Arts

The Fulcrum chats with local band Pony Girl about their modern folk roots

Photo courtesy of Greggory Clark

With another fresh set of world-famous headliners, the Ottawa Folk Festival has come a long way since its modest origins at Carleton University. One week after classes start, the city will host the Ottawa Folk Fest, which has stayed with its name and grown to accommodate hugely popular international acts in recent years. This year’s events will run Sept. 10–14 and feature big-name artists such as Lorde and Foster the People. The festival will also include local band Pony Girl, with members who have roots at the University of Ottawa.

The annual festival was started 20 years ago by Carleton University’s community radio station, CKCU. At first it was a success, but after a few years of bad weather and low turnout, the festival began to struggle. In 2010, it recruited Bluesfest executive director Mark Monahan and formed a partnership with Ottawa’s biggest summer festival to provide financial help.

In recent years, Monahan says he wanted to make the festival more relevant to the current music scene. This meant inviting well-known modern rock and pop artists, like other 2014 performers The National, Serena Ryder, and The Gaslight Anthem, and previous headliners like Bon Iver, Vampire Weekend, and Kendrick Lamar.

He also decided it was best to move the festival from Britannia Park in the west end to Hog’s Back Park, which is more accessible for those who live downtown, including students, but also has the right atmosphere.

“It’s a rural park,” Monahan says. “It has a country vibe but is also central in the city.”

Pony Girl, slated to perform Sept. 12 at 7:30 p.m., is composed of eight musicians, many of whom are alumni of the University of Ottawa.

“My favourite memory of the University of Ottawa was meeting likeminded people and playing music,” says Pascal Huot, the band’s singer and guitarist.

In 2012, before Pony Girl formed, some of the band members participated in the Ottawa Rock Lottery, an event that takes 25 musicians and randomly sorts them into five bands who are given 24 hours to create and perform 30 minutes of music.

Through this event, they connected with others and created the project now called Pony Girl. The band released its debut album Show Me Your Fears last September.

One year later, the band will take the Hill Stage at Folk Fest. Though modern iterations of the festival are “folk” mostly by name, Huot says his band owes its roots to the genre.

“We start as folk,” he says, “because of the storytelling nature of the lyrics. But we don’t limit themselves to the label of folk.”