Music Editor Jodie Leith chats to Glasgow punks Dead Pony about their latest single 23, Never Me, cutting bullshit friends, women in punk, and trying to make the scene a more inclusive space.
Up-and-coming, post-punk quartet Dead Pony have enjoyed their fair share of success in a rather sensational, albeit, surreal 2020. From playing a sold-out, cramped-but-bouncing King Tuts and supporting The Dunts at a monumental gig in SWG3’s Galvanizers Yard, to becoming championed as indie rising stars on BBC’s Radio 1 – the band aren’t set to slow down anytime soon.
The band embody the play-loud-be-unapologetic motto of punk bands gone by and with a nomination for best rock/alternative act in this year’s Scottish Alternative Music Awards, it’s clear Dead Pony are on a post-punk upswing.
I caught up with lead singer and guitarist, Anna Shields, and bassist, Liam Adams, over Zoom to discuss their whirlwind of a year. The morning of the supposed American election result, between questionable internet connections and the occasionally shared disdain for the limbo-like period of lockdown in which everyone used Zoom to play trivia games with friends, we spoke about their latest single 23, Never Me, toxic friends and not judging a music scene by its cover.
The Glasgow Guardian: First of all, congratulations! You’ve recently been nominated for best rock/alternative act in this year’s Scottish Alternative Music Awards. What was your reaction when you found out?
Anna Shields: Not necessarily surprised. We’d been nominated for the past two years in a row and haven’t won yet. So, we were kind of hopeful we would get another nomination; hopefully we win it this year. Third time lucky!
GG: How would you describe your band to someone who hasn’t heard you yet?
AS: I would probably say it is high energy, fun and it’s got a lot of attitude.
GG: You’ve mentioned your latest single, 23, Never Me is about cutting toxic ties from your life. Can you talk a bit more about the meaning behind the song?
AS: I wrote the song with Blair last year when I was 23 and coming to a point in my life where I felt I had so many people in my life and couldn’t be bothered with them. I know that sounds really fucking terrible, but I got to this point where I was like I just can’t be bothered with you and you and you and you … So, I don’t want to be pals anymore, I don’t want to associate with you. Go on – do your own thing. I think everyone gets to that point in your life where you feel like you’re focusing all your energy on trying to befriend a big group of people, when really, I should’ve focused my energy on my closer circle. That’s what the songs about, coming to terms with who you are a person and what your priorities are in relationships and saying “fuck it – this is what I look for in relationships, so I’m only going to seek that out in people.”
GG: I think it’s especially relevant because a lot of music is focused on being a teenager and having fun with friends and new experiences, but in your twenties, it’s important to speak about that shift of priority.
AS: Exactly. People don’t really sing about, or speak about, friendship breakups. Which, in my opinion, can be more harmful or hurtful than relationship breakups in some cases. I’ve had so many friendships that have gone overnight and I’ve been really upset by it, but I’ve started to realise – if they don’t want to be friends with me, why do I want to be friends with them? Why am I trying to impress someone who clearly doesn’t want to put in the effort in the relationship? That’s what this song signifies. And it’s nice to have it tattooed on my arm as well as a reminder of that.
GG: The promotion for the single has certainly been unique. So, is the tattoo that said “23, Never Me” on the cover of the single real? And what was the idea behind the handmade Dead Pony mask up for grabs?
AS: The tattoo is real! I got it tattooed! Lucia & the Best Boys drummer, Aly, does tattoos, and he tattooed it on me. We got pictures while he was tattooing me and after it was finished – that’s why it looks a bit red and disgusting in the picture. And I made the masks, too. I do a lot of sewing. I like working with textiles and I do a lot of up-cycling and making my own clothes. One of our aims is to start releasing one-of-a-kind, upcycled merch. So, this is the first example of future things to come!
GG: It seems you’re a key figure in the punk/alternative scene that’s thriving here at the minute. How would you describe the Glasgow music scene to outsiders or people who aren’t too familiar with it?
AS: I think it’s extremely tight-knit. It’s so supportive! There’s a misconception that it’s cliquey – I used to feel that way as well before I was involved in the scene. Everyone thinks, “It’s so cliquey. They don’t want to be friends with me; they’re all friends with each other.”
Liam Adams: Yeah, I did too. That you’re not “inside the circle.”
AS: Exactly, but it’s totally not like that. The Glasgow music scene, particularly the punk scene, is just so inclusive in terms of who we’re friends with. As long as you’re a good person and in a band – you’ve got pals! The amount of favours we’ve had to call on other bands … if an amp has broken the day before a gig; we’ve had to call up someone and ask to borrow an amp. Blair had to borrow a bass off a girl for a while. Just wee favours like that, everyone is willing to do anything for you which is just a lovely feeling.
