Marchelle Bradanini aka Pony Boy is a singer / songwriter from Los Angeles, but don’t let that fool you into thinking she’s a weeping willow of a human being. Her blend of country, blues, and rock might just make her the next big crossover artist, but her incredible laid-back attitude and sense of humor might will absolutely make her the next schoolboy crush for bloggers and music fans alike.
I caught up with her after her performance at The New Yorker festival, held, cruelly, at 11:30 on a Saturday morning, where we were plied with several beers from a major corporate sponsor directly before the interview. This is what transpired.
VICE: I’ve known you since I lived in L.A. though. This is funny, interviewing you here.
Marchelle Bradanini: Yeah, yeah.
So, we’re at the New Yorker festival. It’s 12:30 in the afternoon and I’ve, we’ve, had three, I think more, beers each already. Wait, that’s a terrible beginning.
You could just rewrite it. I’ve had some interviews where they were just like, “So, you did a record with Fiona Apple,” and I was just like, “No, no, we had the same engineer.” You know what I mean?
People are terrible. That’s the name of your album: “People Are Terrible."
It’s gonna live forever on the internet with blogs and everything. Do I even send in a correction? “Please correct this in your next blog post”
So, my next question is...
Go for it.
You did a record with Fiona Apple?
This one guy who interviewed me was the worst. He said “I was on your LinkedIn, I see you graduated from...” And I’m like, is this a job interview?
Or a date?
Are you gonna give me a lecture for not going to law school now?
In terms of romance, asking you about your LinkedIn profile, or for that matter any social media profile, is hardly the Lady & The Tramp pushing a meatball across the plate picturesque scene of romance now, is it?
I mean, LinkedIn as band research?
It’s one step off from “So I went through your trash...”
“I was watching you in the binoculars. You’re wearing this great t-shirt! I’m gonna sit on the floor, you’re gonna feed me jellybeans. I’m going to call you mother, it’s gonna be fine, Marchelle.”
“I’ve been masturbating this whole time!”
That’s the name of your acoustic album.
[laughs] I need a side project where I can channel that. I’ve been in a couple of other bands before this one but I always wanted to do a solo thing. But then, honestly, I’m not really into the singer/songwriter scene.
No, it’s a bit much.
It’s pretty precious
Yeah it is, it’s like the whole Hotel Cafe crowd [LA music venue that specializes in acoustic warbling]
They take themselves so seriously.
It’s weird. It’s like they’re gonna play a guitar with one string and expect everyone to keep a straight face.
The last time I played Hotel Cafe my opening line was “Who came to fuck?”
Is that the name of the album?
Yeah, right? But nobody laughed, you know what I mean? It was not my scene.
At Hotel Cafe everyone wants to be the next Fiona Apple or something, right?
They don’t want to be Fiona Apple. I like her. Some of those people... they just want to be played in a bad department store, you know what I mean? An Eddie Bauer outlet store.
Or A Mervyns.
Yeah, like a Ross... Are we gonna hate on Ross? My whole childhood was clothed on Ross.
So Ross is your next sponsor is what you’re saying?
If Ross would sponsor my tour... just a Ross banner. Ross, Mervyns, and Old Navy.
So I actually have a question for you. A real one. So, your professional musician name is Pony Boy. Do people ever think you’re a reggae artist?
Or a weird sexual deviant. Initially, when I took the name, I was like, “probably a million bands have this name” because it’s an Outsiders reference. But it’s also a Allman Brothers song, a really cool track, and Bruce Springsteen has a song called “Ponyboy," not like I’m all, “it’s Bruce Springsteen, this is where I came from,” but just in case S.E. Hinton has a copyright beef, it’s not for her. Although I like that the book is written by a woman; and the film, Tom Waits is in it, Francis Ford Coppola directed, Stevie Wonder wrote the theme song... it’s a good movie to be associated with, y’know?
It’s got like a nine minute opening. That’s when you know it’s a good movie.
Yeah! He was like the Ja Rule of actors, he really was. He just kind of fell off right afterwords.
So Ponyboy as a reggae....
I could see that. Or a reggeaton MC.
I have the opportunity to go there.
To do a Reggeaton act?
To do a Reggeaton act.
You really should. Just change it all up. The next New Yorker festival.
You know, I’d move to Miami...
Fuck the New Yorker. You should do the High Times festival next.
I would want that. So bad.
OK. You have a great fucking voice. It’s a phenomenal instrument, your voice. It’s bigger than this room that we’re in, that’s for sure. It was one of those things where I could almost see you at the opera or something.
I was trained as a mezzo soprano.
No fucking way!
Yes, but that’s so rigid that I spent my whole life trying to fuck it up. Then I got into, like the first time I heard Tom Waits or somebody like Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, people that aren’t traditional or... how can I put this... technically great... like... hearing Nina Simone the first time... or Billie Holiday. That changed me. When I was little I was into opera, I was like the altar boy in any sort of Puccini thing they had going on.
That’s a great reference.
