Skating Polly’s signature ugly pop style is about dread and release. Frontwoman and bassist Kelli Mayo dredges up inner turmoil and anxiety for their music. Her vocals are instantly recognizable, whether she’s singing soft and soothing or giving full voice to an overpowering banshee wail.
Their latest single “Play House” keeps their signature explosive sound but draws from far different inspirations than usual, like playing in mud puddles, drawing with gel pens and Patrick Swayze’s Dirty Dancing catch.
Mayo says “Play House” blossomed from an unabashedly adolescent night with friends where the singer tried to follow in Jennifer Grey’s footsteps. “I can’t at all do the Dirty Dancing jump [because] I don’t have that upper body strength to actually do the move, but I could run and jump and that was really really fun,” she tells BTRtoday.
“Play House” is the band’s break from their usual emotionally heavy vibes. “I kind of made a deal with myself on this song that I just wanted to write something that was just fun and happy and okay with being that and that’s colorful, weird and abstract.”
Exploring her vulnerable side on Skating Polly’s five studio albums have made her feel more confident and comfortable in her skin, but she was ready to get a little silly.
“A lot of [the album] was about things I was struggling with and this anxiety and things I had a hard time talking about, but I just felt like I needed to vent and write about somehow and just get it out,” Kelli says.
Skating Polly has always written emotionally-driven songs. Mayo, drummer Kurtis Mayo and Peyton Bighorse (guitar) are siblings/step-siblings and say that it’s easier to be vulnerable around each other when everyone’s family. You can hear the openness and trust on The Make It All Show released last year.
The hard-touring trio is on the road with X throughout May. The punk legends have formed a strong bond with Skating Polly. Not only is this their second tour together, but X singer Exene Cervenka produced their second album Lost Wonderfuls.
“One of my favorite parts of being in this band after all these years, I can’t just choose one, [but] I think those relationships [created on tour] are pretty spectacular—it’s given me a huge sense of self,” she says.
Catch them with X throughout this month and their headline show on May 31 in Manhattan. In the meantime, listen to the entire interview with Skating Polly’s Kelli Mayo, their most recent single “Play House” and tracks from The Make It All Show on this week’s The Music Meetup.
Skating Polly “Camelot”