Baltimore spastics Ponytail are set to release the appropriately titled, J. Robbins-produced Ice Cream Spiritual in June (it follows their 2005 debut, Kamehameha). Appropriate, because everything about the quartet shouts “sugar rush.” They make a sort of deconstructed art pop that balances off-kilter melodics with vocalist Molly Siegel’s savant Ono-isms. Also, drummer Jeremy Hyman used to work scooping actual ice cream. But that’s in the past. (As is Siegel’s job as a pizza delivery person.) Currently, it’s the guitarists who’re holding down jobs — Dustin Wong (ex-Ecstatic Sunshine, btw) is involved with the Blythe doll industry and Ken Seeno’s a security guard.
Right now Ponytail’s label is still working “Celebrate The Body Electric (It Came From An Angel),” so you’ll find it after the discussion. I appreciate the emphasis on Whitman ecstasies, but it’ll be cool when they’re allowed to unleash another track … Because, yeah, these folks are more than a one trick Ponytail. Sue me.
Dustin Wong, guitar
STEREOGUM: You design dolls?
DUSTIN WONG I don’t really design dolls, but my mom owns a company that makes these dolls called, Blythe dolls. They used to be these dolls that came out here in the States during the ’70s, but the doll was so weird looking (huge head, a size of a baseball on a Barbie body) that it went out of business. So my mom revived the doll in 2001 and it’s taken off quite a bit from there. I make promotional animations for the new dolls that come out every month and make jingles for the other animations that get made.
STEREOGUM: Do you have to go into an office? Where are the actual dolls made?
DW: I work at home and make a storyboard and send it to my mom and when she approves it I get started at it. I animate the doll separately using a still camera and bring her in the computer and putting her on top of a back drop I made in the computer. When I’m not animating I make music for the other animator in Japan for her animations and the other times I translate the news from Japanese to English. The dolls are all made at a factory.
STEREOGUM: I went to the Blythe Dolls website. Is your mom “Gina”?
DW: There are two websites, but, blythedoll.com is the official website for Blythe. My mom is Junko Wong, she’s the creative producer for Blythe and president of CWC, so she is in charge of all of the doll design, concept, and events.
STEREOGUM: Seems like these dolls have a pretty intense following. I noticed a lot of the people in the “fan spotlight” are in their 20s or older. Who’s the main market/demographic?
DW: The demographic that buys these dolls are different in the U.S. and Japan. I think there are a lot of house wives that buy the dolls in Japan.
STEREOGUM: Do you have any links to some of the jingles you’ve done? Would be cool to hear. Any plans for a Ponytail-themed Blythe?
DW: There isn’t any plans for a Ponytail Blythe doo, but you can see some of these videos here. Half of the videos are done by Utako Shabatsuji, but all the music is made by me.
Ken Seeno, guitar
STEREOGUM: Where do you work as a security guard?
KEN SEENO: The Maryland Institute (the art school where we all went)
STEREOGUM: How many of the guards are art students or ex-art students?
KS: A good number of students work there, actually. Most full-timers are not artists. I think they are both bored and confused by the students, but they are nice and sometimes invite me to play X Box 360 with them.
STEREOGUM: How’d you get the job?
KS: It’s essentially a job where you almost don’t have to do anything except, I guess, pay attention, but I never completely do that, and otherwise you can read while you are there, or bring a laptop. I wanted to kill two birds with one stone and basically get paid to do my homework, at first.
STEREOGUM: What are you paying attention to/looking out for/trying to stop? Is there something folks regularly get busted for? Even if it’s just smoking in a non-smoking building.
KS: I’m supposed to be making sure that people aren’t stealing from the school or trying to hurt anyone, I think. People mainly get parking tickets. But it makes sense: gotta hold down the fort. Somebody might get stuck in an elevator!
STEREOGUM: Do you carry a gun? Wear a uniform?
KS: No uniform, no gun, sorry!
STEREOGUM: My brother was an after-hours security guard in a warehouse for a while and had to basically wander around all night by himself. What’s your shift?
KS: I used to sit at a desk for eight-hour shifts, maybe help people out if they have questions, but mainly just sit there. Now I just have to be around or near campus. If any other security guards need to go pee pee, I will sit at their station while they go. When they come back, I’m free to roam, as long as it’s within like a 1 mile radius or something. I carry a walkie-talkie, undercover style. It’s like being an unimportant doctor.
STEREOGUM: How long are you on-call each day? Seems kinda like parole. During what hours do you need to stay within a mile of campus?
KS: Between 1PM and 6PM. It’s very easy.
STEREOGUM: Any frightening moments?
KS: None, haha. It’s a quiet campus. Nothing changes. But once the officer-in-charge was like “you should keep an eye out for this suspect” and it was a picture of my friend, haha!
STEREOGUM: What’s this friend known for? Just looking suspicious? How’d the officer-in-charge get the photo?
KS: I can’t talk about it, actually…
STEREOGUM: Have you ever had to throw somebody out?
KS: Never had to throw anyone out. I’ve met some nice people … nice custodians.
STEREOGUM: Interesting co-workers?
KS: Some of the other security guards are pretty funny. There is this one older guy who somehow thinks I am a major mack daddy and he always yells “SEEENNOOO!”
STEREOGUM: Does your work schedule at all affect how you write music?
KS: I’ve tried to write music on my computer while I’m sitting at the desk, but I generally get dumb sitting there for some reason, and I might just instead check my email like 15 times, haha.
STEREOGUM: Are the other guards aware of your band? Is that why the older guy assumes you’re a mack daddy? Or do you just appear mack daddy-like in your general demeanor?
KS: I don’t think they know I’m in a band. He’s seen me around a couple times with my girlfriend. I think that qualifies me as a mack daddy? But I like to pretend the part. It’s fun.
The “Celebrate the Body Electric (It Came from an Angel)” digital single is out 4/29 and the band’s sophomore album Ice Cream Spiritual is out 6/20, both on We Are Free.
[Photo by Battles; L to R Dustin Wong, Ken Seeno, Molly Siegel, Jeremy Hyman]