Steven Battles describes his approach to music and media as a “personality disorder,” a tendency to scatter his efforts in multiple directions and give each effort a separate name.
Chrome Pony was the mother ship, but then there was the stripped-down Solo Pony, the mellow Lounge Pony and Pony Death Bang (a collaboration with members of Stardeath and White Dwarfs and The Boom Bang), as well as his work with Jacob Abello in Prettyboy.
It wasn’t that Battles had a lot on one plate — he had a full table setting.
But with Pink Pony, Battles’ new project with Christina Fallin, Battles is committing to a color, and “Whatever,” Pink Pony’s debut album, seeks to bridge Battles’ chrome past with the duo’s rosy future. With Fallin creating live mixes during performances and helping to recast and revise past songs, Pink Pony is injecting new life into Chrome Pony’s electronic pulse.
“Now with the DJ’ing — she does a lot of live mixing — it’s a livelier thing,” Battles said as he and Fallin sipped coffee on a sunny October morning in Nichols Hills. “With Chrome Pony, for a long time, you’d push a button and then the set plays for 35 minutes and you’re done. Now it’s more of a live, organic thing. It’s kind of an extension of our relationship.”
Fallin said, “I love editing and reshaping things. I think that’s why DJ’ing always appealed to me. It’s something that’s fast and fulfilling. You gather songs and you pick the elements you like the most, and then play with them.”
Fallin, who is the daughter of Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, played her first gig with Battles as Pink Pony during a fundraiser for local film director (and NewsOK.com videographer) Kyle Roberts’ “The Posthuman Project.” Since Fallin’s hair was electric pink at the time, this hybridization of Battles’ music had a natural name.
But Battles said Pink Pony signals a dramatic break from his previous methodology. While Chrome Pony was a mutable form that could be as simple as Battles singing over tracks or could include multitudes onstage at South By Southwest, Battles is now playing bass while Fallin manipulates the sounds, giving his ice-cold excursions into “dark wave” more fluidity.
The title “Whatever” refers to the full scope of what Battles has done and seeks to re-contextualize some of it — older songs like “She’s Like a Metroid” have been given new names like “Fated to Like That.” It also calls attention to what Fallin is bringing to the mix, and the new directions they will take for their next release.
“It’s saying, ‘Here’s where I come from, and there are now new elements to this music,’” he said.
Fallin, who previously fronted Milk on Milk with ex-husband Matt Bacon, acknowledged that her presence in Pink Pony comes loaded with complications. She said she floats freely between the young and mostly liberal music community and her mother’s conservative political circles, which can create dissonance on both sides.
While public life has been a constant for Fallin since she was a child, she said that the focus intensified once her mother moved into the Governor’s Mansion.
“When she first became governor, it was on a whole different scale,” Fallon said. “I’d been in newspapers and on TV — I mean, she first ran for office when I was three-and-a half, so I grew up in it. But with her being governor, there’s a lot more scrutiny. There isn’t a week that goes by where I go on Facebook and see something written about my mom.”
But Fallin said she is accustomed to how her family connections can shape perceptions of her creative pursuits, and she does not mind leveraging that exposure for Pink Pony. While most Chrome Pony fans will be along for the ride on this horse of a different color, Fallin said she would not mind if the family name brought new passengers.
“They’ll either go, ‘Well, OK,’ or they’ll go, ‘What the hell?’” Fallin said, laughing. “Either way, it gets people talking.”