Featuring former members of Stereolab and My Bloody Valentine!" screams the sticker on British band Snowpony's debut, "The Slow-Motion World of Snowpony." In the context of late-'90 alternative music, it's hard to imagine a more prestigious pedigree, but the CD's proclamation begs the question: Did Snowpony take anything from either band?
Not much except experience, if you believe Snowpony frontwoman and songwriter Katharine Gifford, who chalked up two years as Stereolab's keyboardist.
"I joined Stereolab shortly after my previous band split up and I wasn't up to the responsibility of starting another band," she recalls. "But I was still writing my own songs. I think it was healthy, just playing for someone else's team, as it were."
Gifford demurs when asked whether the ethereal vocals, fuzzy background noises and free-floating rhythms of Slow-Motion follow from bassist Debbie Googe's stint with the Valentines.
"I can't really speak for her, but I think the main thing she learned was patience," Gifford says with a laugh.
Despite the Valentine's audible influence, "Slow-Motion" is hardly a shoegazing tribute. Muscular tracks like "Easy Way Down" alternate with haunted ones such as "St. Lucy's Gate" and "Pylons." All the songs feature idiosyncratic mixes of instruments, found noises and syncopation. For example, the crunchy "Titanic" merges sitar, cowbells and organ.;;
"I like the juxtaposition of weird elements," admits Gifford. "You know, things you don't normally hear together, like piano with really hard rock guitar. I'm really interested in texture, so I'm always adding layers of sound -- loops, samples."
For the live show, instead of trying to replicate those sound layers, the three-member band (Max Corradi is the drummer) decided to add another vocalist and a violinist. "We thought that doing something unusual like bringing in a violinist would be more interesting than trying to play the songs straight and maybe not bringing it off," says Gifford.
"As a result, of course, our live sound is very different from what's on the album," Gifford notes. "But that's a good thing as well -- after all, people come to a show to experience something different. And if someone doesn't like it, well -- we're a bit of an army up there now. We'll fight anyone who says we're not fantastic."