Step-siblings Kelli Mayo and Peyton Bighorse formed a band in Oklahoma aged 9 and 14. That was only 8 years ago. They recorded their first album Taking Over The World in their living room in 2010. After meeting Exene Cervenka of LA punk band X, things started to take off. She produced their second album Lost Wondefuls, released in 2013 after being remixed by The Flaming Lips drummer Kliph Scurlock. A third album, Fuzz Steilacoom followed in 2014 before the band moved to Tacoma, Washington in 2015.
They first toured the UK supporting Babes In Toyland in 2015 and then made their Leicester debut on 17th June 2016 at The Soundhouse, in a co-headline slot with The Muncie Girls. That gig came about due to the obsession of local promoter Strangling Vinyl Promotions. And now, as the band return to the UK supporting Kate Nash, a headline show has been lined up for them at the Cookie on Saturday 29th July. With this in mind, it seemed an ideal opportunity to have a chat to the band:
Where are you talking to us from?
Peyton: Hi! We are talking to you from Tacoma, WA, USA.
Why are you where you are?
Kelli: It’s where we live! We just got back home a few weeks ago after a month and a half long tour.
What’s the story behind the name Skating Polly?
Peyton: One thing we were thinking when we came up with it was that we wanted something to represent both of us (Peyton & Kelli). When we first started it was spelled “sKatingPolly”, and the K was for Kelli and the P was for Peyton.
Kelli: At the time I chose it because I had a paradoxical image in my head of a very girly prissy, put together girl getting involved in the rough, dirty, violent sport roller derby. But Iím well aware thatís not a very clear image for everyone, I was young sue me. I suppose it could have also been subconsciously inspired by Polly Jean Harvey or the Nirvana jam.
Earlier this year the band was joined by brother Kurtis Mayo. How is he settling in and what does he do in the band?
Peyton: For now, he’s mostly been playing drums on songs we’ve already written but we are starting to write new songs where anything could happen! It’s been so much fun having him play with us. It opens up so many doors with songwriting, not only because we can do more with it now, but we also can play all of each otherís instruments so every part could have pieces contributed from any of us.
Kelli: Kurt’s just such a music encyclopaedia he knows all the titles, the influences, the geography, the timelines, the connections, and of course has truckloads of music trivia because of it. He’s able to find something to appreciate from every single type of music. He’s always showing me new things to pull from and he will hear a path the song could go down based off of connections I could never make on my own. His biggest influences are The Who and Brian Eno so you can bet he’s been bringing lots of crazy energy, spontaneity, and off-kilter ideas along with him and its been really exciting.
Do you spend a lot of time together just singing and playing for fun?
Peyton: We spend most of the day together, of course practicing or writing new songs, but a lot of it is just playing around and having fun then keeping whatever pieces of that stand out.
Kelli: Yes! When we’re exhausted or bored out of our minds we go jam around, sometimes we record it, sometimes we laugh at it. Or we’ll write poetry which lots of times turns into lyrics. Or we play our favourite songs, songs we’ve heard a billion plus times, with full volume and sing along and dance around and be unabashedly cheesy. That’s straight up therapeutic.
How was your last trip to Europe? Which places did you enjoy?
Peyton: We have only been to the UK so far but we LOVE it! Everywhere we went! Cardiff is my favourite place to go, but it’s also the only place we’ve really had time to hang around. Our best friend, Kliph Scurlock (drummer for Gruff Rhys, Gwenno, Flaming Lips & producer of our last record The Big Fit)lives there so we stay with him and he shows us around all the cool Cardiff places on our off days.
