Date: Sunday 17 September 2023
All too often, life in the music industry can feel like flogging a dead horse. A machine that runs on
the blood, sweat and tears of those who dare to dream, its cycles of suffocating expectation,
soul-sucking slog and sh*tty broken promises are enough to break the spirits of most bands. For
rising Scottish stars Dead Pony, however, realising the ignorance of others gave them the knock
they needed to reconnect with their musical roots and take control of their own destiny.
“We don’t like being ignored,” begins towering guitarist and lead composer Blair Crichton. “That’s
true of being overlooked by one person, or one group of people. But when you’re in a band like
ours, the feeling is magnified. It’s not just a case of any given individual not giving a sh*t about
what you’re doing; it’s the millions – or billions – of people who could be listening to you.”
Although that striking band-name started life long before they’d come to this realisation, it’s
become ever more emblematic of what they’re all about. If childish aspiration can be characterised
by the frolicking pony for which a million kids have begged their parents, Dead Pony represents the
end of that innocence: that bitter adult understanding of how dark and cruel the world can be.
“Plus, it’s just so fuckin’ sad!” grins livewire vocalist Anna Shields. “A horse – a pony – is one of the
most beautiful, majestic creatures on the planet, and there’s something really tragic about the idea
of it lying there dead. That sense of waste, and the anger and confusion it brings, reflects what
we’ve been feeling recently – but coming to terms with it has kinda’ become the vibe of this band.”
That attitude has been a long time building. An infamously hard-edged city in the UK’s grim far
north-west, Glasgow’s weathered concrete and moody skies weren’t the obvious surrounds in
which the creative vibrancy of youngsters like Anna and Blair, bassist Liam Adams and drummer
Euan Lyons would be allowed to flourish. Defying the driech Glaswegian grind to express the art
within was a pivotal first step, however, in Dead Pony’s fight to express their real identity.
“We were all the outcasts,” explains Anna. “Growing up in a working-class area, with very few
‘alternative’ people around, I was like the socially-awkward ugly duckling who didn’t fit in, didn’t
like being a teen, didn’t like school. I think of my older brother who was handsome and popular,
played football and had lots of friends. I was this weird wee sister who played violin in an orchestra
and got bullied. I would look at the popular girls in school and want to be like them, want to fit in
and be ‘normal’. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown to understand that what makes you interesting
in life is being different. Who wants to fit in, really? Why be beige when you could be colourful?”
Anna’s bandmates nod. Although there are subtle differences in their stories, the experiences of
alienation and aloneness are shared. So, too, was escape through the music of acts like Paramore
and My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy and blink-182 – and the dream of making their own.
It’s never quite that simple, though. Putting themselves out there in early bands was an important
milestone for each member, but they were still constrained by a need to fit in. As much as Glasgow
has been a rich breeding ground for cutting-edge rock over the decades, with everyone from
Teenage Fanclub and Primal Scream to Mogwai and Twin Atlantic making their name in the city,
the city seems to demand that freewheeling hard rock be balanced against a sense of indie cool.
Even as the collective that would become Dead Pony gravitated together, they would find
themselves pandering to “the music that people would expect a Glasgow band to make”, finding
themselves awkwardly out of place playing metal riffs to roomfuls of baffled Stone Roses fans.
“We changed the band-name to Dead Pony in April 2020: that was a defining point,” Anna stresses
a moment early in the pandemic that would shape things. “Previously, we were just making ‘rock’
music. It’s only really now that we’ve begun to write songs that sound like Dead Pony. It was about
making music that, were another band to come out with it, we’d feel just as excited about it.”
September 2022’s Mad Max-inspired War Boys EP helped define a fast-evolving sound. Following a
slew of ear-catching singles, the high drama and heaviness across those six tracks galvanised a
more chaotic, metallic edge, while the challenge of putting together a longer-form body of work
forced the collective to really get grips with the bigger picture. December’s cover of Nelly Furtado
classic Maneater took the sonics a step farther, blending the Dead Pony’s love of R’n’B, nineties
pop and nu-metal into their increasingly hefty mix, perfecting a sound that was genuinely unique.
“We’ve always had an idea of what we wanted to sound like,” affirms Blair. “We all love bands like
Linkin Park, Queens Of The Stone Age and The Prodigy. But when we were making music before, it
didn’t exist in the same world as the acts we were listening to. What was once angry indie-punk
has evolved into real alt. rock – just even angrier at people’s ignorance and stupidity.”
A swaggering, genre-obliterating banger, new single MK Nothing – the first taste of a debut LP
scheduled for early 2024 – positions the quartet alongside scene-leading trailblazers like Nova
Twins, WARGASM and even Glasgow’s own VUKOVI. Testament to the broad spectrum of
influence, it hints every bit as Kid Kapichi or Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, too.
Even more telling is the shift in thematic focus from the fictional widescreen narratives of earlier
releases to a tale much closer to home: the initial cinematic concept of “brainwashed assassins”
having metamorphosed into a tale of Dead Pony shedding shackles to realise their own killer
potential. “We used to write about film and fantasy,” Anna nods, referencing the disenchantment
that led them here. “Now we’re writing about real life experiences. It became about how people
want us to be one thing – how we’ve tried to fit that mould – but how we want to be another.”
Grounding their songs in reality, they’ve come to understand, allows Dead Pony chime with a
young audience made up of the kind of kids they used to be. “This was where our music should be
sitting,” Anna continues. “These are the people we should be resonating with. Before, we were
trying to be the ‘cool’ band: trendy, stylish. That’s great if that’s who you are. But we’ve come to
realise that it’s much more meaningful to me to have these 15 or 16-year-old kids coming up to us
after shows with tears in their eyes to say, ‘Your music means so much to us.’ That feeling has
informed a lot in the music that we’re writing now. That’s where I see this band going forward.”
Indeed, loaded with talent, determination, a growing catalogue of great songs, and renewed
understanding of the band they need to be, Dead Pony in 2023 have everything it takes to connect
with that millions-strong potential fanbase whose acknowledgement they’ve been craving for so
many years. Having fought to get this far, they’ll relish every opportunity that comes their way.
“For so long, we’ve felt like we’ve been too heavy for the conventional indie scene, but not ‘metal’,
or ‘emo’ or ‘alternative’ enough to fit in anywhere else,” Blair signs-off with a mischievous sparkle.
“But I don’t see why Dead Pony can’t fit in everywhere. With the music we’ve started to make, it’s
finally begun to feel like that might really be achievable. I guess we’ll find out…”
MK Nothing is out June 6th via LAB Records/Seeker Music.
Dead Pony is:
Anna Shields – vocals
Blair Crichton – guitar, programming
Liam Adams – bass
Euan Lyons – drums