to spend more time with them and get them just the way we want them. It doesn’t seem right to release songs you’ve had forever if they still aren’t the songs you want them to be. Also, truthfully, it’s just kind of scary releasing an album that’s so mellow all the way through when our records so far have mostly been louder with a quiet song here and there. But once we get it right, we are going to do it regardless.
On Facebook you posted that this week you’re in L.A. for a writing and recording session. Is that where you are right now and is the event related to your music?
Peyton: We went to LA for a few days to work on some stuff with Nina and Louise of Veruca Salt. We got some really powerful, catchy stuff down and I think we are going to be going back in with them to finish it up soon. Everyone in the end was throwing around ideas and they all fit together so naturally.
Kelli: It was definitely surreal working with people whose songs I’ve been raised on. The song we wrote together is always stuck in my head and it’s one of those songs that played so loudly in my head after we wrote it that I had no option but to wake up and write lyrics and ideas that were coming to me.
That teaser video you recently posted at YouTube for The Big Fit is fierce! I’m over the moon about your tune in that video. Is it representative of the whole album or just one facet you’ve put on display? What’s the song’s title and subject matter? Would it have anything to do with Nirvana at all? Just wondering!
Peyton: This album is a mixture of songs that sound totally different from each other while still fitting together, so in a way the song from the teaser video, “Stop Digging”, is representative of the whole album. Just not how you’d think. It’s definitely representative of who Skating Polly is.
Kelli: It’s about jealousy really, and just having a competitive nature towards other girls because you feel like every girl has a competitive nature towards you. It doesn’t consciously have anything to do with Nirvana, but they are one of my favorites.
You actually dropped the first single, “Nothing More Than A Body”, quite a while back, in May 2015 to be exact. Does that mean the whole album was completed by that point or have you had to add some finishing touches to it?
Peyton: We had a lot more mixing to do on other songs when we premiered “Nothing More Than a Body” on Noisey. We were finished with that particular version of that song, but not the whole album. The mix for “Nothing More Than a Body” that ended up on the album is by Paul Kolderie and it sounds a bit different than the version released in May 2015. The album version fits with the rest of the record more comfortably. So yeah, we added finishing touches for both the album as a whole as well as that particular song.
Can you divulge some more details about the album, like its cover art, some of the subject matter you focus on, and the number of songs on it?
Peyton: There are going to be twelve songs on The Big Fit. It’s probably a little long for an LP, but we decided to go for it. That aspect really played into Kelli’s idea for the album title. As for subject matter - a lot of the songs are personal to us in a way we haven’t quite figured out yet. Still, this album really feels like a window into who we are as people. We have literally invested blood, sweat, and tears into it. I screamed so hard during the recording of For The View that I fainted in the studio… You could hear a thud at the end of the recording as my body hit the floor. Haha! We asked one of our friends, Kat Kon, to work on the art for us. It’s all very cool stuff and we couldn’t be happier with it.
Kelli: Kat Kon perfectly epitomized the album concept with her drawings. I couldn’t have been happier with her art. I came up with the title The Big Fit because to me these songs all fit together in the way that the XXL t-shirts that I like to wear fit me. They certainly weren’t made to fit someone who wears a small, but in a weird way it’s a perfect fit for me and it’s what I like. That’s what makes this album work. It’s a big fit, but it’s also a perfect fit. It’s also a play on the word “fit” as in throwing a fit. Women are always accused of being bitchy or rude when they state what they want with confidence. Peyton and I are more confident than ever and this album gets very loud, so The Big Fit was the title to go with. On this album I wrote very honestly, but just abstract enough that people don’t know exactly what I mean. Sometimes I didn’t know what the song meant, I would just have a certain feeling that was so overwhelming I needed to spit it out and lock it in a song forever.
What was the recording process like and who mixed and produced the album? In the past you’ve worked with stellar artists like Exene Cervenka of X and Calvin Johnson of Beat Happening for recording and production of your albums, so I’m wondering who you had on board this time around.
Peyton: We recorded it at Fire’N’Ice Studios in Kansas with Kliph Scurlock (Gruff Rhys, Flaming Lips) and Steven Squire. The space was built from the ground up to be a studio, so of course it sounds great.
