Posted: by The Editor
On Pony’s debut TV Baby, Sam Bielanski and Matty Morand crafted a strong slice of eclectic pop rock fit for summertime drives. As good as TV Baby was, though, their sophomore LP Velveteen is an improvement in every sense. Bielanski’s vocals stretch further and hit harder than ever, and their hooks are sugary and sticky. From the crunchy power pop of “Tres Jolie” and single “Peach” to the dance-pop of “French Class” and the organ-drenched closer “Haircut,” every moment of Velveteen hits like a chorus. The narrative the record traces is a dark one, though; “Tres Jolie” opens the album with a swooning portrait of lovesickness, and things disintegrate as the record wears on. “Sunny Rose” finds Bielanski “too stressed” to think about anything, and by the final minutes of Velveteen they’re “crying at the TV.” Even at its darkest, though, Velveteen’s never a slog—every song is a hit. We spoke with Bielanski about the writing of Velveteen, the influence of The Velveteen Rabbit on the album’s arc, and My Little Pony.
I know you wrote a lot of songs for this record, somewhere around 200. How did you settle on these ten?
Matty and I each wrote about 100 songs over the course of a year or so and the ones that made it on to the record were the ones that we found ourselves singing and humming around the house. That was a pretty good indicator to us that those songs wanted to see the light of day.
“Haunted House” is a lot of fun, lyrically—what was the inspiration behind that one?
That song was inspired by the first season of American Horror Story. What drew me to that story was the portrayal of the intense type of infatuation that consumes a person, and how you can lose yourself in that. I also like the image of being trapped in a haunted house as a metaphor for grieving a broken heart. Nick from MSPAINT heard this song and called us on the reference immediately.
A lot of this album leans into pop rock, even more than TV Baby does, but “French Class” is the most overt. How did that song come to be?
A lot of the music that I was listening to when we were writing was much more pop leaning. Charli XCX, Caroline Polachek, Haim, etc. We were trapped in the house for months on end and we were living above a bad neighbour who would complain that we were too loud when we were folding laundry. I wanted to be able to make music but I couldn’t play guitar in the house so I was experimenting with the GarageBand app. “French Class” was one of my first attempts at trying to produce and arrange a song using anything other than guitar and a lot of what I played on that demo is what ended up in the finished song.
I know that the album is titled after The Velveteen Rabbit, and that story really affected you during the writing of the album. What about that story is it that stuck with you to the degree that it did?
I actually have never read the story. I was having a lot of trouble sleeping and I found an ASMR style reading of The Velveteen Rabbit that I was listening to try to help me sleep. After listening to it over and over every night I became fixated on the velveteen rabbit’s quest for authenticity and his longing to feel worthy. I saw myself in that and then started finding connections in the songs I was already writing.
What other books or movies influenced the writing of this record?
Other than music our lives are mostly TV, movies and books so it’s a pretty eclectic mix. The book A Bit Much by Sarah Jackson, the “Pine Barrens” episode of The Sopranos, Gilmore Girls, the south Korean horror film The Call from 2020, America’s Next Top Model and the HBO series The Sex Lives of College Girls are a few.
What plans does PONY have for the rest of the year?
We want to tour, tour, tour, tour. I sleep best when I’m on tour.
I know you’ve had some involvement in the recent My Little Pony series. How exactly did that happen?
People don’t know this about me because I rarely work but I’m a trained actor. When the pandemic hit and touring wasn’t an option for us anymore my agent reached out and asked if she could start submitting me again. I auditioned for the show four or five times and then one day she called to tell me I had been offered the role of Jazz Hooves.
Zac Djamoos | @gr8whitebison
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