PONY: The WL Interview

Purveyors of: Fun and poppy fuzz rock
File next to: The Breeders, Cub, Dilly Dally, Spinnerette, Veruca Salt
Playing:: WL 744, Saturday, Nov. 25 @ Bike Pirates. Get tickets here!

PONY are a Toronto based four-piece composed of Sam Bielanski on vocals and guitar, Eva Link on bass, Stephen Giroux on guitar, and new drummer Lucas Horne. After recording and releasing their first EP back in 2015 and rapidly building a fanbase, the band signed to Buzz Records and have since played a string of shows with labelmates Greys, Casper Skulls, and others. They just released a new EP on October 27th, called Do You. Wavelength’s Kristian Johnson caught up with Sam in advance of their Wavelength show at Bike Pirates this Saturday.

So a general question first: you’ve obviously got some ’90s influence, having described yourselves as the band on top of the high school roof at the end of a ’90s movie. What sort aesthetic and music influenced you?

I love pop culture and music from the ’90s and early ’00s, it’s pretty evident in our sound and aesthetic. I think a lot of times I draw inspiration from the things that made an impression on me as a kid because it feels really comforting. I remember coming home from school everyday and watching TV and just waiting for my favourite music videos to come on, and then I would record them on this VHS tape just so I could listen to the songs again. You had to be really devoted to your interests before the Internet existed.

The amount of time I spent waiting to watch the music video for “Faint” by Linkin Park was embarrassing. Which music video do you think you watched the most?

If I’m being honest, when the “Oops I Did It Again” video came out I would sit in front to the tv for hours waiting for it to come on. But I’ve probably seen the “Teenage Dirtbag” video a billion times. 

You have a new EP out, what sort of concepts inspired it?

The songs on this EP are really upbeat, but are not really happy songs if you listen to the lyrics. Dealing with depression, and other mental health issues, being confused about gender, or just confused in general. It’s a lot about how having depression and anxiety directly affect your relationships, and how you treat people, or how you allow others to treat you. I don’t know, growing up is fucking hard.

Did you ever feel limited in what you could write about? Have you been able to open up more as you’ve established yourself more?

I first started writing music because my high school boyfriend bought me an acoustic guitar for Christmas one year. LOOONG story short he cheated on me, and revealed himself to be a pretty gross person. Naturally, in a fit of rage and heartbreak, I smashed the acoustic guitar to shit and saved up enough money to buy an electric one. I started writing songs about how sad and mad I was at this particular dude, and that was all I really knew how to write about. Now I think I’m 100% over the whole song-shaming thing. I think I really associated writing with having a damaged heart, but now I mostly write about how I’m the damaged one.

How have fans been reacting to the new EP?

A lot of people have responded really positively, and have been incredibly supportive. I’m excited to play a show now that the songs are out, and see how people react to the EP songs live.

Do you have any plans for an LP (that you can talk about)?

We have plans!

You’ve talked about inspiring younger girls with your shows in the past. Toronto seems to have this abundance of solid women-fronted bands, like the Beverleys, Dilly Dally, and Mexican Slang. What do you think sets the city apart to inspire this?

I think the Toronto scene is fairly inclusive. There is a really strong femme/gender-non-conforming community that I feel really lucky to be apart of. I can’t really compare Toronto to anywhere else because I’m essentially from here. But we are really lucky, and I think just having a strong sense of community is pretty inspiring.

You recently got to play in Halifax for the Pop Explosion festival, where’s next the on your wishlist?

We all really love NYC and wish we could play there once a week! Although, we basically drove across Canada this summer and it was a really incredible experience too. But, I think it would be a total dream to play Japan. I hear a lot of the sound techs there are women and I think that is very neat and cool!

How does everyone in the band know each other?

Eva I met because our other bands played a show together at the Central (RIP). We bonded over our love for the 2001 film Josie and the Pussycats, and she joined the band probably a year or so after that show. Stephen and I actually went to high school together back in Sudbury. When Stephen moved to Toronto we reconnected, and both ended up getting customer service jobs at Just-Eat.ca. That’s where we met our drummer Lucas, who trained me on how to give exceptional customer service to hangry people on the phone.

That’s awesome that you met while working for Just-eat.ca, do either of you have any funny stories coming from that?

Honestly there are so many funny stories. But the one that sticks out the most in my mind is how this one day this customer came on chats and started talking to our friend Lilly about a complaint he had. Lilly, Lucas, Stephen, and I were also in a private employee group chat, where we would send vids/memes/talk about the Black Parade… you know classic group chat stuff. Anyways, this customer comes in on a chat with Lil, and his screen name is “DOG”.  After he complains about cold food or something, he starts referencing a bunch of stuff we had talked about in our personal group chat! It blew all of our minds and we thought there was a crazy Just-Eat.ca group chat hacker. I personally believe Dog is either Stephen or Lucas, but its been years and neither of them will admit it. 

Coming from Sudbury, have you found any other Northern Ontario transplants in the Toronto music scene?

There are a lot of us Northerners down here. Kurt Marble is from a town really close to where I grew up. Joel French from Sam Coffee and the Iron Lungs is from the North. My best pal Shawn Kosmo just moved here and he is an incredible musician/filmmaker — he’s in a band called Dirty Princes! And the good people of Casper Skulls are from Sudbury too. 

As a band have a somewhat poppy and glittery aesthetic, is that ever confining for your sound?

I don’t think so at all. We do what feels right for us, and when/if it doesn’t feel right, we won’t do it anymore. If we wanted to make a hardcore record we would, and we would probably still put glitter over everything.

So, should we be holding out for a Minor Threat cover album anytime soon?

I guess you never know with us. We are writing a new album right now and we really want to make something special and different. Ssooo stayed tuned I suppose! 

— interview by Kristian Johnson