Bluesfest locals: An interview with Pony Girl

July 5th, 2017 by  |  Published in Features, Interviews, Show Announcements

Pony Girl promo. Photo credit: Pascal Huot.

Pony Girl. Photo credit: Pascal Huot.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Yolande Laroche (Clarinet, Vocals, Keys) of Pony Girl about their upcoming appearance at Ottawa Bluesfest.

You can catch Pony Girl on opening night (Thursday July 6th) at 7:30PM in the Barney Danson Theatre.

I started things off asking how the band felt about making their second appearance in the indoor theatre in as many appearances at the festival. Yolande responded, “I do like the vibe in there. I think because we’re inside, we can have a more intimate setting. The last time we did it, they had it set out like cocktail style, little tables and chairs and it was really lovely. The sound is really nice in there too.”

Back in January, Pony Girl had the chance to be the guinea pigs for a live production residency pilot program at Shenkman Arts Centre, developed by OMIC (Ottawa Music Industry Coalition). According to OMIC, the goal of program is to help local artists preparing for tours or career making performances to stage and rehearse a professional live performance that will best communicate their potential to audiences.

Despite their status as guinea pigs, Yolande had nothing but good things to say about their experience. “That was a really cool initiative. They basically offered the big stage there for 3 or 4 days. We had the freedom to do what we wanted and they helped us. There was a sound person, a light person, they helped us design a light show to go along with our set.”

Pony Girl really made the most of their opportunity, as Yolande also discussed their own initiative to bring in a performance coach. “She spent an hour with us, checking what we were doing, how we were presenting ourselves on stage. How our body language and what we’re doing translates to the audience. So that was really fun. I wish we could work with her for our whole album. We just did the one song with her.”

Their experience also made an impression on OMIC and the program. Yolande continued, “The program liked the idea so much that they offered to pay for it in the end. We took the initiative and we were going to pay for it ourselves and then they were like ‘That’s a great idea. Let’s add that in.’”

As our conversation swung back to Bluesfest, I enquired how the band got the news. “I think it was Julienne or Greg. We were very excited. Bluesfest first announced the lineup and we weren’t part of it and we were like that’s disappointing. But then they sent out a second wave of offers. When we got the offer, we were all like ‘YES!!’ It’s so fun to play festivals.”

I could hear the excitement in her voice as she continued, “I just love being there. One of the perks of playing is they give you a pass too. I’m very excited. I usually go every day and I see a bunch of artists that I like.”

Unfortunately, fans of the band won’t hear any new music at the festial. Yolande explained, “For the last few months we’ve been thinking can we have a song ready for either Jazzfest or Bluesfest, because we’ve been playing the sameish set for the last year and a half or so. It’s hard to keep that creative energy up when you’re doing the same thing over and over again, but you have to remember that there’s a new audience every show. We were thinking of getting a new song ready and we were trying. It just didn’t feel like it marinated long enough. It didn’t feel ready to present.”

So, what can one expect from Pony Girl at Bluesfest this year? With the band’s diverse set of material, you can guarantee it will be enjoyable. In terms of the band’s set, Yolande shared, “We usually cater to the venue. For Bluesfest, because we’re inside, we’re going to have a bit of fun. We can play our softer songs, be a little more sensitive. We’ll still play our louder songs too. We’re going to add a bit of drone before a couple songs, just to create this mood and intention.”

I jokingly asked if the band was secretly wishing for rain. With a laugh, Yolande responded, “I think if people want to come see us, they’ll just come. We’re just playing an hour out of a two-week festival. I’ve never been worried about that. I don’t think anyone else playing at the same time has the same vibe.”

So, when can fans of the band expect some new music? Yolande shared, “Pascal, he’s like ‘I have 40 songs.’ He’s written a bunch of songs and he’s been feeling super creative. But he said nothing is ready to be shown yet. He’ll keep working on it until he feels ready.”

Yolande had nothing but high praise for her band mates. “Pascal and Julienne do most of the writing. Pascal does mainly the lyrics and the melodies and Julienne does the chord progressions and stuff like that. They’re a really good writing team.”

For the rest of 2017, Yolande mentioned, “With the residency, we have a show coming up at Shenkman in September with the other residency artists. That will be fun. Shenkman is super beautiful. We usually tour in the fall but we’re not doing it this year.”

If you’re looking to discover something a little different at the festival this year, I highly recommend you duck inside the Barney Danson Theatre and hear for yourself what Pony Girl is all about.

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