It’s been three years since New Young Pony Club broke onto the fledgling indie dance punk scene with Fantastic Playroom, the debut that yielded two hit singles, “Ice Cream” and “The Bomb,” as well a nomination for the prestigious UK Mercury Prize. But Andy Spence, guitarist and producer for NYPC who recently talked with The Retrospective via telephone about their sophomore album, Optimist, wants you to know it wasn’t for a lack of trying.
After admitting that their first endeavor, full of irresistible hooks and catchy lyrics tailor-made for late night dance parties, may have been a bit ahead of the music curve in 2007, Spence made it clear that Optimist was all about challenging themselves as songwriters and musicians. Instead of cashing in on the electro-pop movement that churned out music of debatable quality, Spence and the rest of the band were determined to take their time crafting an inspiring, intelligent and introspective record that was more than just a group of endlessly remixed singles.
“That was definitely one of the criticisms of our first album, that you need to have songs. “Ice Cream” was a huge hit but had a narrow sound. The first album was intentionally limited, since our sound hadn’t really developed that much. Writing back then was really new, and now we want to explore unknown areas of ourselves. And on Optimist, that’s partly where the title came from, that confidence we felt to do something good, to push ourselves into unknown areas that may have been a little uncomfortable. It felt really good, and we knew it was good.”
And in an age where constant self-promotion and an identifiable sound is critical to a band’s success, Spence knew they’d have to find new ways to get their music to their audience. One huge move for New Young Pony Club was the formation of their own label, Numbers, through which they’ve released Optimist.
“Anyone can put themselves on Youtube, but how are you going to find it if no one’s heard of it? You still need a machine behind you, to some extent, a kickstart to get people’s attention. Just getting people to buy music is hard, and when they do buy it, they’ve got all these other bands they can buy, all these other bands that are being pushed on them. You realize the money that’s put into it, and then that equates to you spending money to recoup money. For bands just starting out, it’s terrifying to self-release a record. It’s been a lot of hard work.”
New Young Pony Club has also experimented with their creative process. While in the studio they worked exhaustively to construct and refine tracks like Optimist’s lilting opener “Lost a Girl,” and had more input in developing videos, which was a welcome break from the bottleneck of approval that comes with working with a traditional label.
“‘Lost a Girl’ took a long time to get right. We really crafted it and spent a long time deconstructing it, moving it forward. We tried lots of things, like different chords, and really pushed to go a little bit deeper as songwriters. I’m really proud of our songs, and we’ve been a lot happier with the videos. It’s really exciting for us because we’re really proud of it and we’ve been involved in finding the directors and talking and meeting with them.”
Andy also moonlights as a DJ, and was preparing for a gig later that night in Austria by burning a CD which featured a remix of the Horrors. Despite his engagement with all kinds of music genres and styles, Andy likes to keep his DJ mindset away from his personal music preferences, and not let his producer’s ear overanalyze the new Beach House or Yeasayer album to which he’s relaxing.
Optimist was finished in September ’09 and released in March ’10, though that months-long interval didn’t see Andy and the band resting with their feet up after a long haul in the studio. There were remixes to be commissioned, videos to be planned, and yes, tours to be architected. They’ve already played several dates in the UK and wil be hitting festivals and clubs in France, Ireland and Spain through July. Next stop? Hopefully North America.
“We have a lot of support in the US and Canada, and hopefully we’ll get to come over there soon. People may have criticized us for taking too long, but we wanted to take our time, if it’s done half-way it’s not worth it for anyone. We didn’t want to cash in on the name really quick, we really wanted something quality.”
New Young Pony Club, through their dedication to experimentation and willingness to step out of the comfortable confines of their first album, have a crafted a record to inspire, excite, and endure.