That was my experience when I first heard the song Placer by this punk rock, pop duo out of Oklahoma City called Skating Polly. I was utterly floored by not only the power and raw energy of their music, but also the fact that these two girls are merely in their teens.
Kelli Mayo (vocals, drums, basitar and keyboard) just turned 13 years old, and her step-sister Peyton Bighorse (vocals, guitar, drums, keyboard and ukulele) is 17 years old. But whatever you do, don’t write them off as some kid band. They’re not some novelty act, they are the real deal and they just might be the answer to the overproduced and cookie cutter formula that is currently dominating the music industry.
Of course some may disagree, their music isn’t for everyone, but love them or hate them these two girls are making an impact, and despite their age they have some pretty hefty aspirations and musical goals.
“We plan on doing this for the rest of our lives,” said Kelli Mayo during a phone interview while on tour.
It all started when Mayo’s dad married Bighorse’s mom. The two young girls found themselves in a situation that could go a couple of different ways. Some stepsisters fail to develop any sort of relationship and end up hating each other. But for Mayo and Bighorse they found a common interest in all the musical instruments that were around the house, and they ended up not only becoming sisters in every sense of the word, but also best friends and bandmates.
All you have to do is ask one of them about the other, and the sentiments just pour out. Like when I asked Bighorse to tell me something about Mayo:
“She’s an amazing songwriter. There’s no one in this entire world that I would rather be in a band with.”
Skating Polly was officially founded on Halloween in 2009 after they jammed one night for family and friends at a party. From there, they started writing songs and doing home recordings in their living room with the help of Mayo’s dad. Soon after, they took their demos to a local recording studio called Hook Echo Sound, and with the help of the owner, Chris Harris they added the drums and put together enough material for their first album.
“For our first record, me and Peyton weren’t very good musicians at all,” admits Mayo.
Yet fortune favors the bold, and even though they were still developing their skills as musicians, that didn’t stop them from handing off a CD to the famed punk vocalist, Exene Cervenka from the band X.
As time went by they sent more demos to Cervenka and waited for a reply. Eventually, she got back to them and expressed interest in producing their next album. That record came to be the Lost Wonderfuls, and it drops on April 2nd.
The veteran punk rocker took the two girls under her wing during the recording, but she also kept her distance and allowed them to find their own sound.
“She helped us out a lot in the studio,” said Bighorse. “She didn’t want to change our music, but she would give us little suggestions.”
The recording of Lost Wonderfuls was a learning experience for both girls. For this album, there was much more attention to detail, and not surprisingly, they had both grown as musicians.
“Exene had a lot of confidence in us, so if she didn’t think the take was the best, she would tell us that. And we would redo it until everything sounded really, really good,” said Mayo.
And it wasn’t just about the music, their lyrics became topics of discussion. Obviously Cervenka’s background in poetry came into play here when she encouraged the girls to analyze the words they were writing.
“Exene would make us think of all the lyrics we used,” Mayo said. “She didn’t really want to change anything, but she would ask us what stuff means. And we would actually have to think about it. She would ask us If there was a concept to the album.”
Under Cervenka’s guidance, it wasn’t long before their music gained interest from another famous musician. According to Flaming Lips drummer Kliph Scurlock, it was George Salisbury from Delo Creative who first showed him a video of one of Skating Polly’s songs.
Scurlock’s first thought was, “Oh, they’re so little and adorable.”
But after the initial cuteness of their appearance wore off, he was genuinely struck by their music. A few nights later, Skating Polly just happened to be playing at this club in Oklahoma City called, The Conservatory (the same venue where the girls first met Cervenka), and he went to their show.
After seeing Skating Polly live, and being blown away by the duo’s stage presence and diversity, he met with them backstage. It was another chance meeting for Mayo and Bighorse, one that not only made them a new friend, but also another vital contact.
Scurlock ended up mixing the songs for the new album, and he has been a tremendous supporter of the band since. But one has to wonder, what is it about Skating Polly that has caught the interest of not only one rockstar, but two? Scurlock sums it up well when he says:
“Their music just sounds really unique and original to me. I think their age may play a part of that in that they’re not schooled musicians or songwriters, but I think that really works to their advantage as their songs take lots of twists and turns that most people’s music doesn’t.”
Skating Polly’s music speaks for itself, from the upbeat and fun, Mr. Proper Englishman, to the introspective and mellow, Kick to Mayo’s channeling of Kurt Cobain in Placer to the sing-a-long title track, Lost Wonderfuls. And let’s not forget, the Hawaiian inspired ukulele protest song, Oh Well, We’ll Win which seems entirely out-of-place on this album, but somehow, it totally works.
“We have some punky songs, but we also have some quieter pretty songs that are more poppy,” said Bighorse.
Skating Polly’s new album offers a little something for everybody. You can download the Lost Wonderfuls from I-Tunes by clicking here.