"I wanted to make it very apparent I was a man singing love songs to another man" - Interviews - Soundblab

"I wanted to make it very apparent I was a man singing love songs to another man"

by Rich Morris Rating: Release Date:

A Boy Named Pony is a brilliant, memorable name. It’s also a LA-via-Texas collective helmed by Raymon Imag. They make music which draws from a kaleidoscope of influences, skipping from alt-R&B to murky electronica with howling post-rock guitars to Smiths-style indie balladry. Lyrically, upfront, down-and-dirty lyrics about gay sex hide universal themes of insecurity, dysfunction and a need for connection.  

Soundblab caught up with Raymon to talk about challenging gender roles and dodging genre pigeonholes.

How many people are involved in A Boy Named Pony and what’s the set-up?

Well, there is Albi on synths/guitars/back-up vocals; Marly on guitars/bass Guitars; Dani on lead percussion; Cookie on back-up vocals and percussion, as well and myself, Ray, as lead vocals. The set-up for our live shows is usually just that.

As far as producing and writing, as of late the songs start with a demo I create then I take this skeleton of a song to the rest of the gang to flesh her out. So there are five of us really, but sometimes we feel like a bigger family with recurring collaborations or help with production from other artists like R0C and R@v3n.

How did the project begin and evolve? It seems like there’s been quite a few iterations of A Boy Named Pony.

A Boy Name Pony began as Dani and my love-child. Once upon a time, we were romantically involved and A Boy named Pony was a way for us to come together on another level. Even after we broke up, it was more important to remain good friends because of the music and sharing it with as many people as we could, rather than letting any bitterness or petty feelings from the past stunt the growth of the project.

When we started we were more concerned with being very in-your-face with our sexuality. The idea was heterosexual artists had been doing it for centuries, now it’s our turn. From there, I’d say the subject matter in the songs became more concerned with not being just sexualized creatures all the time, and respecting other aspects of our humanity as gay men as well.

Although all these themes are still current when writing lyrics, lately I’ve become more concerned with mankind as whole. Still respecting myself and sharing my stories as a modern gay man, but also asking myself, where do I fit in and how do I effect the rest of the world? What do we need now collectively?

Where does the name come from?

Originally it came from a gay erotica zine. Handbook or Straight to Hell or something like that. And it was A Boy Named Pony, A Man Called Horse. A few times we almost changed it, but the weight of this decade’s debate behind gender roles and the proper place of ‘Little Ponies’ really spoke to us.

What is a ‘Brony’ and such. Why is he ridiculed in today's culture? What does that say about society as a whole? Because we've been told for decades as little boys aspiring to be great men that any feminine energy is detrimental to our image if you want to be ‘a real man’ or "man up”. Being too effeminate and playing with ‘girl toys’ makes you a sissy, and supposedly a joke of a man.

So we stuck with Boy Named Pony because to me it says I am one with all. A truly strong man must develop a healthy and strong personal relationship with his own feminine energies. Because we are all one regardless of sex or gender, and trying to front on any other truth is bullshit.

Most of your songs seem to focus on dysfunctional romantic and/or sexual relationships. How intentional is that? Is it a kind of mission statement to look at those situations?

Yes it is. They say write what you know, sing from the heart, things like that. These sayings have truth to them. Being a gay man in the age of social media and in the years of the selfie, you realize how daft we’ve become as a community.

In particular, I’m referring to the way we treat each other based on vanity, class, and superficial standards. Like that saying: Why decorate the cage if the bird inside is dead? The bird inside most of us is long gone. When we’re more concerned with seeing or knowing just how big a dude’s cock is before we even know his name or have even formally introduced ourselves, I’d say it’s dead. Or when we are more caught up in how a queen should have a more flawless contour on her mug than knowing the struggle she’s been through as a human being to make it to that stage, I’d say there is a bunch of dead birds in some pretty extravagant cages.

Not only is the bird dead but this overtly gilded cage is now projecting its tragic existence onto others. I think we lost sight of brotherhood, honor, and being grateful for where we came from as gay men. I believe a lot of that comes from us super-sexualizing each other and trying to live up to these one dimensional stereotypes that don’t really exist.

We’ve lost touch with ourselves and with each other. Some of the songs in their way are analyzing our relationships to heal the self and hopefully reconnect us to each other. Bring brotherhood and romance back strong. No more shady nation or "reads to filth”. A lot of us are hurt and traumatized by other gay men, we’ve become so mean-spirited towards one another and it’s stifling our revolution.

Your music ranges from hip-hop to electronica to folk to indie to balladry. What are your influences and how do you go about making a song?

