I’m no fan of cloning, but only because it doesn’t actually do what I want it to do. When I say, “I wish I could clone myself,” I really mean that I wish I could replicate/duplicate myself. Bill Watterson, genius creator of Calvin and Hobbes, understood this and created some of the best strips of the best comic series ever about it (scroll down to the sixth strip).
The reason I need a replicator tonight is that there are five local concerts I want to attend tonight. I need duplicates.
The one I’m going to be hitting for sure is the one I’ve been looking forward to for weeks/months: Brine Webb and The Nghiems’ double-CD release show in Norman. I’ve been stuck on Webb’s gripping tunes for weeks now, and I’m thoroughly excited to see them played live. Also, he and The Nghiems are planning to accommodate Thunder fans by having The Nghiems play during halftime, and Webb play after the fourth quarter. As a pretty rabid Thunder fan, I’m stoked about this.
The one I’m most depressed about missing is Feathered Rabbit, Junebug Spade and The Gentle Art of Floating at Belle Isle Brewery. Both Feathered Rabbit and The Gentle Art of Floating are on my to-see list — the former because it’s a new Kyle Mayfield (O Fidelis, Junebug Spade, Larry Chin, everyone else in Oklahoma City) project, and the latter because they throw parties, not shows. Alas, I will have to wait yet again.
If the Webb show gets done early, I’ll traipse my way over to Opolis, where Kite Flying Robot, Chrome Pony and Guardant will be throwing an end-of-school dance party. I have been known to dance wildly at Opolis.
Before all this started getting crazy, I had planned on going seeing Ryan Lawson, Ali Harter and O Fidelis at Bad Granny’s Bazaar, as all three are OKS faves. If you like acoustic country/folk, this is your show; these are three of the best in the metro at it, and rare is the show where they all play together.
And I just heard that Anty Shanty, 318 Main Street in Norman, will be hosting Skating Polly, Luna Moth and Shitty/Awesome as part of Second Friday Art Walk. I still haven’t been to a show here yet, despite my desire. Must everyone play on the same night?!
As for non-local artists, Jamey Johnson will be stopping at Diamond Ballroom for those who are into straight-up country. It doesn’t get earthier than Johnson these days, so if that’s your bag, this is your gig. Red-dirt Austinite Brandon Jenkins will play Joy’s Palace, 300 E. Main Street in Norman, also as part of Art Walk. Finally, Avenged Sevenfold ,Three Days Grace and Bullet for My Valentine will be rocking faces off at Zoo Amphitheatre.
Saturday is less stacked, but still a difficult choice, as The City Lives’ final show is at The Conservatory; The Boom Bang, Copperheads and Purple Church make ears bleed at Opolis; and new band Bona Fide Villains (ex-Sweetwater) play Sauced.
Don’t ever let ‘em ever tell you this town had nothin’ for ya.
Chrome Pony’s ringleader needs something totally contrived to be genuine.
Anybody who follows him on Twitter knows Steven Battles to be a funny guy. A recent tweet: “According to research just conducted, I can sing at the top of my lungs on an airplane for 45 seconds before a stewardess asks me to stop.”
Likewise, anybody who’s seen Chrome Pony perform knows that Battles is not only funny, but willing to go so far over-the-top as to suggest that he might think he’s under the lights on Broadway or in a gigantic bowl amphitheater with tens of thousands of star-struck fans egging him on. It’s a sight to behold.
So when the prettiest Pony and I sat down to discuss his most recent project, we wound up talking about a lot of other stuff, too. Like nightmares and his friend Ryan Lindsey, who was kind enough to join us. Read away:
OKS: So what is Chrome Pony, exactly? Because it’s not a set band. And it’s not you, exclusively. It’s something else.
Battles: People don’t understand enough that Chrome Pony is a person. He is his own person. Chrome Pony is not a band. People get that wrong a lot.
OKS: How would you describe it?
Battles: It’s more of an alter ego, but also, he’s his own person.
OKS: You don’t have a lot of say in it?
Battles: No, not really. He actually came to me in a dream. It felt really real.
OKS: Was it more of a nightmare?
Battles: It was kind of a nightmare. It started when I was writing this song called “Chrome Pony,” and then I had a dream about him. I really don’t know that much about him. I just learn a little bit along the way.
OKS: So he’s this alien guy who likes to dress in nice suits and wear sunglasses at night.
Battles: Yeah, the sunglasses is, like, when he’s on.