Kelli: We had so so much fun! Our only complaint was that it was too short. We’re so excited to do a more proper Euro-run and be there for more than a week. All our fans over there are incredibly generous and supportive. I assume that’s because the first time we went there the coolest band in the world, Babes in Toyland, brought us & gave us their stamp of approval. What I did enjoy just driving through were all the narrow cobblestone roads and the beautiful buildings older than America. Definitely felt like a time traveler. And Scotland always takes my breath away. So green! So many sheep! London was very memorable too because of how outrageously packed the venue was. The Tuts and Hands Off Gretel played that show too and the audience went nuts for all three of us. Lucky us, we were able to scoop up Hands Off Gretel for some dates on this run!
Do you get time to see any famous sights? What sights were you looking forward to seeing?
Peyton: We don’t get a lot of time to go sight seeing, but the first time we came over with Babes in Toyland I saw my very first Van Gogh (and lots of other amazing paintings I love). It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. I remember speed walking through the museum, trying to keep my cool till I found the paintings I was looking for, and as soon as I saw them I burst into tears. I walked around the room, sobbing and being mesmerized by some of my favourite paintings ever for what felt like hours.
Kelli: Honestly if we can go to that museum again or some others equally as cool, I’ll be set. I have no clue what We’ll get to see. You never really know til you’re actually there. Taking in all the subtle and not so subtle differences is enough of a sight to make overseas tours automatically an excitement regardless. I’d love to see Stonehenge, someone offered us tickets when we played Salisbury last June but we didnít have time. This time I wanna try and see the Anne Frank House and Abbey Road Studios.
I read that Kate Nash was in attendance at a recent show of yours in LA. Is she a fan?
Peyton: She is! We went on tour with her over here in 2013 and we’ve been great pals ever since! We are always looking to her for advice and comfort, we feel like we can talk to her about anything. She’s always been so supportive of us and her support has gone a long way. We are so so SO excited to be opening for her again this summer in the UK and Europe!
Kelli: Kate was actually at our last London show too! There are a bunch of pics of her up front and singing along. Touring with her really taught me a lot and made me think about what kind of message I wanted to send to the girls listening to our music. It also put us in front of these big, mostly female crowds. Originally we only had two shows booked with her on that 2013 tour but after the first night we played together she threw us on every open slot left. Such a dream! There are so many songs of hers that can just instantly cheer me up and several of those I’ll be seeing live for the first time on the upcoming run because it’s the 10th anniversary of Made Of Bricks!
Tell us your memories of when you played the Soundhouse in Leicester last year.
Peyton: The Soundhouse was a great show! It was our first time in Leicester and we played with the Muncie Girls. Tony even brought us a homemade vegetarian dinner before the show! It was a very memorable show thanks to all the nice people who came out. We are so looking forward to playing for them all again!
Kelli: Such a treat getting to see and meet The Muncie Girls! I remember cracking lots of jokes with them backstage and then hearing their songs and thinking they were just the coolest all around. I also remember finally getting to meet our fan/friend Becky (aka @rotgrrl), who’d made really cool fan art for us on Instagram and brought this beautiful painting she did of us to the show!
How do crowds at gigs compare between US and Europe?
Peyton: Crowds in the UK get more excited! And that’s saying a lot because crowds here (USA) get really excited too!
Kelli: Yeah I think theres just something in the air with UK crowds where we know and they know that we’re only gonna get to make the trek out there so often and because of that they give a shit and they live in the moment and they make it a time to remember. Also we had vastly different fans of all ages coming to the shows and I just thought that was really special.
You recently moved to Washington state, a place strongly associated with riot grrrl and grunge scenes. Was this a conscious move or just fate?
Peyton: We love the music from the PNW so much, and the first time we came up here to record our third album we were so excited to be in the area they all originated from. In the end though, we decided to move here just because it was so beautiful and it fit how we felt more than anywhere else we’ve been.
Kelli: I love the music history this place has.We’ve gotten to get comfortable at venues where my heroes did the same. I read Carrie Bronwstein’s autobiography shortly after we moved up here and it made every stroll I take through Olympia feel like it could turn into something greater, something that maybe I’d write a book about one day.
What is the scene like there now? Where are the places to hang out and listen to Skating Polly?
