One Trick Pony

I remember the dark room from which my first One Trick Pony experience was born.  It was the song A Whale’s Death. My eyes got sour for a second because the loud quiet heavy soft simple intricate haunting palpitations of the song sort of had a hold on my soul. Throwing me around. And then there was Phone Book…which had a completely different effect. It made me incredibly happy…like how I feel when I hear This Charming Man by The Smiths. That being said…they’re not really one trick ponies. They’ve got tons of stuff up their sleeves…I think I mention that in the first question. So read on. - Keba

Photo by Zoe Roth
Your band's name implies an inability to do new things. But your music proves otherwise. So how does One Trick Pony perpetuate its creativity?
Randolph:I've always been the song writer and the band has had different forms over the years but I'm most happy with the form it's taken now and the philosophy we have.  We have a solid creative core (drummer Jen Matos and I) and we try to make sure each song can stand alone but we also have rotating members who come in and out and allow us to reinvent the songs so that we're never bored.  Some people have said to me that a changing line up and an unpredictable song catalogue lead to confusion of the audience but we like to believe people are more complex than that.  We crave change and dynamics and I think some people can appreciate that.  Jen and I like to believe that there is no genre we don't like (though there's tons of stuff  in each genre we don't like!) and the struggle is to rein in all those influences and digest them in a subtle way. All that being said, Jen is not afraid to tell me that something is in her words, "lame", so as soon as something is labeled lame we try to turn it on its head and go in a different direction.    

I like that philosophy. So how long have you guys been playing together and how did you form?
Randolph:Well I was playing as One Trick Pony since 2003, originally with a drummer and bassist I met when I moved here.  Wow, it was terrible music!  Anyway countless member changes later I Jen when I played a show at musician's institute.  She actually wanted to manage "us".  Ha! Right before our first meeting to talk about management my whole band quit!  Rebuilt the band, met Charlene, our violinist, while doing the music for a Sam Sheppard play, then as we planned a little tour in 2005, the drummer moved home.  We were looking for a drummer and Jen mentions in passing "oh yeah, I play drums and sing." and the rest is history, though relatively unread history! I think we've learned that the theme of our band is the path of least resistance, doing what the easiest and most natural working with what we have, keeping it in house.  We're all friends first.  Right now Josh Solberg plays bass for us (I was just in his wedding) and our friend Todd Mclaughlin plays banjo and mandolin, we've all known each other for years now.    

How would you say your music has evolved since you guys have been playing together?
Randolph:I think it was a process of finding and accepting our "voice", I would think that’s similar to many bands.   For us it didn't happen until very recently.  Probably the biggest part was finally having the stability of the Jen and I as the core of the band.  Before her I think the "band" felt forced and artificial, we were trying to compete with louder rock bands so we could get on the more popular bills.   With Jen, I realized we could have more impact with stripped down line up and focus on lyrics and arrangements instead of just getting the traditional drummer, bassist, keyboard, guitar band thing together.  Before I felt we were covering up weakness with a bunch of instrumentalists, it felt hollow.  Jen and I went to Berlin a year ago and played as a duo, her playing on a cardboard box with a kick pedal and me on acoustic guitar, mainly because we couldn't afford anything else,  and I think it really helped our confidence.  We proved to ourselves that the songs can stand on their own.  From then I think we were finally able find our sound and direction.  Now even when we play with our other friends in "full band" mode it feels natural and heart felt, not with some band model superimposed on us.   We are flexible and with the line up, our relationships in the band, and I think we are happier and the music shows that.  I believe "Full of life"  is the first album we made that reflects that feeling 

Box Song" is in the film Junction. How did that whole thing get together? And what's the movie about?
Jen:We were approached by the writer of the film, April Wade, who had heard of our music through the songwriter Ryan Hanifl. She loved Box Song and thought it would work well for the climax of the film. It's a rather dark comedy, I think it's one of the better things we've had our music placed in, it has won a few awards.
Randolph:Honestly I've never watched it.  I think the creator approached Jen and asked if she could use it.  I tend to be pretty liberal about people using our music, Jen's more paranoid about it, I just say "give it away".   
There are so many bands in Los Angeles. Do you guys get any inspiration from that?
Jen:I wouldn’t say that we pull too much inspiration from other LA bands. For me, I go to shows for the same reason other people do: to be entertained.  That being said, I never get tired of seeing locals Death to Anders, Mad Gregs, or Leslie and the Badgers. If I had to list one local drummer I find intriguing, it would be Lewis from Mad Gregs, his beats are amazing.
Randolph: um... I wouldn't say "inspired".  Bands  bands ad nausea.  Here is where I should check the wave of bitterness swelling inside, ha!  No I don't think we pull inspiration from number of bands in LA, I'd call LA bloated.  Ok, let me get to the next question, end on a positive note!

What bands do you guys listen to?
Jen:Recently I've been listening to St. Vincent, Grizzly Bear, Neutral Milk Hotel, Jason Lytle, and The Rhone Occupation. I've also been listening to a lot of classic rock/alt country lately.   
Randolph:  there are few bands in LA we love.  Death To Anders are one of the most underrated and dynamic bands here.  Mad Gregs are awesome.  Avi Buffalo doesn't need my endorsement but they are amazing.  Bastidas, Seasons, Die Rockers Die (defunct), Health. as for what we're listening to now, I've been listening to a lot of Scott Walker, Miles Davis, and my old hip hop actually, Mobb Deep.