The gleeful grunge stylings of youthful rockers Skating Polly

By
Photography Alice Finneran

Published May 4, 2018

SKATING POLLY’S PEYTON BIGHORSE, KELLI MAYO, AND KURTIS MAYO

There’s no rivalry to be found among Oklahoma step-siblings Kelli Mayo and Peyton Bighorse, who formed their self-proclaimed “ugly pop” band Skating Polly in 2009, when they were just 9 and 14. In the decade since, the wise-beyond-their-years sisters have made music at a furious pace, with four records under their belt and many, many hours spent zigzagging the country on tour with acts including Kate Nash, Exene Cervenka, and Babes in Toyland. Last year alone they played 100 shows. “We’ve been to 48 states,” Mayo, now 18, says by phone from Ohio. “All that’s left is Alaska and Hawaii.”

Today they’re releasing their fifth full-length album, The Make It All Show (El Camino), the result of a tumultuous year for the siblings—and the world at large. For one thing, there was the election of Donald Trump, which cracked their whole world open. “We spent election night bawling,” Mayo says. In their personal lives, there was serious drama. “I got involved with a bad person, and estranged myself from my family and friends,” Bighorse, 21, says. “At the time I thought, wow, my family and friends aren’t sticking with me, but really it was me being brainwashed.” Mayo describes the trauma of having to cut someone out of her life, who she saw as a father-figure.

While Skating Polly’s music has always been impressively realized, The Make It All Show is their most mature effort yet. The 11 amped-up tracks touch on anger and vulnerability and growing up, in very personal terms. “We knew the only way this was going to work was if we didn’t hold back about how we feel,” Mayo says. “I just wanted to tell a story that can let me vent my emotions and go crazy.” Despite the tough themes, the album moves slightly away from the riot grrrl-punk of their earlier work and into more upbeat indie-pop territory. (Production comes courtesy of Brad Wood, the force behind such ‘90s mainstays as Smashing Pumpkins, Sunny Day Real Estate, and alt-rock goddess Liz Phair.) It also marks the first collaboration with their 21-year-old brother, Kurtis, who has joined their ranks as drummer.

As they prep for a new tour with Brooklyn pop act Charly Bliss, the siblings describe feeling like they’re entering into a new phase of their lives, in which their teen years are receding in the rear-view mirror. Then again, they haven’t had an exactly normal childhood. “I do feel older than my age,” Mayo says. “When we go to venues and they question my age, it’s so frustrating. I’m like, ‘What does that have to do with anything!?’”

Check out the video for “Little Girl Blue and The Battle Envy,” which we’re pleased to premiere here.

THE MAKE IT ALL SHOW IS OUT TODAY, VIA EL CAMINO.