Then I got really into Bad Brains and Fugazi and Public Enemy and then I was like, “Oh, this is what I’ve been missing...”
You had me at Fugazi.
That’s gonna be the name of the article. “Pony Boy: You Had Me At Fugazi.”
Fugazi, though, you obviously don’t hear now in my music. Or even like Merle Haggard or Warren Zevon. I love country guys.
You covered 70’s, religious Bob Dylan, and it doesn’t suck! That was the most amazing thing. That was fucking impressive. Bob Dylan’s religious period was awful and you managed to make it euphoric.
I just want to say, I love the sound selection happening.
*** Whoever is programming the music in between acts clearly has it on random***
It’s like I’ve heard Carly Rae Jepson, a baby crying on a loop for 20 minutes, and Peruvian nose humming. A whole bunch of weird things. All before this entire recording.
I’m just imagining the guy making the playlist, you know?
Some guy. Some guy’s roommate probably too.
But anyway, I love country music. But always wanting to do that was like a dirty secret. I didn’t want people to think it was going to be like when you think of mainstream Nashville Country. I wanted it to be like you never knew if somebody was gonna get stabbed.
You could be the next big crossover artist, kinda like how Norah Jones bridged the gap between jazz and the Starbucks crowd. Do you have an interest in doing a big fuck-off cross-over thing?
Yeah, you know. It seems weird to have ambition in music in 2012, but...
Unless you’re a rapper, kinda. I mean, I say this with a little bit of hyperbole, but I a huge fan of Norah Jones. You could very much be that crossover artist. It’s strange to, uh, ‘come out‘ as a Norah Jones fan. I’m a terrible human being.
No, I’m a terrible human being as well. She’s awesome.
Do you have any interest in doing a full-on country record? Do they give you the ability to do that kind of thing?
I think it’s time. There’s the Justin Townes Earle and the Avett Brothers or people coming from Nashville that are doing cool shit. Avett Brothers are still pretty folky traditional banjo, but it’s not traditional. It’s not straight up glossy vocals, written by 12 writers. To me Nashville now is just pop music. It’s written by writers, not the artist. Take a young girl and make her a star! It’s creepy. I was that young girl at one point. Any time you start something new it’s like, “wow, there’s people that aren’t my friend that I have to entice with beer and girls to come to a show.” I have people on call. Like Vegas. Girls at all times. Cars with dark windows that drive by.
I’m learning so much.
I’m kidding. But no, you’ve seen it, Los Angeles. There’s lots of people doing cool things out there but you have to search them out for sure, you know. I looked for a long time to find a producer, because I was like, “I’ve been in shitty bands where we recorded everything in a living room onto an Mbox that crashes.” I was like, “I wannago into the studio, I want to record to tape, I want it to be a real band, I want to track live.”
*** The PA plays a new Cat Power song ***
Sorry to cut you off but I can’t get into the new Cat Power record, It’s like someone asked her to stand at the end of a hallway and yell whimsically.
But the new Cat Power is her... raw. You know, she’s happy. And I guess that’s great, it’s good to be happy.
Did you work to save for your first guitar? Is there an origin story in here somewhere about a young Marchelle chimney sweeping to get that first acoustic?
Yeah, I was working as a kid.
Yeah, I was doing opera and theater. I’ve been hustling.
What kind of parts?
Altar boy, I think is the term. A boy, basically, in a lot of things. An urchin, a street urchin. I was in Les Misérables for two years as young Cosette. So I did that for like two years. Theater, six days a week, eight shows a week. So I always had my hustle on. I did hair on a Megadeath music video. My friend was like, “You have a lot of hair products, I got some budget for a makeup artist and hair person. You wanna come do Dave Mustaine’s hair?”
What was that like?
It was like four years ago but it was so Spinal Tap. The label called and was like, “Oh he’s back on the sauce, so just be careful.” They’re all on heroin. I was just like, “don’t touch me!”
That’s a different kind of sauce. Jesus.
You know, you have those moments where you're like, “I went to college. What series of choices in my life have I made that have led me to this moment?”I was in another band and we had a manager and he was like a big hip-hop guy and at one point he was like definitely doing a drug deal during one of our meetings. He was laundering money.
How do you do that during a meeting?
He was just like, “do you mind?” Made some phone calls. “Do you mind passing these packages?”
Can you unload this truck in an alley?
“What? Okay? Should we talk about the next single?”
It’s like a CSI episode. Last question. When’s the album coming out?
Next year, but it depends. I’m deciding whether to release two EP's or the full record. I’ve got like 30 songs. We just record all the time, so I have enough material. Maybe I’ll just do a double first release.
The most audacious. “My first album, the double." You could be in Yes.
Or Love, yeah.
“Hey crossover audience. Here’s a 17 minute ballad.”
The first time we did like, eight minutes, eight minutes, I was like, is this a progressive country record?
That’d be fucking sweet if you did a prog-country record.
Yeah, prog-country. I will wave that flag. Like Brian Eno country soundscapes on the pedal steel.