Artist Spotlight: Phono Pony

On the Vulnerability of Making Music with Shay Hayashi and Micheal Kenyon

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Phono Pony Drummer Shay Monyou and Bassist/Vocalist Micheal Kenyon stand outside of a coffee shop on Commercial Drive on Oct. 2016. (Alyssa Laube)

The cover of Phono Pony’s first EP, Phonography, is eye-catching on the surface and meaningful beneath. Emblazoned boldly on its face are the two nude figures of its members, Shay Hayashi and Michael Kenyon, barely obscured by various pieces of analog technology. Obviously, it’s bold and sort of curious, like a modern version of John and Yoko’s Two Virgins 1968 cover shoot.

But like Two Virgins, there is a solid idea behind the photo. The concept behind Phonography is vulnerability—what it’s like to wear your heart on your sleeve both with another musician and your audience—say Hayashi and Kenyon. Stripping down in front of a camera is an extension of that.

The four-track record is sludgy, dirty, and sexy, full of fuzz and sudden screams. Phonography walks a delicate line between being ploddingly melodic and wildly energetic. Like early Sonic Youth and The Pixies, one male voice and one female voice break through screeching guitars and bluesy riffs.

The duo likens their sound to “something you might have heard but don’t recognize,” referring to the “nostalgic aftertaste” tag that is often attached to their songs. They’re not aiming to fit into any one genre, nor are they trying to make a new one. Hayashi says that Phono Pony just wants to have their own image, rather than replicating anything that has been done in the past.

“We don’t want limitations,” she says.

The EP is their official beginning as a band, but the two actually met through a previous project, Still Creek Murder, that recently came to an end. In that group, Kenyon played bass, which is radically different from his role as lead guitarist and vocalist in Phono Pony, and Hayashi played drums, although she is taking a different stylistic approach to suit their current sound.

“After coming out of another project that was sort of peaking and getting recognized in the city and having that fall apart, I was like, ‘this is our own thing and we’re starting fresh,’” says Hayashi. “We were super vulnerable. I think when you’re back at square one, you’re vulnerable.”

“Art is about being vulnerable. You do it to find out things about yourself, and when you do performance art, you do it to share with someone else,” adds Kenyon. “But I have learned that it’s hard and it’s something you shouldn’t do, create art for other people if you were setting out to find out something about yourself.”

They duo are currently writing their first full-length album, which is set to be released on vinyl and the web by January. Kenyon, who graduated from Nimbus, is starting up his own recording studio as well, which is where it will be recorded.

“This album is going to be a little more thought out and well-rounded. I think we know what our sound is a little bit better,” says Hayashi.“We also have a bunch of sounds on the chopping block. We wanted this not to be a concept album, but more of a themed album than our last one. We don’t want it to sound anything like our last, but we still want it to be Phono Pony.”

“It’s going to sound very blue and very green,” says Kenyon.

As for any other details, he promises, “There’s going to be sound and silence, and those two things we guarantee to our listeners.”

Phono Pony will also be touring through Alberta and Saskatchewan this May.

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