Carried away by the confident: Pit Pony
Dubbed the “ferocious five-piece” by renowned music journalist and BBC 6 Music host Mary Anne Hobbs, Pit Pony are certainly not lacking in deathly-dark catchy riffs, bruising drums, and that searing guitar-amp-feedback that takes you back to the good old grunge era. Topped off with ominous, and paradoxically, euphonious vocals, Pit Pony are well deserving of their ‘ferocious’ sobriquet.
Most Brits with a fleeting interest in history might make the connection between the band name and their Newcastle-Upon-Tyne roots, where equine beasts hauled coal out from the mines from as far back as the late 1700s. And while pit ponies from the days of yore have long since been put out to pasture, these guys are delivering their own kind of dark and heavy load at a relentless pace.
The global pandemic had… yeah, we know… but with the worst of it (hopefully) behind us and lockdown restrictions easing, Pit Pony have wasted no time bolting out the gate with a steady stream of live shows already chalked off. Most recently opening as primary support for IDLES earlier this month. And, no slouches during the worst of times either having spent time during lockdown forging their collective ideas into new material, which will emerge by way of a debut album in the near future.
It’s our great pleasure to introduce one of the UK’s most exciting and promising fuzz-laden, thunder-driven, rib-tickling bands to emerge over the last few years… Let’s get into it.
Firstly, thanks for your time guys, it’s greatly appreciated.
Let’s get into introductions, tell us where you’re from, how you got together, and what defines you as a band.
We’re all from various parts of the North East, UK; Teesside, Durham, South Shields, Newcastle & Northumberland, but all now live in Newcastle. Myself (Garth) and Jackie are married and had been in a previous band together where we played several times with Potter’s previous band. Potter then started doing a regional radio show with Jackie and after a period where none of us were playing music, we all agreed we wanted to start something again.
Most of us have spent several years in various bands, so to be honest I think what defines us is just a love for doing it. I think Pit Pony is the culmination of all our loves and influences, and we just do it for the love of it.
How did you arrive at the name ‘Pit Pony’ and what significance does it hold for you?
We came across it as Jackie and Potter had been playing She Drew The Gun’s track ‘Pit Pony’ on their radio show. They thought it was a good band name, it kind of become a working title before we then decided on it. We liked it because we felt it was also a name with strong connotations of our North-East roots. Pretty much all our families’ history’s are rooted in North East industry, be it mining or steel production, etc. so we liked the fact it was a nod to that.
You posted your first video on YouTube in 2019, a preview of a live show at Victoria Tunnel – How long had you guys been playing together as a band before that came about?
I think we started playing together in late 2017. We played our first gig in May 2018 before Joey joined around October that year. We had a different drummer at the beginning, he got Andrew involved and then the old drummer left. Joey was a mutual friend of Andrew’s and then it all fell into place.
So you’d had a few gigs before that then? How do you feel your live shows developed over the past few years?
Our first show was at Newcastle’s ‘Little Buildings’ (it’s now moved to a different location) but it’s a fantastic venue and initiative that supports local acts, as both a practice space and live venue. It only has a capacity of like 60 people, so for a first show, it was ideal.
I’d like to think we’ve developed a lot since then. We’ve become a lot more comfortable on stage, we’d like to think the material has improved three years on too. I suppose the fact that our last gig was supporting IDLES in a 1,000 capacity venue is probably the biggest indication we’ve grown quite a bit.
Which has been your most memorable performance to date?
Probably the IDLES gig. Since lockdown lifted we’ve had a couple of really good local headline shows where I think we’ve all felt like we’ve stepped things up a bit, and getting the chance to play on a much bigger stage to a much bigger audience has been great!
I can’t lie, we were very nervous beforehand, but we love it once we’re up there. Not only did we play to our biggest ever crowd (who were lovely by the way) but we also got to share the bill with a band we’re really big fans of.
Bands typically either get on really well with each other or barely manage to keep it together – which is true for you? And how do you manage to overcome adversity?
I think just being respectful of each other. Like I say, we’ve all got different jobs, different schedules, and personal commitments and we just try and be mindful of what each other has got on, and keep things on an even keel. We communicate pretty constantly via WhatsApp and practice regularly to just keep on top of things.
Very positive! Though, with such busy schedules how do you manage to keep your motivation and energy levels high enough to create?
I think it’s just the love of it. We all have full-time jobs and lots of other stuff going on. You’re only going to go to all the trouble, of what is often like a second job, if you really care about it.
