"I’ve been playing music in bands since before I had underarm hair, and the vast majority of my core, life-defining experiences have been facilitated by playing music."
Bad Pony (Source: Supplied)
On Friday, Bad Pony released their debut album after ten years together as a band, 12 national tours, and three international showcases. They released Forever Up & Coming on Friday, an indie-rock record that traverses themes of love, loss, addiction, triumph and community. To celebrate the release, we caught up with Bad Pony to find out all about the top moments of their career so far.
"Being in a band is awesome. Everybody should do it - this means you, literally the person reading this right now. Do it. Aside from the obvious joys of writing and recording songs, you might be lucky enough to start a band with your best friends and thus tour the country and sometimes the world with them. I’ve been playing music in bands since before I had underarm hair, and the vast majority of my core, life-defining experiences have been facilitated by playing music," the band revealed.
Here is a selection of the first five that came to mind.
1. SXSW 2018
Sometime in late 2017, I awoke early on a Saturday morning to at least one million notifications from the Bad Pony group chat. Not an unusual situation because boy, oh boy, do these ponies love to chat. As I wiped the grot from my bloodshot eyes, I got to the work of scrolling back to figure out what the hell was going on. Did somebody get a new guitar pedal? Did Jaz write a new song? Did somebody do something very dumb and embarrassing, and was it caught on camera?
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In fact, none of these happened. It was our managers letting us know that we had been invited to perform at South by Southwest, the legendary music/tech/film/you-name-it conference held yearly in Austin, Texas. Thus began one of the most exciting chapters of my life to that point.
The experiences that we had as a group and I had as an individual that week were unbelievable. Obviously, it was so exciting performing to new crowds from all over the USA and the world, but for me, the highlight of the week was how much music I was able to experience. Every single night I was out until at least 2 in the morning, hopping between venues and seeing weird and wonderful acts. Some I knew, some I did not, but all of them had something unique to offer, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to be there.
2. Marmalade Skies 2015, Goulburn
Another really cool thing about starting a band is that sometimes you get to play at these super cool independent festivals. This particular festival occurred on somebody’s property outside of Goulburn, NSW. The lineup included a whole bunch of killer artists that are now super well known (read: Lime Cordiale, Sons of the East, Hockey Dad, AViVA, JOY. KLP), and the vibes were out of this world.
The music was legendary, but the scenery elevated the experience to one of transcendence. Marmalade Skies could not have been more aptly named because if you chose the right stage at the right time of day, you were treated to a sunset that would make you lose your mind, accompanied with a soundtrack for the ages.
3. Red Deer Music Festival 2015, Mount Samson
As a musician, you spend a lot of time siloed, working on your tunes and your recordings and you often wonder “does anybody care about these songs? Are they even good? Why am I doing this?”.
This means that every little victory feels like a monumental win, particularly when you’re starting out. Even in retrospect, after all these amazing experiences we’ve had, my memory of Red Deer Music Festival 2015 still looms large and fills me with pride. This was the first time ever that we played a song and somebody in the crowds that we didn’t know seemed stoked to hear it and knew the words!
It had been a very stressful morning, as we flew into Brisbane from Sydney and had a razor-thin margin of error to get to the show on time. We loaded straight from the car to the stage and plugged in, and as soon as we played the first note of Down To You, like ten people rushed from the back of the crowd to the front of the stage and started jumping around and singing the words along with Jaz. I guess ten people ain’t that many, but it may as well have been ten thousand. We still talk about it as a group, and I still well up thinking about it. Thank you, beautiful strangers.
4. That one time on a boat in Sydney Harbour
Strictly speaking, this memory isn’t a Bad Pony memory but one from the previous band three of us shared named Lovers Jump Creek.
We were offered a show supporting some band on their single launch, which they had decided to hold on a boat cruising around Sydney Harbour. It sounded like a cool experience, and they were willing to pay us (which almost never happened for poor old LJC).
This band we were supporting had the biggest egos of any band we had ever encountered (including our own). Watching them strut around the top deck of the boat like rock-n-roll peacocks was truly something special. It is worth mentioning that the band had cordoned off the top deck of the boat as the ‘VIP’ area. Whether it was the lead singer hiding his face under a jacket whenever he left the VIP area to go downstairs to the bathroom, or the bass player introducing us to his favourite party game “speaking over jazz music” (whereby the participant finds some generic instrumental jazz on Spotify and says things they believe to sound profound over the music blaring from their phone speaker), the entire experience was like being a supporting actor in David Brent: Life on the Road and served as a living demonstration of what not to do, and who not to be.
Aside from the comedic value of the experience, there was a moment during our set that money just can’t buy. I was playing the guitar and I turned around to look at Jaz (who was the drummer in LJC) and I noticed that behind him, through this enormous window, I could see the sun setting behind the Sydney Harbour Bridge. There I was in a band nobody cared about, playing songs I had written with my best friend in the world, on a boat watching the sun go down behind one of the most iconic landmarks of my hometown. Just try and tell me this ain’t special.
5. Recording our album Forever Up and Coming
One of the things that I love about being in Bad Pony is that we have always been pretty self-reliant. No booking agencies are interested? Okay, we’ll book the tour. Ain’t no labels interested in putting out our tunes? Fine, we’ll do it ourselves.
Maybe most importantly: Recording studios cost HOW MUCH PER DAY!!? Don’t worry ‘bout it, we’ll figure it out on our own.
Since day one we have recorded and produced all of our tunes in-house. It is amazing what you can accomplish in the 21st century with a decent laptop, an interface, a couple of microphones and too much time on your hands.
The culmination of this was recording our debut album, which comes out this year, titled Forever Up and Coming. Rather than spending big $$$ on a week in a recording studio, we spent little $$$ on renting a little cottage in Pokolbin, in NSW’s Hunter Valley. We pooled our recording resources and know-how and spent the week putting down the bulk of what would eventually become our record.
The rooms were small, hot (no air-con in January was a mistake) and not what you would call acoustically treated (if you listen carefully, you can hear the occasional rooster in the background of the vocal takes), but with some determination and approximately 200 beers we’ve put together a record that I think sounds great and represents one of Bad Pony’s defining characteristics - don’t wait for someone to tell you you’re allowed to make your art. Go ahead and do it.
Forever Up & Coming is out now. Stream it here.