Step-sister duo Skating Polly released their fourth album “The Big Fit” earlier this year, which is likely to be the most intelligent, honest and powerful record of 2016. We flew to London to see them live and have a chat with them about music videos, songwriting and being role-models.
The Big Fit sounds more grown up than your previous albums, especially through Peytons vocals. Do you feel you grew more confident as a singer?
Peyton Bighorse: I’ve grown more confident as a singer album to album, so yes, definitely. On The Big Fit I feel like I found where my voice can go and how to control it better than on any of our other albums.
What were the main experiences that inspired you lyrically?
Peyton: There were lots of different things for each song, but my favorite one is “Nothing More Than a Body”. It’a about meeting Jeff Mangum. The whole story is super long but pretty much what happened is we met Jeff after a Neutral Milk Hotel show and I could not contain myself. As soon as he walked out I started crying. I had to turn around until I calmed down. Scott from NMH and Laura from Elf Power were giggling while trying to help me chill out a bit. Laura kept telling me “he’s only a body” which is where I got the title and inspiration for the song.
Kelli Mayo: This is always a hard question for me because I try never to write two songs about the same thing. My philosophy when writing lyrics is to try to be honest while not being too on the nose. I want to be poetic and play with words without being too vague or losing all personal connection to what I’m saying. I also try to avoid saying things that have been said a million times before. If I catch myself doing that then I’ll try to put a twist on it.
Your band structures seem to be pretty DIY – Do you have a manager or label?
Peyton: We put The Big Fit and Fuzz Steilacoom out on our label, Chap Stereo, because the other label deals that we were offered gave away too much control. We do have a manager as well as a distribution deal and a publishing deal. We have a team behind us who really help make things a lot smoother for us, but we still do a lot of stuff ourselves. We love doing most of the art for our albums and show posters. We go to shows and meet lots of people and make lots of connections ourselves, but we couldn’t do it alone.
Kelli: Yeah we only work with people who we feel like understand our band and understand our goal. We have the final say on everything that we release with our name on it. We never want it any other way. They help get our music out to more people and provide another opinion when we are really torn about something.
You seem to make a video to every song on the new album, is there a concept behind that?
Peyton: We just love making music videos. Putting a visual with our songs is a lot of fun for us. We try to make them different and interesting. We are always thinking of ideas for videos.
Kelli: That is the goal, we have two that are shot and edited just waiting to be released and then after that we’ll only have three more to do. We like to work with our friends and collaborate on ideas, but also just start shooting and let what happens happen. We shot “Hey Sweet”, “Stop Digging”, “Pretective Boy”, and “Picker of his Words” all in a span of two and a half days. While we were filming one video we’d be bouncing ideas back and forth about another video. We had just moved to Tacoma and didn’t know the area too well so we were scouting locations as we filmed as well. It was crazy and kickass and fulfilling but also deflating!
Kelli, do you think you have a different writing approach through playing 3-string basitar?
Kelli: Not necessarily. I just really like the sound of a bass and the ability to play chords on guitar and my bass makes it where I can do both easily. It also makes it easy for me to hop from high notes to low notes because of the way it’s tuned. It’s weird tuning used to make it hard for me to play along to someone else’s melody but now it just challenges me to think in different ways. For instance when we were working with Louise and Nina of Veruca Salt there was a guitar riff they wrote that I was going to play along to with a normal bass but actually using my bass and tuning helped me come up with a more interesting piece.
How does your songwriting process differ? Or do you write most songs together?
Peyton: In some ways our processes are really similar – we both focus on melody above everything else at first. We are always trying to top ourselves. We work on making our lyrics interesting while also giving them meaning. But there are differences too. Kelli likes to have me sit in the room with her even if I’m not doing anything. She wants me there just in case she wants me to try something. I like to be alone and bring it to Kelli when I feel like there’s a good structure and a mostly complete melody. But I love writing with Kelli. When we work together we come up with songs that we wouldn’t even dream of alone.
You started the band when you were really young. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in the past years?
Peyton: I’ve learned how to be more confident of myself. When we first started I was 14 and horribly shy. I couldn’t look anyone in the eye. I would walk all day staring at my feet. I would even cry if I had to talk in front of people. Being in Skating Polly has helped me learn to be more sure of myself and realize that not everyone is judging me 100% of the time and even if they were it doesn’t really matter.
Do you hope you can be role models for other girls?
Kelli: Yeah definitely! And boys! People who want to make art and be themselves. We want help people realize there’s no right or wrong way to make art. You don’t have to take classes on it, you don’t have to be able to articulate the meaning of it, you don’t have to act like you don’t give a shit about it, you don’t need to imitate a way someone else is doing it. All you can do is be real and try things you’ve never tried before and be happy with yourself. We don’t by any means think we have all the answers but hopefully as we learn from failing and succeeding people who keep up with us can also take something from it.