By Brad Simm
At 19 years of age, Keli Mayo is already a punk rock veteran with an impressive pedigree.
After forming Skating Polly with her stepsister, Peyton Bighorse, the band met legendary singer Exene Cervanka in 2010 following a show in their hometown Oklahoma City. A relationship blossomed with Cervanka who helped record their second album. From there, the fuzzed-up, rambunctious, twee-pop sound of Skating Polly drew the attention of many notable bands, including Babes in Toyland, Deerhoof, and The Flaming Lips who they’ve supported on tour.
“I don’t know about veteran,” says Mayo reflecting on the description. “But it feels like my lifestyle and the only thing I’m real comfortable in. Sometimes the only thing I’m comfortable in. I dabbled in acting, and that feels kind of strange. Same with applying for a real job. That feels really strange. Even though I’ve made so much progress with my band, it’s kind of awkward to put that on a resume for a clothing store or to watch someone’s kid,” laughs Mayo out loud.
While she gets “pissed off when people make assumptions I’m clueless because I’m young,” Mayo is actually well-versed in rock and roll from playing bars at a tender age to having an alternative education. Growing up in OKC, her father was instrumental in guiding Skating Polly through their formative years. A pop-culture connoisseur who’s love of film and art with an extensive record collection was impossible not to breath in.
“Definitely,” says Mayo. “That’s been my family thing for as long as I can remember. Movies, music, going to art museums and traveling. With all that, of course I’m going to be a musician! I had a really good support system. Until I was 16 my dad came on tour with us, he drove the van.”
Her brother Kurtis, who also absorbed copious amounts of their dad’s cultural appreciation, joined the band in 2017 stretching its spectrum passion and power even further. Now living in Tacoma, WA, Skating Polly has aligned themselves with a number of styles ranging from boisterous noise-pop to lo-fi folk, but constantly seek to soak up other influences and expand their sonic universe.
“The band wouldn’t work well unless we’re constantly changing. With this next record, Kurtis and I have been messing around with some crazy beats. It won’t be rap or trip-hop, but we’re thinking of that as a basis and moving it to real instruments.”
While they’ve played with some very “cool bands” long established, many current artists also inspire Mayo. “I’d like to be part of this art scene that’s bubbling. We just got signed to a new publishing company, Terrorbird. They represent all these freaky, weird people that are always changing. That’s the direction I’d like to keep going.”
In transition, Mayo and Skating Polly embrace the state of evolution. “I often get asked about music from the 70s and 80s, that we love. And I’m never going to turn down touring with my favourite bands from the 90s. No way, I’m so grateful for that. But there’s also a lot of good music happening now. Say what you want about Pitchfork or Spin, but I’d love to be on their radar. Even if they hate us,” laughs Mayo.
Skating Polly perform at LanaLous (Vancouver) on Wednesday, Sept. 4 and Broken City (Calgary) on Friday, Sept. 6Broken City, LanaLous, Skating Polly