The duo, Ryan and Pony, stemmed from the Twin Cities pop-rock group, Melismatics, who’ve played with Soul Asylum, and worked with Jon Auer of The Posies and Dan Wilson of Semisonic, among others. The group toured non-stop, and won a legion of fans, and also having their music placed in shows like “Laguna Beach,” “The Hills,” and “Degrassi,” and many more.
Ryan and Pony have released a new music video, feauturing themselves as cartoons, with their new single “Fast As I Can.” In the video, they battle evil specters in a fantasy landscape, and good always comes out on top, which is fun to watch with their exciting new video. The track also features drummer, Peter Anderson (The Honeydogs, The Ocean Blue, and Run Westy Run).
We caught up with Ryan and Pony and chatted with them about the work they’ve done through the years in music with a variety of bands and artists, some of the artists who’ve had a profound impact on them musically and personally, and what it was like filming and working on “Fast As I Can.”
You both have worked with some major bands and artists along the way. What set the path to combine and write and produce music as a duo?
Ryan: We had been touring with our band The Melismatics for well over a decade, and it became obvious that the band needed a break. We all had to step away to recharge and get a new perspective on what we were doing—and why we were doing it. We were still writing a lot of material and it was moving in a new direction. We needed a vehicle for the songs, and our record label, Pravda suggested we make an album as Ryan and Pony. We thought it would be a cool way to involve some of the incredible musicians we have befriended and worked with over the years as special guests. It really started to evolve into a new band with drummer Peter Anderson. Ryan and Pony has it’s own musical identity that is totally separate from The Melismatics. It’s cool to keep both things alive and we have this new vehicle for our creative output.
Pony: Around the time Ryan and I got pregnant, we were at the tail end of touring and working The Melismatics “Rising Tide.” It made sense for us to take a break because we had worked very hard and we were feeling burnt out. We played 150-200 shows a year for many years. It seemed like since I am a woman having a baby, a lot of people assumed I was done making music when really I was taking a much needed break. I was kind of lost in the shuffle of life as I went through an existential crisis and became a mother, so Ryan was the glue that put Ryan and Pony together -not allowing my music career to die or his. I am very thankful for his drive and passion. And I’m thankful that he reignited that back into me as music is an aspect of my identity.
Which of the artists that each of you have worked with, have had the most lasting impact on you musically?
Ryan: I think Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum has really impacted me as a songwriter. He has this crazy balance of skill, craftsmanship, sincerity, irreverence and defiance. I’d have to say that Jon Auer of The Posies, Grant Hart of Husker Du, Phil Solem of The Rembrandts, and Dan Wilson of Semisonic have also impacted me in a similar way—they are all great writers. The power of a great song is immeasurable. I’ve always been about the songs first and foremost, so working with them has really stuck with me.
Pony: I think everyone I’ve crossed paths with has impacted me. The main person that seemed to be a huge gateway for my music career was Mark Mallman. I learned how to play spontaneously because Mallman was the first person I played with live who would randomly have us jam or take a song to a different place than what was rehearsed or what was on the recording. The first time I experienced this was a rather humbling experience, but at the same time very fun and interesting. Mallman would go off on these crazy spoken word tangents and have the entire crowd captivated like he was a Pied Piper. He even had the entire band enthralled. He kept you on on your toes wondering what would happen next. It was surreal to experience.
Ryan and I met playing in Mallman’s band together. Ryan really impacted my career as well, obviously. We fill out where the other cannot and some of the roles we play can be interchangeable and sometimes not. We creatively work well together. Push each other when we need to be pushed. Back off when we need space. It’s always been a very organic ebb and flow.
When Ryan joined Soul Asylum I noticed on a deeper level what an amazing lyricist Dave Pirner is and how engaging the arrangements and chord structures were. I thought to myself, “I need to write better lyrics and better songs if I continue to write.” I also always felt pushed to be a better player just by watching Ryan’s ethic. Ryan joining Soul Asylum ignited this war for me to get my music career back. I’m still fighting.
This is your first time presenting yourselves as a cartoon in your new video for “Fast As I Can.” Can you explain to us why you both chose to release it as a cartoon?
Ryan: We became aware of the director and artist Sara Miscavage through Soul Asylum. She had made cartoon characters of that band, and it was clear she was incredibly talented and amazing. I had always had a pipe dream of making an anime music video, and we finally had a way to pull it off.
Pony: I really like the ideas of music videos giving a narrative and letting the creator/writer run away with it. Sara did such an amazing job with not only that but with her mad animation skills. What talent!
Whose idea/concept was behind the video for “Fast As I Can”?
Ryan: Sara completely came up with the story line and concept. She listened to the song over and over and came up with the idea. We were blown away by how cool it was.
What’s next for Ryan and Pony?
Ryan: We are finishing up a new full-length album. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter for the details on that. The plan is to release videos for as many of the songs as possible.
Pony: Releasing our album and more videos!
Who was your first concert and do you have a favorite?
Pony: My first concert was The Steve Miller Band. I was 15. I love Steve Miller, but it was not my favorite concert. The venue, lighting, and sound was horrible. My favorite concert vacillates between Iggy and the Stooges at First Avenue or The New York Dolls in Austin, Texas. Both concerts were so epic.
Ryan: Oh yeah those were great shows!! My first show was Sugar at First Avenue. This was Bob Mould’s band after Husker Du. It blew my mind. I’d have to say my favorite concert of all times was seeing a band from Minneapolis 12 Rods playing in the 7th Street Entry at an all ages show early in their career.
What was your first album on cassette, CD and/or vinyl?
Pony: I distinctly remember stealing my older brother’s AC/DC “Highway to Hell” cassette and listening to that obsessively at age 6. That was when my love of the guitar began.
Ryan: I bought Prince’s “Batman” Soundtrack and Husker Du “Warehouse: Songs and Stories” with money I made mowing someone’s lawn as a youngin’.
What five albums or artists would you not want to live without?
Ryan: I’ll go with artists: Joy Division, Radiohead, The Beatles, The Velvet Underground, Led Zeppelin
Do you have a guilty music or entertainment pleasure?
Ryan: I don’t really believe in guilty pleasures. I think if you like something, you shouldn’t be ashamed of it. But… I’ll say that one form of entertainment I really do enjoy is going to theme parks. I really love watching our 4-year-old daughter experience those kinds of things—and I love really fast roller coasters! Ha!
Pony: Bob Seger.