Pony Pony Run Run back in the saddle
Pony Pony Run Run are back with a second album of hedonistic tunes. The threesome from Nantes toured most of Europe before Hey You got them noticed. RFI Musique takes a closer look at how the hip trio made it into the hot seat.
They seemed to come from nowhere. Pony Pony Run Run sprang up from their MySpace page when one of their tracks was chosen by a television station and then became the hit of summer 2009. But in fact, the group had already given dozens of concerts in small venues peppered across Europe, from Spain to Germany and Poland. In 2005, Pony Pony Run Run was still a duo comprising Gaëtan and another musician, before turning into a quintet a year later with Gaëtan writing the lyrics, his brother Amaël playing bass and Antonin on keyboards.
They then set off on a journey across France and Europe. Antonin, who met the two brothers at art school in Nantes, reminisces: “On our MySpace page, we posted new songs every three months and contacted loads of small concert venues. It took a lot of time, but we didn’t want to stay stuck behind our instruments and computers.”
So the group set off regularly on the road, armed with a car and a trailer, before the latter got stolen along with all of their equipment during a concert in Bordeaux. Undefeated, the group bought themselves a lorry and set off on a European tour that took in the Netherlands, Switzerland and Warsaw. Playing in pubs and bars, the group gave over 120 concerts in three years, without losing money but without really making any either – just enough to perfect their live technique and build up their image as a genuine rock group. “Pony Pony Run Run was forged on the road,” says Amaël.
Pony Pony Run Run then became the trio we know and love, at which point the manager of the label 3ème Bureau discovered them playing a concert at the Batofar in Paris, and decided to take on their first album.
Their music is generally classified as pop, with surges of electro and an eighties edge. The three boys own up to having a 90% Anglo-Saxon musical culture. Gaëtan, a big techno fan, writes easily in English about love and teenage angst, and the three boys all lapped up the kind of nineties Californian pop championed by Weezer and The Breeders.
The ostensibly simple songs cooked up by Pony Pony Run Run are light, skilled and danceable, a recipe that helps to explain the success of their track Hey You in the summer of 2009, which the general public got to know through the Canal+ TV show Le Grand Journal. That same year, their first album, You Need Pony Pony Run Run, won critical and popular acclaim, selling over 110,000 copies and winning a Victoire de la Musique award. Antonin says now, “Canal+ gave us a kick start just before our first album. We came from nowhere, we had a complicated name and sang in English.”
Uncannily, at that time, ponies were all the rage: Poney Express, Poney Poney (later Jamaïca), New Young Pony Club, etc. The trio claim they’re not fans of small horses, and that there are no hidden meanings, simply a band name that sounded cool and funny.
Honing things down
The threesome set off on another 18-month tour that took them as far as Japan. They performed in the prestigious British festivals Glastonbury and The Great Escape, and the Guardian wrote at the time: “This Gallic electro trio confirm what we suspected – that often the French do British synth-pop even better than us.” A fine compliment that helped them gain a foothold with the British public, whose knowledge of French pop just about stretched to Pheonix.
After calling on producer Frédéric Lo (Stephan Eicher, Daniel Darc, etc.) for their first album, Pony Pony Run Run decided to go it alone on the second, with Gaëtan taking the recording reins. During the summer of 2011, the trio set themselves up in a studio in the Basque country, ripe with ideas for songs they had gleaned during their tour. “We all compose little bits, rifs and ritornellos, and then we surprise ourselves before classifying and organising them. The music comes before the words. The simplicity of our songs lies in a certain spontaneity followed by long honing sessions to get down to the right note at the right moment,” explains Antonin.
The final mixing was done in Los Angeles by the producer of Jay Z. and Kanye West, Andrew Dawson. Pony Pony Run Run’s second eponymous album lines up hedonistic, fleeting tunes designed as festive feasts for the ear.
Pony Pony Run Run (3ème Bureau/Wagram) 2012.
On European tour. Playing live at the Trianon in Paris on 2 and 3 May.
Translation: Anne-Marie Harper