By Alex Distefano
By Daniel Kohn
By Aimee Murillo
By Nick Schou
By Nate Jackson
By Nate Jackson
By Dave Lieberman
By Daniel Kohn
Bring on the Dancing Horses
Hot Little Pony are actually emo icons Far. Or are they?
Band reunions are interesting to two types of people: the musicians cashing in on their legacy, and teenage fans who don’t know any better.
Don’t believe me? Ask Jonah Matranga, former lead singer of Far. His group broke up nearly a decade ago, but that hasn’t stopped the Sacramento-based quartet from maintaining a devoted fan base, one that would love to see the criminally neglected act hit the stage one more time.
“Bands reuniting is pathetic,” Matranga says. “So often, they seem like a wax-museum version of what was ever cool about the band.”
But Matranga’s quote becomes dubious when you consider that his latest outfit, Hot Little Pony, are playing their first two shows this week. For if the Internet can be trusted, those looking between the lines assume that Matranga and his Far cohorts—guitarist Shaun Lopez, drummer Chris Robyn and bassist John Gutenberger—are Hot Little Pony. Show promoters sent an e-mail with this information and a website link (www.thebandfar.com) that features a short film with images of Los Angeles freeways, brightly colored plastic horses, and the numbers 10, 15 and 16, as in Hot Little Pony’s Oct. 15 and 16 concert dates. Still, this wasn’t enough puzzle solving for Matranga to give up the goods. During our conversation, the person I spoke to used the name Baby Countdown and told me his new group are rounded out by drummer Pretty Beat, bassist Lucky the Stallion and guitarist Love Petal.
When pressed about this conundrum, Baby Countdown gave just enough information without really saying anything. He described Hot Little Pony’s sound as a noisy blend of “R&B, electro, and alt-country” that’s “fun, like the gym,” although the sole tune on his band’s MySpace page sounds like a circus theme. Later, the vocalist confessed that Hot Little Pony are “very dear to all of us” and admitted his outfit have Sacramento roots. In keeping with the new band motif, Baby Countdown confirmed Hot Little Pony might play more shows, if the ones at the Glass House and Troubadour go well, and that his group are “not stuck with the Hot Little Pony” moniker.
“We’re terribly nervous,” Matran . . . um, “Baby Countdown” says. “If it’s fun, then we’ll play more, and if it’s not, we won’t. We went to the same consulting firm that came up with the name Coldplay, and we studied the demographics, but in this age, we might have to go again and re-look at our options and strategy.”
The vocalist’s desire to dodge questions was a silly attempt at keeping a not-so-secret. Far’s history—and, more important, the band’s popularity, which grew during their absence—left me with a bunch of questions. But after five minutes, I scratched them off the list and went with Baby Countdown’s flow.
Similar to the Pixies, Far spent years as a genre-defying band no one knew what to do with. To further confuse the issue, the four-piece were signed to Immortal Records, home to Korn, Adema, 30 Seconds to Mars, Deadsy and Incubus, all groups that are a distant cry from Far’s indie base. The foursome’s 1998 disc, Water & Solutions, has had a profound effect on the lucky souls who’ve heard it, an album that makes people want to put their fists through walls while sobbing uncontrollably. Water & Solutions was the platform that much lesser, terrible bands such as the Deftones, Thursday and Hawthorne Heights built upon on their rise to commercial success, while Far were left to become nothing but a memory. The album also became a model for a genre that lazy journalists coined “emo-core,” which had something to do with poetic lyrics backed by abrasive music. But during Far’s halcyon days, “emo-core” (or whatever you want to call it) hadn’t yet taken off in the flyover states, which meant the band broke up with a whimper when they should have gone out with a roar.
For once, when pressed about that era, Baby Countdown’s aloof answers began to make some sense.
“Emo-core? Is that like the Army Corps of Engineers, the guys who fucked up [Hurricane] Katrina?” Baby Countdown asks. “Either way, pain was involved. The band that I know from Sacramento was widely misunderstood as a cartoonish thing that has become what people call emo-core. The bands I know weren’t sad or dejected. The whole idea was to have fun and make really loud music.”
It seems odd that a group would reunite (or, depending on how you look at it, play their first shows) away from their hometown, but the sharp-witted singer has a reasonable explanation for that.