I bumped into Rochester one-man blues band Roger Kuhn at the Corn Hill Arts Festival a few weeks ago, and as he frequently does, he had a hot tip for me.
"Pony Hand is the best band in Rochester," he said in a tone that was completely devoid of hyperbole. Now I've been exposed to hundreds of bands. Most are good, and a few battle it out for the dubious honor of "worst." But there are a precious few that fit in the "best" category. There can really be only one, actually. So with that said, this Rochester-based trio - with its frenetic onstage onslaught, twin guitar attack, howling vocals, and driving garage rock mayhem - is aces. Kuhn was right. Pony Hand is the best band in Rochester.
Seeing Pony Hand live is like facing a firing squad after flipping it the bird. It's a white-knuckle ride. It's a brash slash of crash-and-burn rock 'n' roll.
The band - Karrah Teague on vocals and guitar, drummer Giana Caliolo, and Brandon Henahan on guitar and vocals - writes great songs that are more involved and in depth than what you'd expect from a band that adheres to the raw, loud-fast aesthetic. But Pony Hand will leave you there in a puddle, still wanting more.
The trio stopped by CITY HQ to discuss playing in more than one band, the importance of having fun, and digging Art Blakey. An edited version of the interview follows.
CITY: How did Pony Hand get started?
Karrah Teague: We were all going through tumultuous times, and we met at that same time.
Musically or personally tumultuous?
Let's discuss musically.
Teague:Giana and I worked the "Girls Rock Summer Camp" together and wrote a song during lunch. We thought we should start playing together. We just love each other and love playing music together.
You guys are all in other bands as well?
Giana Caliolo:I'm still doing the Calicoco thing and have a new record coming out on Dadstache Records.
Teague:Brandon and I are in Fuzzrod together.
Why do you suppose Rochester musicians aren't happy unless they're in more than one band?
Teague: Because there's nothing else to do. What else are you going to do with your time?
Does this help make you a better or varied musician?
Caliolo: As far as my drumming, I had played in school -- jazz bands in high school and college. I just jammed with people. I had never really played drums before. And I certainly didn't play as fast as we do.
What did you set out to do when you formed Pony Hand?
Teague: I think we said we wanted to do something garage-y and different from Velvet Elvis.
Brandon Henahan:Karrah and I were both in Velvet Elvis - a completely different type of music; stoner-rock stuff. It had a lot of sludge and it was slow.
When writing songs, do you ever bring in something that doesn't work?
Teague: Aww, stuff always never works. But now we're writing differently instead of one person bringing in a song. We're trying to write more as a band.
What are you listening to?
Henahan: Newer stuff. Stripped-down garage rock like Jeff the Brotherhood.
Caliolo: I listen to a lot of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. It's definitely new, what and how I'm playing with these two. It's really fast.
Besides speed, lo-fi stuff seems to be a big thing lately. What do you attribute that to?
Henahan: Yeah, the low-fi stuff for sure. I think Dadstache Records has helped curate that with their releases.
When can we expect another record from Pony Hand?
Teague: Not soon. We have more time to write, so we'd like to put out something next year. Fuzzrod is putting out a record. Giana just put out a record. So we've been playing older stuff from our catalogue.
What constitutes a good Pony Hand show?
Teague: Playing well. But it's not the first thing. I'd have to say audience feedback and participation. I can't help it -- I want to see people having fun.
Caliolo: I've put a lot of work in other projects, but this doesn't feel like work because it's so fun.
Henahan: If it starts being no fun, we'll just stop doing it.