You’ll be hard-pressed to read a piece about Skating Polly, this one included, that doesn’t mention the fact that step-sisters Kelli Mayo and Peyton Bighorse were 9 and 14, respectively, when they started the band. That was in 2009 – their first show was at their family Halloween party that year – yet while their age is remarkable, it’s also irrelevant.
To listen, or avoid, their music because of it would be foolish – their music deserves to be listened to on its own merits. Their self-styled “ugly pop” is a visceral and vicious, raw and snarling mix of riot grrl and grunge-punk – think a cross between Jack Off Jill, L7, Babes In Toyland and Hole – that, frankly, is accomplished way beyond their years. Initially based in Oklahoma, they moved along with their family in November 2015 to Tacoma, a city some 30 miles south of Seattle.
“We came up here the first time to record an album in Olympia, which is about 30 miles from here,” explains Bighorse. “It’s really refreshing. I never really felt like I fit in in Oklahoma, and it’s great being in a place where we definitely fit in. It’s not even something that I have to think about – I know that I fit in here. It’s hard living in a place with such horrible politics and fake people and with people who think differently, and it’s so tough growing up with that.”
“Just making music is more respected here, too,” adds Mayo. “I have friends – or people who I thought were friends – who thought it was the dumbest thing that I would be home schooled so I could go tour. I had one friend in particular who would just critique me for that. Here, everyone understands that. There’s no pressure to go to college. There’s no set way of living, and I feel like everyone creates here. We have the whole basement to ourselves – it’s our practice space and it’s our bedroom and our painting space. Peyton has Polaroids all over the walls and it’s been great.”
While the two-piece – who switch vocals and instruments as if it’s second nature – have the full support and encouragement of their punk-loving parents (“It’s not the most financially safe thing to help out and support,” says Mayo, “but they do and we pay them back.”) they’ve also had the nod from big names in the world of music. After a gig in Oklahoma City, the pair met X’s Exene Cervenka. She ended up producing their second album, 2013’s Lost Wonderfuls, while in the summer of 2015, Babes In Toyland took the pair on tour around the UK. Their fourth record, The Big Fit, is out now, and is, truly, one of the standout albums of 2016. It’s no surprise to learn, then, that this isn’t just a fun hobby for them. It’s much more than that, and always has been – even on that Hallowe’en night when they first performed together.
“I honestly think that me and Peyton thought of this as a career from Day One,” says Mayo. “We took ourselves so seriously, it was hilarious.”
“It was really like a sketch in a comedy show or something,” adds Bighorse.
“I remember the day we started our band,” says Mayo, “and this is so embarrassing, but I don’t care if you put it in because it’s kind of cute – we said ‘We have to practice our signatures because we’re going to get famous!’ I wasn’t stressed about it, but always took it really seriously. We’re going to be doing this forever.”
Skating Polly’s album The Big Fit is out now via Chap Stereo. For more information, visit their website.