Peyton: We haven’t had a lot of time to explore the scene here since we moved because we’ve been touring a lot or working on music in our basement or shooting music videos. I’m excited to get to know the scene more thoroughly though. We’re pretty into this local band we played with, The Naked Giants and we’ve also seen this rad band from Seattle, Steal Shit Do Drugs a couple times!
Kelli: If you’re ever in the Seattle/ Tacoma area you have to check out Stargazer Comics. That’s where you’ll hear our music along with Katastrophy Wife, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, The Dandy Warhols and lots of black metal playing on repeat! Past that there are so many record stores! You could fill a week up with visiting all the record stores around here.
What about Oklahoma, where you originate. What is the music scene like there?
Peyton: The scene in Oklahoma is very interesting, I think, because at one show you’ll hear all different kinds of music. It doesn’t really matter to them if your music sounds the same as long as you’re playing good music.
Kelli: Yeah pretty much all of our favourite Oklahoman artists/bands are drastically different from each other. We got Tyson Meade (Eno-ish rock), Samantha Crain (poppy singer songwriter folk), Annie Oakley (Americana Pop), Jabee (rap), Sex Snobs (sludgy, heavy punk), Depth & Current (loud chaotic shoegaze).
The videos for your songs generally have a home made feel about them but have some great ideas. Tell us about them?
Kelli: Most of our videos are home made we just put lots of time and effort into the concepts and the execution. We have two videographer friends that were our go to “let’s make a video right now! guys” and their names are Dave Smith and Drake Matney. If we have one of them on board we go brainstorm an idea together, pick out some locations, pick out some outfits and props, and go for it! We’ve done bigger productions for a few videos as well, but a lot times my favourites ending up being the ones we did very guerrilla style.
The video for Morning Dew leans towards politics. Are you a very political band?
Peyton: I’d say we’re very political people, so it is bound to spill into our music every once in a while, but that’s only because we write about how we feel. We didn’t start a band to get a political message out, but we aren’t afraid to write about it.
Kelli: With how dark politics have turned lately I almost feel guilty writing without a political message, but it can be hard blending your art and politics without coming across as preachy or lessening your art. That being said, when properly executed, political art can be great. I really admire when artists use their platforms to convey a smart political message and we try to do the same when it feels appropriate.
Who is Oddie Moore?
Peyton: Oddie Moore is just a character I came up with to sing to. Sometimes it’s easier for me to write a song if I feel like I’m singing to someone, and sometimes I like to actually put those people in the songs.
I’ve heard mention of Kelli getting cast in When The Streetlights Go On (I see she’s listed on IMBD). Is acting something you are thinking of pursuing?
Kelli: Yeah! That was my first official acting project. I was always interested in school but I never really knew how to pursue it, especially with all the stuff I was already doing in Skating Polly. But a couple years ago Kate Nash’s acting management saw our music videos and asked if either of us were interested in acting and Peyton said “Heck No” and I said “Heck Yes!”. Mostly I just do self-tapes, with a few in person auditions here and there when I come to LA.
What’s on the horizon for Skating Polly? Is there a new album planned?
Peyton: We’re starting to work on new songs between tours so we can get back into the studio soon! And of course lots more touring to come! Along with this UK/Europe tour we’re playing Capitol Hill Block Party in July, Riot Fest and more dates with X in September, and hopefully some more stuff this fall!
Kelli: We are in full writing mode!! Already have some studio dates that we’re talking about so we can get this next record going! And of course more music means more music videos.
Final question. Leicester has a Riot Grrrl movement aimed at supporting and celebrating members. Have you got a message for them?
Kelli: I think an important thing to keep in mind when you’re dealing with any collective of girls is not to get competitive, always be supportive and remember that another girls win is not your loss. If you can be endlessly supportive of each other and genuinely happy for each other’s achievements then that’ll be the group that can do something really great.
Skating Polly play The Cookie on Saturday 29th July.