Skating Polly on Befriending Some of the Coolest People Ever and Creating 2016’s Best Record

Even if Skating Polly isn’t a name in your household just yet, their credentials speak for themselves.  Their fans include X, L7, Perfecy Pussy, and Rachel Trachtenburg, in addition...

Even if Skating Polly isn’t a name in your household just yet, their credentials speak for themselves.  Their fans include X, L7, Perfecy Pussy, and Rachel Trachtenburg, in addition to some of PHILTHY’s personal favorites, like Beach Day, Dilly Dally (Keep checking the blog for my recent chat with Katie.), PINS, Dog Party, and Doe Eye.  They’ve also spent extensive time on the road with the likes of Kate Nash and Babes in Toyland… The band is comprised of step-sisters Kelli and Peyton, who began making music in 2009, when they were only 9 and 14. However, in addition to the aforementioned lifetime’s worth of achievements they’ve attained, they’ve also already recorded four albums.  The Oklahoma-born, Tacoma, WA-residing duo are about to release their fourth LP, The Big Fit, this coming Friday, March 25th, which has already dropped three singles.  Although it’s a bit early to tell, I’m guessing it’s going to be the best album that’s released in 2016… The Big Fit seamlessly blends riot grrrl, the snarkiest of ‘90s alt rock singer/songwriting, sunshine punk, and even some exceptionally sassy piano pop.  The band also have an upcoming batch of tour dates that kick off March 23rd at The Boreal in Eugene, OR.  I recently got a chance to chat with both Kelli and Peyton, who tell me about all of their ridiculously awesome experiences and their hopes for their latest record.

Izzy: So I realize this is cheesy, but whenever I interview “sister acts” (or “step-sister acts”) I always have to ask who some of your favorite sister (or step-sister) bands are.  The whole “step” thing is nice because it allows you to include Throwing Muses, if you want [laughs].

Kelli: Throwing Muses is definitely one of our favorite sister/step-sister acts. Their album Limbo is so perfect all the way through. We also really dig a lot of Tegan and Sara stuff, mainly So Jealous. That album’s pretty nostalgic for me.  We love The Breeders. Not only are they one of our favorite sister bands, but they’re just one of our favorite bands. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve listened to each of their records. They are amazing.

Izzy: So it’s been some time, but I have to say that the show you played with Kate Nash and La Sera here in Philadelphia two and a half years ago was one of the best shows I’ve seen in my adult life (And I go to around 120 shows a year.)  How was it being on the road with Kate Nash and La Sera, who are both like just as awesome as you are?

Peyton: Touring with Kate and La Sera was actually extremely important to us as a band and as people. For one, touring with that many girls was something we’d never done before. It was so inspiring being around so many talented women and we had multiple kind of mind-blowing revelations on that tour about who we were and we learned to be more comfortable with ourselves. People on that tour ended up being some of the kindest, funniest, most genuine people we get to call our friends. We will cherish that tour forever.

Izzy: And this is kind of a huge question, but what have been some of the highlights of Skating Polly over the last two and a half years?  You’ve released a lot of music and worked with a pretty profoundly large amount of really amazing artists, both in the studio and on tour.  What have been some of your favorite experiences or reactions you’ve received in that time?

Kelli: Obviously touring with Babes in Toyland in the UK was huge for us. We were becoming friends with some of our heroes while touring in another country. It was surreal. We also got to open for L7, another dream of ours. It’s been amazing not only getting to see some of our favorite bands live, but playing with them. We went into the studio with Veruca Salt in January to do a songwriting session with them. Writing with them was super comfortable and made us both better and more confident musicians. Then of course we recorded and are set to release our fourth album, The Big Fit. We put so much time and effort into this record and we’re really proud of it. We worked with some great people on it and it turned out even better than we ever dreamed. We’ve got to do so much in the last two and a half years, so it is really tough to narrow it down, but we feel so lucky to get to do everything we’ve done and work with everyone we’ve worked with.

Izzy: How do you feel like The Big Fit compares to previous records?

