by Bob Mcmahon
Despite making great strides in its two and a half years of existence, Blood Pony is being put out to pasture. The seven-piece orchestral indie-pop group, which released full-length Escapists this January after last year's Kissing Cities EP, is playing one last show this Saturday, June 18, at new Jefferson Ave venue the Warehouse with the Jump Starts. Before Blood Pony's last scheduled show, Walker talked with A to Z and elaborated on future possibilities, the breakup and his favorite memories of the band.
The split is completely amicable and is only happening because songwriter/frontman James Walker is moving to Richmond, Virginia to get his masters in graphic design at Virginia Commonwealth University. Walker plans to start a new band at school and says the rest of Blood Pony's members might form a different project without him. Some members are already busy. Bassist Bruce Klostermann also plays in prog-rock quartet Franklin Felix, violinist/vocalist Tori Walters plays shows with her dad and Theron Perkowski plays trombone in concert and classical bands. But if everyone is available, Walker has not ruled out the chance of reunion shows during seasonal school breaks or even after he graduates (he says a post-college move back to St. Louis is likely).
Bob McMahon: Let's start with the obvious: why are you guys breaking up? James Walker: We've been together about three years and I am actually moving to Richmond for graduate school. I'm getting my MFA in graphic design and then I'll probably be back to go for my professorship. I think the band's kind of in a weird spot just because there's so many of us we can't really tour very easily. We played Joliet after this mustache festival last year. We took three cars, which is a lot of gas and space. So I feel like even if we would have kept playing it would have just been this local thing forever and ever and it would be near impossible for us to be on the road very easily. Which I know is not the most exciting reason to break up (laughs).
Are you going to continue playing music in grad school?
Yeah, probably. Obviously, I write all the music so it's kind of hard for them to find someone else for Blood Pony. But I think they're at least considering a new project with a new front-person, which I think would be great because it's tough to find a violin player, drummer and a bass player that are working together already. So I don't think they'll have any problems.
But do you think that you personally will play or start any musical projects?
Yeah. I mean Blood Pony started for the sole purpose of every band I've ever started broke up before we did anything. I had been in all these bands and never got to play shows. The first show Blood Pony played was just me, a solo show at the Way Out Club in 2008. It went terribly, I mean it was really bad. It was the first time I ever sang in front of people. It was really slow country songs. They were nothing like what we sound like now. I might give that [style] another shot just because I don't really know people down there. There seems to be a big metal scene in Richmond, which is kind of worrisome. There's gotta be some Appalachian Mountain boys playing some fiddle or something down there. I'm sure I'll find somebody. I'm definitely on the lookouts.
When you start playing shows in Richmond do you think you'll re-use any of these songs, or will you start fresh?
We wrote one new song since the full-length release in January that never really had a chance to be recorded or anything. Maybe at first it might be nice to have some kind of collection of music but... I don't know. I feel like those are their songs as well. Even though I wrote them, there are still some obvious elements that they've added. And also those songs are kind of written for a big seven-piece band. I obviously wrote them by myself, but they sound so much better with everyone else. I'll probably try and write some new stuff and see if I can go in a different direction. New cities kind of inspire you to do something different.
When all is said and done, do you feel that you accomplished what you wanted to accomplish with this group?
Yeah, definitely. We played 40 shows, which is pretty good. We played at The Pageant, which is great, released two recordings that seemed to go over pretty well. We've been playing with all these great touring bands at Off Broadway and The Firebird, most recently Jessica Lea Mayfield. We opened for her. That was a really great show. And to have opportunities to play for these people... And obviously we've had a really good time. We keep joking about how we're happy we're not breaking up because of some big band drama. That always seems to happen. It's just real casual. I let them know a few months ago and it's been kind of winding down and we're having a good time, so I think that's maybe the best way to go.
You might have answered this question by answering the last one, but do you have any particular favorite memories that stand out?
There's a lot. There were certain moments when the band was forming where things just seemed to make sense. When we first started writing songs, I was still a little nervous about singing because it was the first band I'd ever sung in, and Cody, the violin player comes over for the first time. He's never played in a band before, and we're all kind of in this weird, nervous state. And he starts playing his violin and all the power in the house goes off instantly, and it doesn't come back on. We blew something. So we had to play the two songs we'd been writing acoustically, and it just sounded so nice and so beautiful and it seemed to really make sense for him to fit in.
There's little moments like that where things just kind of come to place, but in terms of fun, that mustache festival we played was hilarious. We had these gross giant mustaches. I looked so NASCAR. I had a big U-Haul hat on. Or like the [second] CD release show. We're a local band and 250 people showed up. It was so much fun. Everybody came out and had a great time. It was a nice feeling to see that everybody actually cared that we're doing something and trying to put a CD out.
There was a lot of... People would see that we have everybody playing all these instruments and someone would show up and be like, "I play this weird instrument. Can I join your band?" Like we'll just take anybody. We've had some weird offers, like clarinet players and marimbas, things like that, that you just don't expect to have someone ask. But we can't really haul a marimba around.
Is there anything else you'd like to add? Any final grand conclusion to the thesis that is your band?
The only thing else I can think of is the unity of the music scene lately has been really nice. Everyone's very chummy and nice and helpful and setting up shows with each other and being friends and hanging out outside of shows. I've been doing artwork for other bands now as a result of general relationships. It's been really nice. It's like a weird little community that's really getting stronger and growing and shows are being well attended. Better bands are coming to town. It's been really nice. I'm really thankful for those kinds of things. I'm worried that Richmond will not have such open arms for me unless I wanna shred.