While many people believe that the riot grrrl movement has come and passed, self-proclaimed “ugly-pop” band Skating Polly are keeping the spirit of absolute badassery alive. Starting as children, frontwomen Kelli Mayo and Peyton Bighorse grew up among Babes In Toyland, X and Starcrawler. Since adding drummer Kurtis Mayo, the band are well on their way to achieving indie-pop domination.
However, their success has not come easy. After garnering a following made up of fans spanning generations, the dynamic trio began to notice that as they grew up, many fans and business partners started to take advantage of them in inappropriate ways, such as stalking them when they were minors, sexually imposing on them in business settings and being the source of unwarranted, “mansplain-y” criticism after shows.
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Between wanting to have a stake in their creative process and countless occurrences of nonconsensual touching after gigs, Kelli Mayo reflects on the uphill battle of keeping an approachable demeanor while being sure to not take anybody’s shit.
“There were so many times where I would walk away from the merch table feeling violated, or feeling bad about myself,” she says. “I wish I could go back to my past self and tell her to stand up for herself when people came up and said shitty things to her.”
“I wish I could go back to my past self and tell her to stand up for herself when people came up and said shitty things to her.”
Of the many situations Bighorse and Kelli experienced, one arose when they were just 10 and 14 years old. An overzealous fan would reach out to the girls every day on social media and then get angry when they wouldn’t immediately respond. After an anonymous tip from another fan lead the girls to Google search him, they found out he had a criminal record, frequently threatened and harassed his ex-girlfriend and videotaped her while she slept.
In another instance, one fan made a fake Facebook profile for his 12-year-old daughter in order to get close to Kelli and Bighorse.
“You are not theirs,” Mayo says. “No matter how big or small of a band you are, they still don’t own you. They don’t own a stock in you. You have power. If they’re not going to like your band because you’re not going to be their therapist to fetishize, or their 24-hour Instagram hotline, then they weren’t real fans to begin with.”
“No matter how big or small of a band you are, they still don’t own you. They don’t own a stock in you. You have power.”
However, for a female-fronted band, that sense of verbal violation is only the half of it. In the music industry, there’s pressure for nonmales to appear complacent and not raise trouble. By taking away nonmales’ sense of power, it can often put them in unsafe situations.
“The times where it was scariest weren’t with random fans,” Mayo says. “They were with people I knew from the music industry and was working with. I didn’t feel like I could call out because I felt like I was going to be made into some overly sensitive, SJW butterfly. I was always so scared. And I don’t know what the solution is. It doesn’t feel safe.”
Despite the physical sphere sometimes feeling daunting, Mayo says she finds solitude and ease talking about these issues poetically within her lyricism. Take “Little Girl Blue And The Battle Envy,” from their latest record The Make It All Show, as an example, which Mayo says is about being nitpicked by men who she once looked up to.
“Having everyone constantly talk about what you’re doing wrong or what you could do better didn’t inspire me,” Mayo says. “It just fucking crushed me down and made me want to stay in bed all day.”
Despite the pressuring double standard, Mayo has continued to create music with Skating Polly with a give-’em-hell attitude. Radiating maximum unapologetic confidence, Mayo remains self-aware and vulnerable, but never loses sight of herself.
While she says political narratives are sprinkled throughout the entirety of The Make It All Show, she hopes that one day the responsibility to educate people on consent and blatant sexism won’t rely solely on the ones who are experiencing issues within the realm of misogyny.
“I think girls deserve to be able to write songs that aren’t just simply about politics,” Mayo says. “Not everything should be about standing up for your rights. Girls should be able to write songs about whatever the hell they want, the same things that men want to write about.”
12/13 — Las Vegas, NV @ Beauty Bar
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