OKS: Every time I’ve seen you play, there’s been a different lineup. It feels like a circus sometimes when you have so many people onstage.
Battles: That’s a good description.
OKS: How do you keep that many musicians all on the same page? Or do you?
Battles: So much of Chrome Pony is tracked music. That’s the way I shift the show dynamically is by adding or just going through a rotation of musicians. There are people I’ve played with more often, who are core members.
OKS: Do you ever write music with a certain player in mind?
Battles: The only people I’d really written music with are either producers or — the only other person I’ve ever sat down and written stuff with is [Broncho guitarist] Ben King. But he’s a producer as well, he’s produced a lot of stuff I’ve done.
But yeah, I rotate musicians because everyone brings something different. They all write their own parts and things shift dramatically when you change a drummer or add a guitarist. It’s a nice way to counterbalance the repetition and generate some new tracks.
It’s totally a circus. That’s the fun thing. It’s fun to have different friends onstage with you. Some people bring a darker energy, some people bring a lighter energy.
OKS: How many people have played guitar for Chrome Pony?
Battles: He just grabbed a guitar and got onstage at Norman Music Fest. He’s supposed to play with me some time, legitimately. We didn’t even talk about it. He just jumped up there.
OKS: For a lot of the music that’s made around here and Oklahoma City, I’d say Chrome Pony’s pretty unique. You’ve got some electronica, but that’s mostly DJs. You’ve got Kite Flying Robot in Tulsa, who make electronic rock, but that’s all I can think of off the top of my head.
Battles: I don’t feel like what I do is a whole lot different than what a lot of my friends do. The stuff I write comes from the same place as what they do. I just happened to choose a lot of synths and big beats because it’s cheesy and it’s fun and I like that stuff. I feel like it’s a little cheap and I like it.
One of the more unique things about my music — and it’s not necessarily a positive thing — is that I just go for it. I like to go for a big, pop sound. And like I said, it’s cheap. And I don’t exactly take myself seriously.
I feel like a lot of people around here making music, especially new bands, are kind of afraid to just go for it. You’re in Oklahoma; you have to go for it.
Lindsey: Songs like that are more genuine, anyway.
OKS: The first time I heard “You’ve Got to go Through the Darkness,” I just thought, “What the hecccccck? This is totally different.” It was you making a big song just because you can. That’s the kind of song you wouldn’t have written if you weren’t taking yourself seriously and decided to just go for it.
Battles: I actually wrote that song in high school. But it was completely different. It was the wussiest little song. I did it really fast at first and recorded a different version of it later, in college. I slowed it down and that was, like, a redemption song, so I had to go big.
It was funny, ’cause I was having a hard time [in college], and wound up drunk at a piano and just started belting this song out. I was like, “Yeah, that’s how this song’s supposed to go.” Duh-duh-duh, duh-nuh-nah. That was the redemption part.
OKS: Ryan, you said songs like that are more genuine, anyway. Is it because you’ve got less inhibition about it?
Battles: Yeah, I feel like if you lay yourself out there, there’s something innocent about that.
Lindsey:That’s the art that I see as being genuine. When a person doesn’t let back. It can be subtle. It doesn’t have to be a huge production.
Your first show at Norman Music Fest, the year before, is still my favorite. ’Cause Steven had been working on this project, none of [his close friends] had heard any of it. He was being secretive about it. We were sharing a room, and Steven was just getting quiet about stuff, taking off here and there, going to work with people on stuff. We knew, “OK, he’s got this show, he’s playing after us, so maybe we’ll find out.” And sure enough, Steven shows up in this suit and trench coat, er, a black duster and shades. And it was nighttime and it was hot.
So I figured he’d had something up his sleeves. And then I found out that he’d had something up his sleeves for two months. He was being pretty shifty around the house. It blew my mind. All of us that had been dealing with Steven in that way, we were all surprised. I remember looking at Ben [King] and Chad [Copelin] and smiling so big. And Jarod [Evans]. We all just knew; we didn’t have to say it: “So this is where Steven’s been the last two months.”
OKS: So it sounds like you really need the inauthenticity and the grandiosity of the character to get yourself out there.
Battles: Exactly. That was how I got myself to do it. Since I could hide behind this made-up thing, I could go for it. I’d been nervous, but I’d been in the dungeon working on it with my friends B [Bryan Bryanson] and Katie [Wicks, both with Chrome Pony, Crystal Vision], and that was my hangout for about three months.
