It’s not multiple personality disorder, exactly.
Many of the area’s finest musicians, after all, flit between multiple projects, playing a festival here, helping on a record there. Local pop musician Steven Battles is familiar with the phenomenon, having backed Norman acts like The Nghiems and Jacob Abello.
When Battles lends a hand to electro-pop act Chrome Pony, however, it’s a slightly deeper investment.
In terms of reality — actual, physical presence — and sometimes even songs, Steven Battles is Chrome Pony, but when it comes to stage presence and personality (and answering interview questions, apparently), the two couldn’t be more disparate.
At many Chrome Pony performances, a booming recorded monologue precedes the show: “From the force of his character, starting aside from the stray path like some mighty steed that seizes the bit between his teeth …” Sure, it’s a little flashy, but it’s also a dead-on explanation.
“I was writing a song and singing ‘chrome pony,’” Battles said, “and later that night, I had a dream of a planet on fire, and out of the flames came the silhouette of a man walking towards me.
It was me. That was me in the flames.”
Since then, Battles and Chrome Pony have been inseparable, with the latter recently dipping into Battles’ back catalog of pop gems for show fodder.
“We write songs together sometimes, and sometimes we use my songs, and sometimes we use Steven’s songs,” Chrome said.
If you’re still with me/him/us, there’s more. Sometimes, Chrome Pony performs solo in an artificial lounge setting. Other times, he’s backed by electro DJ outfit Crystal Vision. Last year’s Norman Music Festival featured Chrome onstage into the wee hours of the night with Crystal Vision and a full rock band, including members of The Pretty Black Chains, Gentle Ghost, Broncho and Stardeath and White Dwarfs.
“I’ve never really believed that the sound is the core of the music I write. I like to experience a song in multiple formats,” Chrome said. “It’s beautiful to hear a song played sweet as well as sour, sad as well as happy. So in a sense, the more native element of my music would be a nomadic approach to the sound: changing the sound and exploring the dynamic of the music that way.
“It’s kind of like trying to fall in love if you’ve never been in love before:
walking around wanting it and hoping you’ll stumble into it, but you’re
not really sure if you believe in it, because you’ve never really
experienced it before, and so you don’t really know what the fuss is all
The approach is also convenient, according to Battles.
“If people are around, they can play,” he said, “and if not, then Chrome can play alone.”
will be around Saturday night as Chrome Pony takes the Opolis stage
with full band in tow, opening for Tulsa hip-hop collective Oilhouse and
Oklahoma City rapper Jabee.
then, Chrome Pony and Battles will continue perfecting their — er, his —
creative relationship. Chrome is currently at work on a new record,
while Battles is working to fund them.
Said Chrome of the pair’s symbiosis: “I’m his burden.”
Appearing with Chrome Pony at Saturday's show is the 405's ever-prolific rapper Jabee. Currently finishing an EP produced by none other than hip-hop tastemaker El-P (of the influential Definitive Jux record label), Jabee released a new digital single on Nov. 14, "Ghetto." The free download features fellow Oklahoma City rhymer Yung Jones as "guest emcee."
It'll hold you over until Tuesday, when Jabee's "Lucky Me" mixtape gets a remastered re-release, featuring expanded cuts and remixes. Available on iTunes, it also can be yours on limited-edition physical discs as well.
For more information, visit iamjabee.bandcamp.com. —Rod Lott