Talking Personal Style with the Up-And-Coming Alternative Band: Skating Polly

by Rachel Efruss

Illustration by Rachel Efruss

The first time I saw stepsisters Kelli Mayo and Peyton Bighorse perform as Skating Polly was at SXSW 2014 during a Girls Rock Camp day party. The duo played songs from their February 2014 release, Fuzz Steilacoom, which my high-school-riot-grrrl-self had been singing along to all month. In the crowd, there were these two adorable little girls wearing tutus who had been dancing throughout Skating Polly’s entire set, and Mayo ended the show by inviting them onstage. Mayo then invited every girl in the audience onstage and passed around her bass — bright blue, with only three strings and a furry hot pink strap — so the girls could try playing. It was probably the most heartwarming finale to a punk show I’ve seen in Austin.

Four years, a third band member, two albums, and one EP later, Skating Polly’s shows are still packed with that same intense energy and sincerity. I talked with musicians Mayo and Bighorse over video chat on their current creative endeavors and personal style.

girl band musicians fashion tour life on the road
Photo by Amina Cruz

Spark Magazine: Where are you guys right now?

Kelli Mayo: We just finished our tour. We’re in Oklahoma at a friend’s house filming a music video.

SM: Awesome! What can you tell me about this music video?

KM: It’s for the song “Free Will at Ease.” We just did two tours kind of sandwiched together. I mean there was a little break in between them but it was only like a week and half, and as soon as that was over we started working on this. Then as soon as we’re finished working on this, we’re gonna drive up to LA and film “Camelot.”

Peyton Bighorse: The guy, Thomas, who made the video for “Little Girl Blue” is making this one too. We’re really excited to see how it’s gonna turn out.

SM: Do you guys still get to put a lot of your own creative input in these videos, even when you’re working with other directors?

KM: Definitely. A lot of times we either help create the concept from the ground up or we come up with the concept and hand it to someone else, like, “Can you shoot this?” There have been a couple of exceptions where people come up with the ideas but we’re usually very, very involved with the process. We pick our own costumes, help find a location. We usually have to end up being a production assistant and a music video star.

SM: Onstage and in your videos, you guys have a really distinct sense of style. Is your style intentional?

KM: Yeah, Peyton and I both really like clothes. We have different styles, I guess I’m probably more flashy than Peyton.

PB: But I don’t put any less effort into my clothes even though they’re less flashy.

KM: I’m always going through different phases. I go through a different clothing phase like every other month. Like, “I’m 70s!”, “I’m punk!”, “I’m Exene!”, “I’m a tomboy!”

PB: But also in a way they’re all the same, they’re all very “Kelli.”

KM: Yeah, there’s a sense of Kelli in them all.

PB: I just throw on whichever black shorts I have and a black top.

KM: And then we go to Target.

PB: And then we go to Target and find more black clothes.

SM: Where else do you like to shop? Or is it all Target?

KM: We really like vintage clothes.

PB: I love Target because it’s hard for me to find stuff. And vintage stores. There is this cool vintage store near us called Scorpio Rising.

KM: Yeah, it’s in Tacoma, Washington. It’s pretty great. There’s also a store here in Oklahoma that’s been really cool to us called Bad Granny’s and they lent us the clothes for “Queen for a Day” and for this video we’re working on right now. Scorpio Rising lent us all the clothes for our album cover and the music video for “Little Blue Girl.”

girl band musicians fashion tour life on the road
Image from the music video to “Hail Mary”, directed by Dave Smith

SM: What about what you’re wearing now?

PB: I’ve been wanting a sparkly sequin slip dress forever, and I just found this at a shop in Oklahoma City called Dig It. I was so stoked.

KM: We’re actually in our music video costumes right now. We just finished a take. We had an alarm set for 6:10, and we were like “Oh! Interview.”

PB: So like five minutes ago we were sitting on top of amps and drums and playing guitar.