Lindsey: It was good for me to see somebody working hard at something, turning down hangouts that I normally wouldn’t turn down to go work on music. That’s just the way Steven does it. When he knows he needs to work, he won’t let his friends distract him. Or keep him up until 6 in the morning so he loses the next day from being worn out. Or the next day because he slept all day. [Laughs]
Battles: I was really nervous because I got that slot. There was a lot of nervous energy. That first show, I hardly moved, I just stood up there at the mic. [Laughs]
OKS: Tell me about this connection with B and Katie. It sounds like that’s what started Chrome Pony.
Battles: My original idea was to start a music project where I didn’t have to have a band. Because I don’t like carrying gear. And the less people in the band, the less you have to split the money. [laughs] I don’t want to carry anything, I make more money, I can get drunk and sing.
I got to know them through Tate James [Delo Creative who directed his video for "Love in a Genocide"]. He hooked us up. I just Facebook-messaged them for a bit. They were running Dance Robots, Dance! at Opolis. I showed up there one night and Katie just attacks me. Gave me a big hug and I realized, “This is gonna work out.” Then I met B and learned he’s the sweetest guy in the world. I went over to their house and showed them some songs I had, and we talked about some stuff I was working on.
OKS: Was it hard showing them those in-progress songs?
Battles: Yeah, it was. I had some songs I’d recorded at Blackwatch, which were “Everything All the Time” and a few others. I didn’t think I’d use those. But those wound up on the album. It got a lot easier as we worked together, because we got to be really close friends.
Originally, we were just going to make these songs, and then they were going to spin them, but I eventually decided, “Hey, I kinda wanna play.”
OKS: So you were writing them with the thought that they were just going to be for DJs?
OKS: So how do you write now?
Battles: I usually start on piano or guitar. Then I start building it in Logic and try to make it as dancey as possible. Also, I do a lot with different producers. I’ve been kinda spoiled by working with them, though. When you start playing shows, it kinda distracts from the writing process.
OKS: Yeah, especially for an act like yours where a lot of planning goes into the performance.
Battles: Yeah, I focused on building the show for a while. Now I’m kind of in writing mode, and I’m shifting that into producing new songs. I’m working on a bunch of different projects right now.
OKS: What else are you working on?
Battles: I’ve been writing a soul/gospel album with Ben King. And I’ve been working on some other, smaller electronic stuff with Costa [Stasinopoulos, of Dead Sea Choir] that’s pretty weird. I’m getting money together to track the soul/gospel record with the Blackwatch guys. And I’m working with a producer named Will Hunt, from Fort Worth, that I’m working on some stuff with. It’ll be more like the darker ’80s hits, pop stuff.
It’s also worth pointing out that this thing, shot in black-and-white by Nathan Poppe, is probably one of the budding director’s finest spontaneous works. The gritty close-ups and use of contrast is top-notch, and as they say, he’s not afraid to get right in the middle of the fray.
*I use the term “attend” loosely here. A Broncho show is really more like something you survive.
Then join the rest of the 99% at The Abner Ale House in Norman (121 E. Main St.,
aka McNellie’s), where Blackwatch Studios will be gettin’ down without a cover
at their New Years’ Eve Bazaar.
Norman native Jacob Abello (pictured) is in town from Austin, Tex., and will ring in the
new year along with Chrome Pony, Evangelicals’ Josh Jones, and more, from 9
p.m. until close. Rumors of a dance party and karaoke are currently swirling.
Kick back. Relax. Let the city’s next generation of lounge singers set the mood for the moment.
Music Joshua Boydston
Lounge music never dies. The bad haircuts and cheesy outfits may have,
but a new generation of performers in the metro still swing with a
thoughtfulness and individuality that made crooners the toast of the
town in the Rat Pack era.
With thousands of votes submitted, the people have spoken! Here are your winners of Oklahoma Gazette’s Woody Awards for 2012!
Music Matt Carney, Rod Lott Best in Rock: Broncho
Nobody in the metro regularly plays more exciting shows than pop-punk
savages Broncho. When that guitar riff and ensuing solo on “Pick a
Fight” revs up, audiences just know to start hopping, shoving and
yelping along with singer Ryan Lindsey, who’s unafraid of pushing and
kicking back, nor getting his ass slapped mid-show. They may not “Really
Wanna Be Social,” but they’re gonna have to suck it up because we love
’em a bunch.