There is probably nothing harder than writing about music, except writing about your own music. Music is primarily an abstract emotional art. Other than lyrics music is something that is supposed to make you feel, not think. Words often fail. Music is often something that takes the place of words. Even when you have something more concrete, like a story song, the music, and that abstract emotion, is on equal footing with the words.
I have tried and failed more times than not to tell people what the band No Show Ponies sounds like. Part of this is the trouble of change. Our first album, The End of Feel Good Music, was mostly an Americana affair. This is due largely to the part that we had grown bored with electric guitars at the time and when we first moved to Austin we brought in all of the players that we knew, that tended to lean towards this genre. This was not a natural fit for us as my brother Ben, who is my copartner in NSP, and I listen to Americana about as often as there is a full moon; maybe less. Sometimes art just turns out the way the gods intended, and you don’t’ have as much control as you would often like. Everyone that worked on the album did great stuff. I still believe in that album as a collection of songs. I’m not trying to queer my own hustle. All I’m trying to lay down is that the music on that record doesn’t fit our natural inclinations.
The record that is done in all but title, that we are releasing this fall, is more representative of us and our influences. It’s a combination of our artier pretensions and at the same time our love for big classic rock n roll. It may sound strange to say that it is one part Joy Division and one part Van Halen. It is one part Public Image Lmtd. and one part Thin Lizzy. It is the Replacements and My Bloody Valentine, it is the Police and Thomas Mapfumo, it is Fleetwood Mac and it is the Smiths. I know what went into the pot. Those are just a few of the things we were stirring together. Lyrically it was influenced by the darker humor of Lou Reed and Morrissey and Leonard Cohen. But it was also influenced lyrically by Kurt Vonnegut, Flannery O’Connor, David Lynch, Terry Gilliam, and a whole host of other artists and thinkers that have nothing to do with the music business. To me the album is a rock n roll album in the classic sense. Most rock bands of the 60’s mixed together a highly eclectic set of influences to come up with their sound. Someone like Pete Townshend was an intellectual and a primitive.
You may get some of that or none of that when you hear it. That’s fine. We just hope that you get something out of it. That it sounds good cranked up in your car. We hope that it also sounds good on your headphones when you are alone and want to dive in deeper.
We recorded live to tape with minimal fixing and overdubs. It’s raw and unpolished, but it’s true. We redid the vocals, but we even sang into the same microphone at the same time to get it as live as possible. It’s the sound of a band that can play their asses off all in the same room together. It’s unhinged energy.
They say when you are slinging your own shit to come up with a catchy term to sell it to people. I’ve never been able to do that. I’d say it’s rock n roll, and it is, but that term has lost value as it’s been tied to everything under the sun that features guitars and isn’t country, blues, or jazz.
So again I’ve failed to explain exactly what it is that we do. That is often death in a marketing sense. But I believe in this record a hundred percent. I hope that some of you will too. Maybe as it gets closer to being released I’ll get some kind of divine intervention and come up with the perfect term or phrase to give this thing wings.
If you are curious about what it is we do, and happen to live in the great city of Austin, Texas, we’ll be playing live at the Continental Club this Friday. We start at 10pm sharp. Come out and see what’s shaking on the hill. Make up your own mind. As a listener that’s what you should be doing anyway.