LA: It’s great as well because it is so tight-knit. If you’re on the same bill as some of the other bands, as a Glasgow punk band, you’re usually friends with them already. So, you’re playing that gig with a bunch of great bands that are also your pals at the same time. It’s a good scene. It’s not a competition, it’s good to see your mates do well and other bands (even if you’re not friends with them). If they’re doing well and have eyes on them; it brings the Glasgow scene attention.
AS: I’ve always said, there’s no point in not supporting your peers because all you’ll do is become bitter and jealous if anything goes well for them. Plus, they’re genuinely our friends, so we just want to see our friends thrive and do well. There are some people in the scene who do need whittled out a bit; some people who start shit. It’s not all hunky-dory. But at the end of the day, everyone is close and friends. It’s a very, very good community.
GG: As a woman in a creative field, I wondered. You’re a female-fronted band. Often in music scenes, not just in Glasgow, it can be male-dominated, especially with punk. But bands like yourself, Lucia & the Best Boys, Spyres and The Van T’s have represented some badass women in punk. Anna especially, what does it mean to you to represent women in music? Would you like to see more women in the scene?
AS: I think that women in bands are so underrepresented, especially in punk, grunge and rock music. It’s more common for women to make country, folk or pop. In all aspects of the music industry, women are underrepresented, so it feels good to be in a band that has a girl in it. I kind of hope we can get to the point that one day we don’t have to talk about women being in bands, one day. I feel like my whole life it’s like “What’s it like being a woman in a band?” It’s a societal thing like, “Oh, there’s a woman in a band!” My main aim is to eradicate that total narrative because I want it to just be like a band. We’ve experienced so much sexism over our short career and not being treated completely equal. You just think: if this is our experience with little microaggressions at gigs – what has every other woman in the industry experienced which could be far more detrimental to their career or to them as people? The way that our world is set up, it just doesn’t favour women at all, in any industry. Hopefully, one day, it’ll be more inclusive, especially the Glasgow scene. All we can do is keep trying to get people involved in music and try to make the scene a safe space for everyone – people of colour, people of the LGBTQ+ community and women – because when something is so cis, white, male-dominated there are a lot of implications that come with that.
GG: You have such a punky, loud, vibrant sound. Growing up, what shaped your taste in music? Which artists are your inspirations?
AS: Liam, you take this one. I’m just going to end up saying High School Musical or Miley Cyrus.
LA: In my early teens I was really into early eighties, like Joy Division and The Clash. For me, bass-wise it had to be straight but high energy. Post-punk or punk driven stuff. But then I strayed into more melodic stuff like Talking Heads, which was a big one. I’m a sucker for indie classics. I’d say my dad was a big influence and got me into the eighties. All my mum listens to is U2, so I’m not often down that road. It was my dad that got me into bass, as well, he played in bands over the years.
GG: It’s been a weird time for the music industry, not being able to play gigs or have that same sense of music community. How has lockdown been for the band? What did you all get up to?
LA: Luckily, we had a stomper of a gig just before lockdown. It was three days before lockdown, in March, when we supported The Dunts and it sold out. They absolutely smashed it. But over lockdown, I’ve not been doing much to be honest. It’s definitely been a good opportunity to spend time on music. There’s not much else to do, when you’re in the house all day. It can be hard getting in a creative mindset; with nothing going on, there’s not much to get your creative energy flowing.
AS: Yeah, it’s almost like Groundhog Day. But we have been quite good. We’ve been doing a lot of writing and recording a lot of demos remotely. We’re sitting on a lot of really good songs – hopefully to come out next year. So, it hasn’t been a total waste of time for us, but I miss gigging so much. I can’t remember what the feelings like to walk out on stage.
LA: I know. I think I’ve forgotten how to bass.
GG: And again, looking back to normal “gig” life, what’s been your favourite gig that you’ve played?
AS: I think it was The Dunts gig. Galvanizers stage, it’s such a great, great venue. It was sold out, with around 1200 people in attendance. A lot of fans of The Dunts are also fans of us. It had such great energy and we had a great team behind us. It was such a good vibe. I remember going to the gig and not drinking because I was working early the next day. Now I look back and I’m like … why didn’t I just go out and get mad wae it and phone in sick to work the next day? If only I’d known.
LA: I think mine was King Tuts, when it sold out in January. I think it was one of my first gigs with the band. King Tuts is so good and because it’s so small you can pack in a bunch of folk. More often than not, it’s pretty rowdy and properly high energy. It’s good when you can feel the floor shaking.
AS: After lockdown, I swear I’ll never turn down a gig again.
LA: It’s going to be mental. Literally, everyone will be touring at the same time.
GG: It’s a hard question to answer with Covid, but does the band have any future plans? Is there an album on the horizon?
AS: With our last single on LAB records released; hopefully an EP next year. I don’t think we’re at the stage where we’re ready to do an album. We’ve announced one gig next year, which is Sonic Wave festival in May. But we’re just going to keep writing music, releasing belters and release an EP early next year – hopefully.
Dead Pony’s latest single 23, Never Me is available now and you can find them online at:
Spotify: Dead Pony
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