Unsurprisingly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer has had an enormous impact on culture. The iconic late 90s television show that tackled demons dressed up as real life metaphors and Billy Idol impersonators had equal parts strength and comedy and heartache. For the Toronto pop punk band PONY's lead singer and songwriter, Sam Bielanski, Buffy—and by extension, the late 90s/early 2000s—was not solely inspirational, but also aspirational. "While I was growing up, there wasn't a lot of stuff out there where a tiny woman was so fierce," Bielanski tells me. "Even though the show is supernatural and pretty cheesy, it's still so real and important. [Buffy] struggles so much to be taken seriously by men, which is something I don't think as women we'll ever grow out of, unfortunately."
Bielanski mentions Buffy because it was the inspiration for PONY's single "Small Things," which is on the group's second EP, Do You, out today via Buzz Records. She's echoed the sentiment before, when the song was released in September, but with the video released now to support the EP, she expands on how Buffy and the whole realm of teen dramas during this particular era helped her with both herself and her craft. "I knew that I wanted to write something about the show because I'm a nerd. I also really wanted to write something that I felt reflected an experience I had had with the show," she says. "Small Things" is a pop punk elegy of sorts—a lamentation of a fractured relationship; wanting someone, not being able to have that person there; and confronting one's emotions. For the video, Bielanski took a much more positive approach to contrast the song's darker themes. "I didn't want to push for any narrative in the video that was a sad story because I think that there is enough sad stuff happening right now," she says. And so we're welcomed into a girl gang, kind of, traversing the (iconic) Dufferin Mall in downtown Toronto; hanging out on the playground; skateboarding around; and throwing chips at Kevin O'Leary's smug face on a television screen.
At the heart of the video, though, is celebration. It celebrates the people we turn to for safety and comfort. And for Bielanski, that's the women and nonbinary people in Toronto's rock scene. "The community we have that is women and nonbinary people and a lot of marginalized people whose voices haven't been [traditionally] heard here… that community is so strong and supportive," says Bielanski adamantly. "I think that it's really important to make sure that the music scene is not a competition. That it is a community," she stresses, "because if we don't have each other, we really don't have anything at all."
PONY released their first EP, Crushed, back in 2015, which sounds more earnest and like 60s girl pop. Do You, at least to Bielanski, is a marker of growth and her own confidence in herself. "This project, and this EP… I feel like this is my idea. This is how i imagined it, let's try to make it work, and if it doesn't work, then we'll try something else. But ultimately, this is what I want."
PONY is fun and sounds like a teen rom-com come to life. They are like a Delia's catalogue rolled into ABC's TGIF programming with a dash of The WB and Seventeen magazine with a sick pop guitar line. It's not nostalgia, necessarily, but reaching back into a space that comfortably allowed teen girls, especially, to be vulnerable and themselves and grow into that. A place that allowed for fun and messiness and cheekiness. "[You know that] scene in Bring It On where Kirsten Dunst is dancing on the bed to the song Chris wrote her…" Bielanski says with a laugh, "I feel PONY could score the entire movie."
Sarah MacDonald is an Assistant Editor at Noisey Canada. Follow her on Twitter.