This week's edition of New Music Thursdays was curated by Notes From Middle America columnist Danny R. Phillips.
Many musicians try different sounds, vibes and configurations before hitting on one that seems to ring true. Josh Thomas had been through a couple of different bands prior to landing on the post-shoe gaze freak-out that is Kansas City’s High Diving Ponies.
There was Bodisartha, the Nirvana/Mudhoney alterna-grunge band that released two albums. Then came The Spidermums, a band the released a few EPs and got a mention in Pitchfork for their cover of The Amps’ “Bragging Party” that appeared on a compilation with Deerhunter. “Pitchfork is always looking for a reason to write about Deerhunter so I guess that's how I wound up on there.”
But with High Diving Ponies, Josh says he wants to go in a entirely different direction. That’s one of the reasons his previous band is no more. “Bodisartha was too heavily associated with the Nirvana and the music I was making wasn’t fitting into that mold anymore. I just wanted to do something different.” Hence, High Diving Ponies.
The band pieced together with members of KC bluescore band The Factory Workers (Justin Brooks on drums and Al Amador on bass) along with friends Steve Williams on cello and Kyle Pugh on guitar. Although Thomas said he had the songs written before putting together the band, High Diving Ponies is not a one-man band. “We’ve come up with a lot just fucking around at practice. These guys bring out things I would have never thought of. The next record will be a totally collaborative effort.”
Thomas sights My Bloody Valentine, The Flaming Lips, Vivian Girls, Boo and Boo Too and The Beatles as music favorites that lead to the creation of HDP and a sound he affectionately calls “danger pop.” It is a swirling dream of effects, acoustic/electric guitars and vocals that sound like they were recorded in a room a thousand years wide. Traditional song craft, melody and structure stand hand in hand with anarchy and chaos. The three songs on the band’s MySpace page (“Muppets”, “Meatheads” and “I Smell Like Smoke”) are a step in the right, unsettling direction.
An album is in the works but Josh is taking his time with the release. “Hopefully it will be out this summer," he said. "We’re almost done recording it but I want to sit on it a month and then go back and listen to it and make sure we still think it sounds right. There’s no rush to release it." When it is released it will be on Circle View/Chomp Womp. And he will go the old school route: it will be DIY cds with spray painted covers -- and if they can get the plates done cheap enough, Josh says he'd like to do vinyl, a limited run of about 300.
Though he considers him part of the “Chomp Womp Family”, a collective made up of Kansas City/ Lawrence, Kansas bands Baby Birds Don’t Drink Milk (previously featured in Notes From Middle America), Rooftop Vigilantes and many others, he stops short at calling himself part of the KC music community. "It’s not really a good scene," he said. "There are no good radio stations, no good zines but there are some good venues. Maybe it is a good scene. I don’t know, I’m not part of it. I’m doing my own thing.”
If doing his own thing consists of surrounding himself with great musicians making strange, dreamy, at times violent and always thought-provoking music, it’s ok if he’s not part of a conventional scene. He knows what he wants to do, he’s good at it and that’s scene enough.
High Diving Ponies - "Muppets"