NYPC - NYPC Blues
Monday, 28 July 2008
They’re one of the most colourful ‘nu-rave’ bands: a little Altered Images, a little Blondie, a lot of Talking Heads... They mix the old with the new. Who else could it be but New Young Pony Club-
The Brits are back in Australia after their summer dates to play Splendour in the Grass and the prerequisite sideshows. It may appear that NYPC are, in fact, old work horses, but singer/songwriter Tahita Bulmer maintains that the group have had time off.
“We’ve been taking it easy,” she says brightly. “Last year was crazy for us, and we didn’t really get a lot of time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labour, but this year we’ve done a lot less gigs, actually. They’re starting to rev up again now, but we’ve been concentrating on the album, and various stuff has been happening to the other band members personally, so it’s been good to sit back and go, ‘That was good, we did well.’ Hopefully, we can be energised when we get there.”
NYPC was formed around Bulmer and Andy Spence, touted as the resident “production guru”, but increasingly it’s a bona-fide band with Igor Volk (bass), Lou Hayter (keyboards) and Sarah Jones (drums). Before NYPC, Tahita had sung for the dream-house Blue States. It wasn’t her style. She befriended Andy and, in developing “a synth band with guitars”, they were inspired by the indie-dance emanating from the DFA’s camp. (These days they express an affinity with emerging UK acts like Metronomy.)
NYPC were already buzzworthy when they signed to Modular. But, inexplicably, their debut Fantastic Playroom was ages in coming. NYPC canned an earlier LP. However, they broke out with the infectious Ice Cream and attracted a celebrity fanbase, among them David Bowie.
Recently NYPC have been working on the sequel to Fantastic Playroom. So how’s is it shaping up-
“Interesting – I think it’s gonna be very different,” Tahita enthuses. “There’ll be some of that stuff that people are used to, but we’re flexing our muscles and stretching our wings in slightly different directions – which is good. It’s gonna be a much more mature album, but it’s still got that pop sensibility. There’s not gonna be any 10 minute white noise work-outs or anything.”
Many bands grapple with that all-important sophomore. They either pick up where they left off – or rebel against a smash album. NYPC have their own approach.
“It’s just different ways of thinking about what we are. We’ve been trying to become better songwriters, I think now. We hankered after the resonance and depth in sound that you hear in the really old, really good songwriters of the past like Prince and David Bowie – and we’ve been thinking along those lines and trying to make sure the vocals are really strong. With the last album, we were almost led by the technology, whereas with this we’re trying to be led by the song.”
Bulmer admits that, with Fantastic Playroom nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, they’re feeling greater pressure. “Nobody wants to bring out a crap album.”
NYPC is described as a five-piece, yet Tahita composes their songs with Andy, the others essentially players.
“In terms of the songwriting, we’re still pretty much a duo,” she says. “The others are having input here and there, but I think, just as a band, there’s five such strong personalities, it’d be very difficult for everybody to have the same amount of control over what we do musically. So the other three are doing their own thing and in the band at the same time. [But] I think their influence will be heard on the next record.”
Bulmer confesses that the three musos favour more involvement but, if it occurs, it’ll be “organic”. Meanwhile, Tahita, who’s half Trinidadian, is celebrated as a countercultural fashion icon, together with sassy dance stars such as the ethereal Alison Goldfrapp and flamboyant Roisin Murphy. “I’ve always liked fashion, but I’ve always liked individuality more. It’s just a question of being an individual.”
There are relatively few indie-dance bands today with a powerful female presence. Bulmer divulges that, even in the post-feminist 2000s, NYPC, with three chicks, occasionally aren’t treated seriously. This is more pronounced in the UK, where the odd hack regards female rockers as “performing dogs”. “My real bugbear is definitely the attitude of the upper hierarchy of the industry who still seem to be fixated on this ‘boy’ band idea in terms of music which uses guitars.
“If you’re a band with mixed gender, or a band with predominantly girls, they don’t really know what to do with you. I think really good bands have suffered in the past because of that. They’re always gonna push a band like Klaxons or whoever a bit harder than they’re gonna push a band like us or Operator Please or any band that does mixed gender, or is mainly girls, because they look at you and they think, ‘Well, we don’t really know who this is gonna sell to.’ They don’t think that boys, who still seem to be predominantly the music buyers, will buy into mixed gender bands in the same way that they’ll buy into bands of boys.”
Perhaps on that account, too, Tahita was critical of Klaxons winning the 2007 Mercury Prize, suggesting to The Guardian that a lesser-known act might do with the “boost”.
Bulmer has nothing but positive things to say about the support they’ve had Down Under. Will NYPC preview any material this tour-
“To be honest, we’re probably not, because Andy is having a baby,” she reveals. “He’s not gonna be playing on the Australian tour because his wife is basically due any day around that time. ’Cause we’ve got a friend of ours playing guitar, we’ve decided not to preview anything. We thought it might be a bit overwhelming for him to have to learn about 18 new songs as well as everything on the old album!”
WHO: New Young Pony Club
WHAT: Play Splendour in the Grass, Byron Bay
WHEN: Sunday 3 August
MORE: splendourinthegrass.com / myspace.com/newyoungponyclub