Kliph produced it, which was an amazing experience in itself. He’s a really good friend of ours and made us feel so comfortable. We both came out of the sessions as better musicians.
Steve was our engineer and it was great working with him. He was a great engineer. He captured the moment and the energy so perfectly. Also, it was just wonderful having him there constantly cracking jokes!
We had two different guys mix the album. We went to Austin, TX to mix with Jim Vollentine, who has worked with Spoon and Kim Deal. Working with him was a crazy thing because he seemed to know exactly where the song needed to go and exactly what we were thinking. We mixed with Paul Kolderie remotely from Oklahoma and he just brought our songs to a new level. He’s worked with Throwing Muses and Radiohead, and so many other bands that have inspired our music, and he was a perfect match for our songs.
Kelli: Kliph has been helping us from the day he met us. He’s showed me some of my favorite records and introduced us to some of the most inspiring musicians. He has some of the best advice because he’s been in bands his whole life. He’s been to countless Skating Polly shows in different cities and countries; he mixed our second record; and he has all of our material. We’ve also come to know Kliph like family so he knows our personalities front and back by now. He’s heard and seen everything, so if anyone gets Skating Polly, Kliph does. On this record he knew what our best was and he helped us achieve it. Also, he wanted the energy of a live performance so he stood in the room and conducted while we played. We called him our “Kliph Track.”
Did you go into the studio with fully-formed songs or did they develop more over the course of recording? Were your lyrics set in stone from the start too?
Peyton: We went in thinking all the songs were fully formed, but they developed even more in the studio while working with Kliph. Some even evolved a bit during the initial mixing stage, and we would have to go back to the studio to turn out a song that was essentially just waiting for us to discover all its parts. The lyrics may have changed a little bit, but for the most part we were finished with those going in to record.
Kelli: We went back to the studio twice after the first time with some small changes and some big changes. One of the songs I practically rewrote and we had to track it all over again. It was one of those things were we thought the songs were done until we listened to them over and over again and heard how much better they could be.
I see from the video trailer that you switched it up in playing various instruments – and that there’s some acoustic guitar and piano in the mix. Did you try out any new instruments on the upcoming album? Any chance of a flute, castanets, or cello being included on a song?
Peyton: There are no out-of-the-ordinary instruments on this album. We have some songs that aren’t released yet that we do on the ukulele, but I guess that’s not really an odd instrument either – We’ve used it before!
Kelli: Not yet. I’m trying to get comfortable enough with guitar so I can write guitar songs on par with my piano or bass songs. In a way I like writing songs on instruments I’m not comfortable with; it makes you write different melodies with completely different vibes. I was given a cello when I was 10 or so and wrote the song “Lost Wonderfuls”. My cello playing was so bad that I decided to just find the notes on my keyboard and finish the song on that. For now I’m just going to work on getting as comfortable as I can with the instruments I can play. I still have so much to learn and explore on those.
Henry Mortensen, the son of Viggo Mortensen and Exene Cervenka, has been shadowing you this past year in order to put together a documentary about Skating Polly. Is he the one who shot the trailer? Any target date for the release of the documentary?
Peyton: He did shoot the footage for the trailer, but we are the ones who edited it together. There isn’t a release date yet, but we think the documentary is going to be a really cool movie for our fans to see! He’s followed us for a long time, from us hanging out in our bedroom all the way to the tour we did with Babes in Toyland in the UK.
Kelli: He’s captured some priceless moments and he’s shot some interviews of my heroes talking about MY band. It’s insane to watch that stuff. I’m such a ham. I love having Henry around filming everything. I’m sure there are lots of droll, uncontrollable, ornery moments and laughter from me taking up most of the space on his 10,000 Tigabyte hard drives!
Peyton, I’m not certain, but I think you’re in college now, and Kelli, you’re in high school. How has being in a band impacted your everyday life since you started Skating Polly in 2009? Have you had to miss school and/or other events/experiences because of recording and touring?
Peyton: I graduated high school in 2013 and decided not to go to college, so I haven’t had to miss any classes for a few years now. It’s been great having Skating Polly be the only thing I really have to focus on. I feel like our music has grown quite a bit since it’s become the main focus.
