I N T E R V I E W
Nod your Head and Shake it at the Same Time: an Interview with Peter McCall of ‘Fazed on a Pony’
with Ian Duggan
Dunedin’s ‘Fazed on a Pony’ released their fantastic EP ‘That’s How the Light Gets In’ late in February. We have featured a couple of the tracks on our HUP/The Hum 106.7FM Top 10 of new New Zealand songs, including ‘Natural Toast’ - which made our #1 a couple of months ago. We talked to front-person Peter McCall about his musical influences, the artwork of the release, the meaning of the band's name, and more!
HUP: My first, second and third impression on first hearing ‘Natural Toast’ was how much the song reminded me of Pavement. I, and the other primary contributor here at HUP, grew up on different sides of the world, but we were independently obsessed with Pavement in the ‘90s, so for us this is a great thing! Listening to an interview you did on Radio One, you confirm the Pavement, and also Silver Jews, influences. How did you get into these bands, and why do you think Pavement still has such an influence on you and other bands 20 years after they split?
Peter: I had a friend in high school that was into a lot of 80s and 90s guitar music and was always trying to get me to listen to bands like My Bloody Valentine, Slint, Dinosaur Jr, etc. He must have given me [the Pavement album] ‘Slanted and Enchanted’ on USB at some point and it probably sat on my computer for a couple of years before I listened to it. When I did finally put it on – one summer afternoon back at my parents place, cleaning my old room – I listened to the first half thinking that I didn’t really get it. Then ‘Here’ came on and I just thought it was the best thing I’d ever heard. It was sad, catchy, nostalgic, clever, messy and mysterious. I suppose it expressed something, or a combination of things, that I’d felt but never heard before.
After that, Pavement was really all I listened to for a long time, searching out every b-side and live clip, learning their songs (there’s an amazing website called slay tracks, which has tabs for every Malkmus song, including Jicks stuff). I found the Silver Jews through the Malkmus connection, around the time they put out ‘Early Times’. David Berman has his own thing going on and is one of my favourite lyricists. ‘Starlite Walker’ is, to me, a perfect album.
I think what I find compelling and inspiring in Pavement and in the Silver Jews are their contradictions – that the music can be ironic and sincere, epic and pathetic, tight and loose, often within a single phrase. It’s profoundly pathetic country music that makes you want to nod your head and shake it at the same time.
HUP: It isn’t just the music I love with your EP; the art work, featuring ponies galloping in front of a mountain range, is also fantastic. Who painted it? What else can you tell me about it?
Peter: My partner, Rosa, did the painting of Aoraki with galloping horses in front of it. I think it was initially a somewhat ironic attempt at making a stoner art poster – with all the bright colours and cliché beauty of mountains and water and horses running. She had it at her brothers flat and would go to his place once and a while to hang out, adding a bit more to it each time. Eventually her nephew, two at the time and completely obsessed with horses, saw the picture and freaked out – started jumping on it and kissing all the horses - so she finished the painting and gave it to him.
Around that time I had decided to really lean in to the pony vibe of the band and thought it would make a good cover. However, what you see on the EP cover is me holding a photo copy of the image sticky-taped to another piece of paper that has the band name added. It was the stencil for a screen we made up to print t-shirts with. While making the t-shirts I realised I like the look of the stencil more than the original art. The orangey-brown paint around the top of the mountain is paint-stopper from the screen. [continued below]
HUP: What is the scene like in Dunedin currently? Are there still good numbers of people – and students in particular – interested in live, original music? What other bands from down there should we be checking out?
Peter: It’s hard to say, really. From what I can tell, there’s the student scene, which consists of a few student bands that play pop music and draw huge crowds, and then there’s everyone else, who sometimes get a great attendance and sometimes don’t. I don’t go to as many shows as I used to and would not consider myself an authority on the state of any scene.
Some of my favourite current Dunedin bands are Wet Specimen (led by Lucy Hunter of Opposite Sex), Tiny Pieces of Eight, Koizilla, and the Rothmans.
HUP: What are your aspirations for the band? Should we expect more songs soon?
Peter: I don’t have any careerist aspirations; I would just like to keep going for as long as it feels good. I’d like to put out a full length, which will be the next project and one I’ve started working on. We’re taking a short break from playing to write. Hopefully we could have something out by the end of the year, maybe sooner.
HUP: What does the band name, ‘Fazed on a Pony’, mean?
Peter: I’m not sure, but perhaps Malkmus or Berman could tell you. It was a phrase written on the insert from ‘Early Times’.
HUP: You toured the release of ‘Light Gets In’ in January, including Auckland, but you had no Hamilton date included. Do you think you will make it up here at some stage?
Peter: I would’ve loved to have played Hamilton and hopefully we can at some point in the future. It was the first tour I’d organised so I tried to keep it simple – we also all have jobs and had to do it over a couple weekends. Perhaps next time we can take some time off and go to a few more places in between the big cities.