Photo: Doug Schwarz

With the third anniversary of Oklahoma City outfit Skating Polly coming on the eve of Halloween, things are shaking out how every band dreams it will.

The duo recently signed a manager and found a booking agent, and a record deal looks to be inked in the very near future. It’s been opening for increasingly bigger bands, most recently a two-night stand in Tulsa and Houston with beloved indie act Band of Horses.

But when Skating Polly stepped onstage each of those nights, the crowd reacted a little differently than it would to any other opener.

Skating Polly is just as practiced and professional as any other band that could have filled that slot, with more than a few impossibly catchy tunes in their repertoire.

But when Cain’s Ballroom and the House of Blues cleared out, it was the opener on everyone’s minds. That’s simply what happens when a duo whose members are just 12 and 17 years old rock just as hard as the headliner.

X marks the spot
Metro crowds have held a soft spot in their hearts for Kelli Mayo, 12, and Peyton Bighorse, 17, since they first started performing in late 2009.

Those earliest shows were filled with precocious energy, raw talent and charming covers of artists as unexpected as M.I.A. and
Ol’ Dirty Bastard. There were hiccups, missed chords, awkward silences
and restarted songs, but they were markedly better each time you heard
them — the sort of learning curve you enjoy when you aren’t even legally
allowed to drive.

tons of shows and hundreds (if not thousands) of hours of practice, the
two have grown from an adorable punk-rock duo to a formidable one
capable of stealing the show from an act as accomplished as Band of
Horses; punk icon Mike Watt, for whom they open tonight at The
Conservatory; and noise darlings Deerhoof, with whom they play Saturday
in Dallas.

“Shows are
so much more different now. We had mess-ups here and there, because we
were so little. We’ve always taken it seriously, but now it’s more
intense,” Mayo said. “The pressure is on. We’ve got our act together.”

drive always has been present, but professional relationships with
Depth & Current’s Chris Harris, The Boom Bang and other local bands
have helped steer them in the right direction.

found their latest mentor in Exene Cervenka, whose seminal punk band,
X, was formed more than two decades before Mayo was even born.

fans of X, Mayo and Bighorse introduced themselves after Cervenka
performed at The Conservatory, telling her that they were in a band and
handing off a CD to her — a simple act that left a big impression.

“She told us we brightened her day,” Suitor said.

Soon after, Cervenka offered to produce their sophomore release, Lost Wonderfuls; of course, they accepted, recording the album with her last Christmas at Harris’ Hook Echo Sound studio in Norman.

that album, we were really inspired by X, of course, and working with
Exene was a dream come true,” Mayo said. “She’s a real artist. She’s
legendary … a god. Every memory she had, we wanted it. We held her down
and asked her questions between song takes. I think she got a kick out
of that.”

Bighorse, “She really inspired us to get into the music and be true to
ourselves. It’s all about the music, not about money or fame. It’s been
really great meeting people who tell you it’s not about anything but the

Not greasy kids’ stuff
Skating Polly encountered its first bit of label trouble when a deal with the imprint initially enlisted to release Lost Wonderfuls fell
through (although it appears another is picking the album up with a
release date somewhere in the vicinity of South by Southwest), but
instead of locking themselves in their bedrooms and crying like the average teen girl, the two worked
instead, writing and recording a third album, as-yet-untitled and full
of piano ballads inspired by Fiona Apple and the like.

Even with just a short amount of time between each record, the differences are immense.

“It’s weird to listen to [2010’s debut, Taking Over the World]. It’s
like, ‘Is that really us?’ We sound so young,” Bighorse said. “I still
like it, but it’s a lot different from what we do now. Our songs are so
much more advanced and complex than those are.”

Mayo of the progression, “I like hearing that we’ve improved. You can
clearly hear it. There’s always things you want to change, but we liked
it at the time. If we thought it was good enough to put on an album,
then it must be.”

punk rock to piano pop, finding a musical identity is difficult,
especially when you are in the process of doing the same for yourself.

hard to choose what to play,” Mayo said. “We like so many different
types, and at our age and experience, we just kind of want to experiment
with it all.”

The girls have plenty of time to do just that … a lifetime, it would seem.

“I love school, but this is
our dream and a real goal,” Mayo said. “This isn’t just a lemonade
stand. This is something we are going to be doing forever.”

pair hopes people are seeing that commitment and quality will translate
to being not a good gimmick, but instead, just a good band.

never wanted to be a novelty, and I hope that wears off. I know we get
attention because we are young, but we want to do this until we die,”
Mayo said. “We’re not fake. We write serious songs.”

demand to be taken seriously, but that doesn’t mean Mayo and Bighorse
aren’t enjoying themselves. You’d be hard-pressed to catch them not
smiling, onstage or off. They relish every moment and every chance encounter. When they hear their songs on The
Spy’s airwaves, they smile as big and wide as they did the first time.

And nothing points to that attitude going away.

You see, lots of teenagers dream of being rock stars; Skating Polly is living it.

“We have fun. We’re not depressed little kids; we’re happy,” Mayo said. “And we are really happy getting to do this.”

Hey! Read This:
The Boom Bang interview 
Depth & Current interview  
Skating Polly's Taking Over the World album review    

Photos by Doug Schwarz

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