A disillusioned married man who is just trying not to be anal, Eoin Brady talks to Mark Cullen of Pony Club.
Mark Cullen, the man behind Dublin indie-pop outfit Pony Club, explains that his ambition as a lyricist is to investigate “the small things that you want to make big”. He wants to explore the minutiae of our relationships; the unpleasant bits we normally brush over.
He looks at the realities of growing up, getting older and the imperfect bonds that are formed along the way. This preoccupation is evident on his new album, Post Romantic. The cover image shows a couple in their mid-thirties strolling through a park, pushing a pram. A slim young woman in red killer heels and a pencil skirt struts past in the opposite direction and the husband’s head is turned towards her to catch a cheeky second glance.
Cullen explains that this striking image didn’t even need to be staged: the couple, who are married in real life, were just told to walk along. The other woman slinks past into shot and “lo and behold, he looks at her”. The wit (and cynicism about human nature) exemplified here is representative of the theme of Cullen’s latest addition to his oeuvre.
“It’d be more interesting if Bono, in his new single, was telling you about what it’s like selling real estate in New York”
The album’s title, Post Romantic, is subject to numerous interpretations by Cullen. He explains that it is a reference to the state of one’s relationships and life as a person ages, “after the romance is dead”, as he bluntly puts it. Also, he perceives a stylistic return to the New Romanticism of the 1980s (the visual and musical style of David Bowie, for example) in contemporary bands like The Killers, referring to this as the post-romantic movement.
Cullen draws on his own experiences and observations in order to develop material. He doesn’t shy away from harsh, honest statements. To sum up his opinion on ageing and love, he says of his wife, “I could pretend to you that I love you the same as when I first met you, but it’s not really the truth”. Cullen feels that honest writing from experience is the most important subject matter for song writing. In this vein, he has advice for Bono. “It’d be more interesting if Bono, in his new single, was telling you about what it’s like selling real estate in New York”.
On the challenge of performing live, Cullen is somewhat conflicted. He sees it is a powerful antidote to the introspection of the life of a creative – “You can disappear up your own hole”, as he puts it. On the other hand, he views his band and their performances positively, feeling that they are “tight”, comparing their live style to that of Elvis Costello. To help prevent Cullen disappearing up his own hole – or, alternatively, to hear his breathtakingly honest new record performed live –check out Pony Club’s live performances in Whelan’s on the 13th February.