As far as influences, there are so many, both modern and from the past. In a sense, if the past seven decades of popular music were a house and in every room the greats from each era were hanging around chatting it up through their songs, A Boy Named Pony would be a fly on the wall in that house. Traveling from room to room, unbiased to style of music but more concerned with soaking up the nature behind the emotion of the songs. And how much they meant to people of their time and why?

If we want to try and explain the sound through other existing artists (and people love to), you could say ABNP sounds like Deee-Lite and PTV had a love child of a band, and for every other song they almost borrow a Moz or Siouxsie-esque quality for their vocal. At least that’s what I’ve been told.

Music is powerful, and with today’s technology it can literally come from anywhere. A lot of our music is produced through softwares, apps, samples and computers before we take any actual instruments to it. So it is always an adventure taking something kind of very synthetic-sounding and bringing it to sound more organic and alive.

It’s quite magical when we all get in a room and hash it out. While I’m here in West Texas and the rest the band is in Los Angeles, lots of emails, phone calls/texts, and video chats will keep this project alive.

How important is your sexual identity to your music and lyrics?

When I started writing the lyrics for the first wave of Boy Named Pony songs I wanted to make it very apparent I was a man. A man singing love songs to another man. Unabashed, without shame, just raw truth even and especially where love gets gritty and rough, as it so often does amongst men like us.

When I was growing up, there were very gender-specific love songs, music videos and artists with blunt displays of heterosexual sexuality and love affairs. I remember I’d sing songs by Gwen or Shirley around the house as a tween. One day my sister’s boyfriend stopped me in the middle of some No Doubt song (probably ‘Don’t Speak’ but maybe ‘New’) and he said to me, “You shouldn’t do that.” I was traumatized in ways. Questioning my identity all of a sudden at such a young age.

People push these roles, these ideas of what reality should always be. But the reality of reality is we make of it what we will. I hope someday people will allow other and all people to simply exist in a peaceful harmony without pushing their boundaries, laws, and rules of what they think reality should be on them.

But until that day, other young men and grown men should have love songs written by men like themselves to have a stronger sense of self. Or at the very least to stop feeling ostracized from the ideas of what love is in songs. As far as the music, I know we tend to resort to house and disco-esque beats now and again but I think Real Gay Beats are universal now.

Do you see yourself as being in a lineage with other gay or queer artists?

In a sense that many have not only inspired but paved the way for our art, yes. Do I think we’re as epic or iconic as most of them? Definitely not.

Our journey feels like it’s just beginning. We still have a long way to go but I’m really grateful we’ll have the milestones of these pioneers and their works to look back on for peace of mind and guidance.

What were your musical loves growing up?

My first album was an Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas album. First more serious, non-seasonal album was Michael Jackson’s Dangerous. These were albums my parents chose for me, nevertheless I loved them very, very much.

When I was a bit older, around 11 or 12, the first band I fell in love with was The Smashing Pumpkins. Siamese Dream was my shit. I listened to lots of Hole, also The Cranberries, The Sundays, I listened to lots but these were bands I loved. The Smiths, The Cure, Radiohead.

But the whole world changed when I discovered Portishead, Bjork and Tricky. Then it changed again when I was told to research that British dude who used to creep me out as a kid in that Muppet film. You know the one who sang that ‘China Girl’ song. My world changed when I discovered Bowie and it would never be the same again. No other artist would shake me the way he did... Until I discovered Grace for myself.

How do you approach performing live?

I’ll get to Los Angeles a few days before a show, then Marlyn, Albert and I will get the guitars and vocal arrangements figured out for the most part. Or any other lead synths. Right after that, we bring it full circle with Cookie and Dani and fill in the percussion and coordinated stage dippins.

What’s the music scene like in Pecos, Texas? Are there other local artists you relate to?

If there are other artist here in Pecos, I haven’t met them. This town isn’t known for a thriving music or art scene. It’s a very small town or is used to being.

When I first got here, I was staying with my madrina and her grandparents. Her grandpa, he’s like 95 when I met him, he used to sing with his brothers. They’d work all day building railroads or on the ranch then at night they’d serenade the rest the crew with their songs.

So he’d sing those songs for us as soon as we’d finish dinner every night. And I really related to that. Even at 95-years-old his voice and musical presence would stop you in your tracks and more than likely make you smile real big.

It helped me realize that music is more than pop or rock n roll. More than the smoke and mirrors, image, intrigue and attitude. Music is a language of the soul and it’s in all of us, forever.

What’s next for A Boy Named Pony?

Fingers crossed we get a lil’ financial boost from somewhere and we can bring the people more live performances as the full band. Not to mention proper music videos and physical records. If I did a tour now it’d just be me with minimal instrumentation and a backing-track trekking cross the southwest and that sounds like a nightmare on wheels.

In the meantime, we’re still planning shows in LA very soon and we’re always working on more music. We never stop.

Tracks by A Boy Named Pony are available to download for free on Soundblab now

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