Peyton: In some ways it’s similar to our previous records: it has a similar structure, loud songs and quiet songs, switching instruments a lot. The songs are more advanced though. I feel like our songwriting progresses from record to record, but this is the biggest jump we’ve made, I think. The songs on The Big Fit had more thought put into them. Not to say we didn’t put thought into the songs on our other records, but we spent more time perfecting each song on The Big Fit.

Izzy: What would you consider to be the album’s most significant influences, both musical and non-musical (Those are often times more interesting.)?  (I must admit, looking through who you “follow” on Twitter, you may have the most insanely impressive and admirable collection of artists of any band I can think of.)

Peyton: My biggest influences are Elliott Smith and Neutral Milk Hotel, of course. And I love Perfume Genius and Big Star. But we were also listening to Whip-Smart and Exile in Guyville by Liz Phair a lot around the time of writing the songs on The Big Fit. We’re both really inspired by X. They’re some of the most amazing musicians, and unbelievably cool, authentic people. We listened to Under the Big Black Sun a lot too. As far as non-musical influences go, I get really inspired when I read a great book. A lot of the times when I finish a book, I’ll want to go write a song that makes me feel the same way the book did. My favorite author is Dave Eggers. I read three or four of his books while writing songs for The Big Fit and what I love about him is his writing is beautiful. It’s like reading a poem that’s 300 or so pages long. I’ve written a few songs with his book, You Shall Know Our Velocity, in mind. That’s my all-time favorite book and I try to always have an extra copy so I can give it to someone if I meet someone who kind of reminds me of the book. I keep a few of his books around my bed just in case I ever want to open up something familiar. They are part of my comfort zone.

Kelli: I was listening to lots of Babes in Toyland, but mostly Nemesisters, I was actually reading their biography in the studio during Peyton’s takes. Also Hungry for Stink by L7, The Woods by Sleater-Kinney, Under The Big Black Sun by X, Dogs by Nina Nastasia, When The Pawn by Fiona Apple and then my friend John made me all these great of mixes of Big Black, Sonic Youth, Neil Young, The Jesus Lizard, Melvins, and Swans, so a bunch of them too. My non-musical inspirations were just friendships and personal experiences. I wrote songs with sounds and vibes that specific friends of mine really liked so, in a way, I was writing those songs for them, but the lyrics would have nothing to do with them. I wrote certain lines in “Cosmetic Skull” for Exene, but also the message of the song has nothing to do with her. I also would try to challenge myself and write a song that sounded like certain bands I love fused together, but not imitate them. I would always put my own spin on it.

Izzy: I noticed that you “follow” Beach Day, who are my absolute favorite people in music, so I have to ask your thoughts on the Hollywood, Florida garagey, punky, surf rock band.  Any favorite tracks of theirs?  Are you friends of Kimmy?  She’s like one of the five coolest people I know…

Peyton: We played with Beach Day in Dallas once, and we love them. They’re really cool and interesting people and their live show was lots of fun! It’s fun, catchy music, and we are totally into that. Hopefully we can play with them again.

Izzy: You have a bunch of dates coming up.  What can be expected of the live experience this time around?

Peyton: We have been gearing up for this tour. It’s going to be so exciting for us, and hopefully the audience, too. We have our new CDs, some new shirts, we are going to get vinyl this time around (but not in time for the first few shows, unfortunately). Every time we play we become better at it and we’ve both really become comfortable with our performing selves so the live shows should be lots of fun!

Kelli: These shows are going to be more dynamic than our normal shows. We plan on playing some of our quieter songs and bringing the keyboard. On the loud songs it’ll be chaotic and booming and on the quieter songs it will be poppy and intimate. Peyton and I want to start changing our set more so we can play the new songs, stuff from our other albums, and probably some new covers too.

Izzy: And what’s next for you?  What are you most excited for in 2016, after the album drops?  Any chance we might get to see you again in Philly, or Philthy, in the near future?

Peyton: We wanna tour everywhere we possibly can, so Philly should be a yes! We love touring and meeting new people every night. We are also going to be writing constantly so we can get back in the studio. We’ve actually started working on some new songs (I’m actually listening to Kelli write a really pretty song as I type this.) and we’re already getting excited about those. We really just want to continue working on all of our art: music, painting, writing, creating in general. It’s what we do best so we’re happy to get to do it so much.

Band InterviewsMusic

During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.