Kelli: It’s always on my mind. I work on it every day and it takes up a lot of time if I want to make something I’m proud of. My parents homeschool me now so I can pursue my dreams. It’s great - I read stellar books and have fun assignments.
What spurred you to start Skating Polly in the first place? Where does the desire to express yourselves musically and lyrically come from? Why not choose to write or act or illustrate as a form of expression instead?
Peyton: Music has always been a huge part of both our lives, so when we were just messing around on some instruments it came naturally. We love doing anything artistic, so we spend our days making music, painting, writing, and drawing. We like to try anything we can think of, but music is our main passion. We love it more than anything.
Kelli: There are just so many songs and bands that I loved loving and singing along to. It was always a dream to be able to create songs I would love and that others could understand and sing along to as well.
You supported the kick-ass Babes In Toyland, a band you (and I) strongly admire, on a U.K. tour last year. What were some of the best or wildest or fun (or maybe they’re all the same!) moments for you on that tour?
Kelli: I will never forget the moment the three of them walked into the venue. I was so stressed beforehand, and nervous, and I felt so sure that I was going to fail, and then they all walked in and my heart melted. It was so comforting to see Lori with her big smile and I was so excited to meet Kat and Maureen. I couldn’t believe that they were all together. They brought this warmth and power to my life that day that was priceless. I cried and hugged them all. I cried again when they sound checked, and I cried again as I danced and jumped and sweated with the crowd to “He’s My Thing.” My heroes were everything I could’ve hoped for.
Kelli, I just read from your interview with Noisy that your parents are the ones who introduced you to Babes In Toyland. What other influential artists have you discovered through your parents’ musical tastes?
Kelli: Our parents have great taste in music. One of the main ways my dad and I bond is through discovering bands and albums and songs. Most of my favorite bands were shown to me by parents. Some of my favorite bands are their favorites too, or sometimes they would show me a song or two that I would really love and I would go and become obsessed with the artist. A lot of my favorites are things I was raised on and can’t remember the first time I heard. Now my brother and my friends and other musicians and even fans are constantly turning me on to my new favorite artists or albums or songs.
You started up your own record label named Chap Stereo and you released your 3rd album, Fuzz Steilacoom, on it nearly two years ago. What are the responsibilities like for running your own label and do you plan on distributing other artists’ work through Chap Stereo?
Peyton: We don’t have any plans to use Chap Stereo to release anything but our own music, so it’s not really like running a label more than it is just another part of our band. I guess it means more responsibility and more tasks, more business-like tasks, but it really just feels like part of being in the band.
I’m big into thrift stores and garage sales and have picked up some great stuff over the years, be it music, clothes, books, furniture, or knick-knacks that I really don’t need more of (Do I really need my collection of painted porcelain birds or pastel-colored, star-shaped pillows?). What were some recent favorite finds of yours?
Peyton: We’ve found some really cool thrift stores in Washington since we’ve moved here. We found a place in Olympia called Dumpster Values and they have a dollar bin that has some really cool dresses in it sometimes. There’s also a Bargain World a couple miles from our house where I found a really cool brass teapot and a nice purple cardigan that I’ve been wearing since I got it.
Kelli: I’ve found three completely unique dresses since we’ve moved to Tacoma for only a dollar. I’ve really been into buying pretty or bizarre aprons and wearing them everywhere, which is funny because I used to tease Peyton for doing that. She was right though, aprons are amazing.
I’ve dyed my hair in the past, but haven’t been brave enough to go through the rainbow of colors; only black and a reddish sheen. Which hair color that you’ve tried appeals to you the most? My favorite all-time hair color on a music artist is back when Miki Berenyi of Lush had poppy red hair…
Peyton: My favorite hair colors on myself have been dark blues and lighter pinkish/purple colors.
Kelli: I don’t really have a preference. I think it’s fun to be able to change your appearance just with a box of hair dye. I like my red hair when it’s bright and crisp and when it’s faded and lighter. I wanna try dark brown or black just for the sake of it, and also I’m really curious what I’d look like with my natural hair color, which would be light brown now I think, because I’ve dyed it since I was ten. I’ve always been curious.