Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
How do you describe Molly Siegel? The lead singer for Baltimore band Ponytail is a whole host of who knows the hell what. She's an artist without brakes or rules, looking at the side of a building and then getting out a number of drums of paint. She works under the gun, without a script, and gets to the wall with a brush in each hand - splashing blue here and red there, white over there and black where she knows it needs to be, all the while getting an enormous amount of the paint all over her own body. It's like her sun tan.
She splashes and squiggles and before too long, something emerges on that wall. It's got definition and contours. It's got shape and identifiable characteristics, but at the same time, it's as if the finished product had been zapped, had its finger shoved into an electrical socket. It's frazzled and yet shakily in one piece. She throws the brushes down and is satisfied with what she's just breathed life into, this sweeping siren song to motion-sick and to those who aren't afraid to dig the weirdness that this foursome (which is filled out by Dustin Wong, Jeremy Hyman and Ken Seeno) makes with the ease of a right hand turn on green.
Siegel's bandmates are the backbone to Ponytail's war-painted musical propulsion, but it's the half-pint singer who attracts all of the eyes to her and all of the ears to the chanting, childlike, Deerhoof sort of belief in having the meaning of their music be whatever it is that heals you. It's impressionistic and open for interpretation as Siegel is most forthcoming with her rolling tongues - as if a desperado was getting his steed up on two legs, firing his six-shooter three times to the sky and then ride off with his gold teeth - and the way she purrs where it's almost like she's channeling Julie Newmar or Eartha Kitt, the two actresses who played the Catwoman on the old Batman television series. It's enchanting and confusing and playful as anything can be. She is a ball of lightning and doesn't seem like a person that's ever in need of uplifting or a shoulder to cry on. She just goes.
She was featured on the front page of the New York Times Arts section following the completion of this fall's CMJ music fest, wearing a t-shirt that had the outlines of hands printed over where the breasts go. In the studio, she walked around without her shoes on, her colorful socks showing numerous holes in the toes, where some dirty and jagged nails were poking out. Holes in socks is not a comfortable feeling, much as the tiniest grain of sand in your shoe feels like a boulder, and she was no worse for the tatter and the room air breezing against her toe knuckles. It's almost exactly how everything she does musically works - just let it be, there are no important issues here, it's just going to be some high-pressured, jacked up dancing on the ceiling, breaking of some bottles howling at the moon with all the wolves.
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