We create because it’s what we love to do and are passionate about. It’s a great outlet for a multitude of reasons and one I think we all need, too. Especially with the world at the minute. I don’t think we’ve ever had a creative block, although maybe a run of writing a few crap songs. I think just not forcing things. If we think something is rubbish we’ll drop it and move on… Something good will come in its own time.
Just to touch on that point you made about the state of ‘the world at the minute’, but not to dwell… the pandemic has obviously had a huge impact on absolutely everything in our lives. You’re making up for lost time now with a good run of shows, but how did you cope through lockdown?
We were really lucky in that a few months into lockdown we applied for some funding with PRS and somehow managed to get it which we were over the moon with. It meant that we could afford to record an album which really gave us the focus and drive to write a host of new material. So we spent any time we were actually allowed together during the lockdowns doing that and then managed to record it earlier this year.
Which artists/ bands are you each currently listening to? Have you performed with any of them, or plan to in the future?
Jackie: Sam Fender – Seventeen Going Under / Stephen Fretwell – Busy Guy / First Aid Kit – Who By Fire
Andrew: Sault – Black Is / Daniel Avery- Drone Logic / Sonic Boom – All Things Being Equal /TV Priest – Uppers
Potter says he’s just been listening to The Shins… Joey hasn’t responded
Garth: I’m terrible for listening to new-new music. Like Jackie, I have really enjoyed Sam Fender’s new releases lately. I do also really like that new Yard Act single ‘Overload’. TV Priest’s album is great so I’m looking forward to us playing with them in October when they come to Newcastle. The artist I’ve listened to most in the last year is Willie J Healy… his album Twin Heavy is just brilliant.
I’ve not heard some of those so I’ll be checking them out! What about listening back to your own tracks, which I expect you do when you’re driving down to Tesco or people come over for dinner (I would!)… Is there a particular track from your back catalog that you’re proud of?
I think our first single Osaka maybe. It was the first properly recorded track we put out and it did well in terms of getting playlisted on BBC Radio 6 Music and really kicked things off for us. It’s one which, despite probably playing the most, is still really fun to play and a highlight of our set.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve experienced in your musical career, and how did you overcome it?
Probably trying to get five people in the same place on a regular basis… The answer is a shared google calendar!
And along similar lines, there’s so much music to listen to and across so many different platforms… How have you managed to stand out, and what do you think has been the most effective means of promoting yourselves as a band so far?
In terms of direct engagement, I think Instagram always seems to be the best on that front, especially as people can see from show footage what you’re actually about, and whether you’re actually any good, or just a good social media presence. Despite all its flaws though, we’d probably have to be honest and say Spotify has been really beneficial for us as we’ve landed on quite a few editorial playlists which have obviously exposed us to a lot of new fans we wouldn’t have reached otherwise.
Before we get to some of your tracks – one last question… what’s the best advice you’ve been given in your career, and what advice would you give musicians and artists that are starting their own journey in the music industry?
In all honestly just do what you want to do and make sure you enjoy it. Write music you like, make decisions you want to make. Everyone has an opinion on how to do things, but despite anyone’s standing; their opinion is no more valid than yours as the creator of your own art… that’s what matters.
Also, I think one thing we all learned from years of experience, and we would always tell young bands, is don’t let anyone take the piss. Don’t pay to play, don’t allow promoters to treat you like shit or try not to pay you, not promote a show etcetera. Be clear with people upfront and if they seem like a chancer or someone who is a waste of time then leave them alone. There are too many great people doing things well to waste time with dickheads who are in it for all the wrong reasons.
Solid advice! Thanks again for sharing your story with us and we wish you all the best for the future. Now… Let’s get into some of your tracks! Do you want to give a little bit of background for these?
Osaka is basically about doing something that’s always a mistake, and that someone’s overhearing something you didn’t want them to hear. Awful, and not a reflection of how you feel about them but hard to get over. It’s a lesson to learn; don’t gossip about other people, it’s not a nice trait.
Dutch Courage is about teenage mistakes that come back to bite you and you can’t sleep one night and start to think about stupid things you did in the past. Hopefully, people can relate even though it’s not to the specific event.
Hard Rainfall is a bit more abstract as it’s not about a specific personal experience like the other two, it’s more about saying what’s on your mind and not going along with other people and keeping quiet, even if there are consequences.
We always write where someone brings an idea (usually Garth and Jonesy); we all write our own parts on top of it and work the structure out together. Mostly we do that in a room together but sometimes (namely over the pandemic) we’ve done it via sending each other recordings.
To me (Jackie) the songs mean a lot because it’s creating something and especially in the lyrics it’s got a personal edge and therefore a vulnerability. It’s therapeutic in a lot of ways, so it’s important.