SM: When you go on tour how do you decide what to bring?

KM: I usually have one style or so. I try to bring only show clothes. That’s all I’m thinking about, what I’m gonna wear for shows, or if we’re doing a photoshoot on that tour, or if we’re filming a music video. And then I bring like one pair of PJs. I spent like 60% of my life on tour, or maybe 70%, in PJs. And then right when we’re about to sound check I’ll change.

PB: She’s not exaggerating. She will go all day in PJs and then sometimes even after soundcheck she’ll switch. It’s pretty easy for me to pick what to wear because they’re just clothes I would wear normally every day. Shorts, shirts, dresses. I really like to wear sweaters, even in boiling weather. Then I just pack some shorts to sleep in.

KM: Recently, I hadn’t brushed my teeth all day and we were playing DC. I had stalled so long, like through the opening band and then Potty Mouth — who was on tour with us, they were our support band — started playing. There was no green room bathroom, so I went into the public bathroom and was brushing my teeth. People were like, “I’m excited to see you later!” I’m wearing this large, dirty baseball tee and sweatpants.

SM: What does it mean to you to change out of your baseball tee into your stage costume? How do you feel that visual onstage persona relates to your music?

KM: I don’t know, I just try to pick things up that I think will look cool in motion, will look cool whenever I jump, or will make it easier for me to jump. I really like ‘70s pants, like bell bottoms, or high-waisted pants because they look really cool for kicks. I like skirts that are cut in a way where you can kick in them and they don’t trip you. For me, I kind of change my fashion so much that it’s not super closely related to my sound. People associate us with the ‘90s a lot, like grunge or babydoll fashion, so I actually try to avoid that a little bit and just do other things that are less obvious that inspire me, like ‘70s rock, Thin Lizzie or something. Or just overalls.

SM: You’ve used the term “ugly pop” to describe your music, how do you relate that ugliness to visual aesthetics, if at all?

KM: I think all my clothes, even if they’re brand new, end up getting tattered. I like things that don’t necessarily match together. I like old tattered things. I like really sparkly things with really drab, old-man-ish things. I just like to mix things up and have some kind of discombobulated final product. I don’t like my makeup or hair to be too clean or tidy. With the music, but also with my fashion, I never really learned to be like perfectly neat or just clean or just pretty. There’s always a little bit of off-kilterness, or weirdness, or differentness. I’m not really going to try to change that because I kind of like that. That’s what makes us us, so I just put it on display.

girl band musicians fashion tour life on the road
Image from the music video for “Hollywood Factory”, directed by Scott Stuckey with wardrobe by Denisse Rodarte and Adriana Michelle

Last question, do you have a favorite article of clothing right now?

KM: Oh, man. Probably either my purple bell bottoms that my grandma gave me because they have these giant bells on them. They just flare out so much. She actually used to wear them. She made them and she used to wear them out. She just put pink buttons on them for me because the buttons were falling off. Or this leotard with fringe on it. It looks like an “I, Tonya” ice skating outfit. I wear that with tights. Arrow [de Wilde] from Starcrawler gave it to me and that’s also one of my favorite outfits.

PB: I’m trying to think. I really like this dress that I just got, the sparkly one I’m wearing. I really love that. I really like the Doc Martens I just bought. I got some new Doc Martens and they’re really cool. They’re kind of inspired by Japanese art, I think. And then just my normal clothes. I like my black shorts.

KM: I like that white jumpsuit you just bought me, my ABBA jumpsuit. I love jumpsuits, they’re cool as fuck. •

You can listen to Skating Polly’s music online on their website.

Rachel Efruss is a tiny meat crumb residing on a giant ball of dirt. She has two eyes, a nose, a mouth, and many other body parts. Rachel is currently working on a studio art degree with aspirations of one day waiting tables at a large chain restaurant. In addition to Spark, Rachel also works with KVRX and The Daily Texan.

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