By ROB DUGUAY
When a group of music scene stalwarts get together, most of the time something rad results from it.
Enter Providence rock act PonyBoy, which was started by vocalist and pianist Dave Laros and guitarist Vic Foley.
The two are familiar with each other through their involvement in the post-apocalyptic band Blackletter, which hails from the same city, but this time around they have a different rhythm section.
Bassist Eric Hanson has gotten to hit the road and do sound for guitar gods such as Warren Haynes from The Allman Brothers Band and Gov’t Mule. Drummer Bob Giusti is a local legend who was taught his craft by Vanilla Fudge drummer Carmine Appice, and he’s also played in the bands Rash Of Stabbings, Sasquatch & The Sick-A-Billies and, more recently, Eric & The Nothing.
On June 11 at 5 p.m., PonyBoy will be performing at Askew, located at 150 Chestnut St. in Providence, with fellow rockers Hope Anchor opening things up.
I recently had a talk with Laros, a Cranston resident, about how the band came together, writing a bunch of material, and being excited to play shows again.
ROB DUGUAY: Whose idea was it to start PonyBoy? Was this something you and Vic had in mind for a while, or did either Eric or Bob approach you guys about it?
DAVE LAROS: What happened was, Vic and I had a song called “Stoop Drinkin’,” which has become one of the first in the PonyBoy catalog. We were thinking about how to record it and we didn’t think it sounded like Blackletter at all. Vic ran into Eric at Nolan’s Corner Pub in Providence, he told him about this song and that we’d love to record it. After listening to a few recordings of the song, Vic told me how it sounded like a completely different band. Then Vic texted a couple people, he got Bob on board.
When we all got together it was that moment in a band where four personalities really worked well together nicely. That’s how it happened.
RD: That’s awesome. In a musical sense, what in your opinion makes PonyBoy different from Blackletter? I know Blackletter has this post-apocalyptic aesthetic that mixes with anthemic rock, so where does PonyBoy fit in?
DL: Vic had the idea for the name PonyBoy. It’s one of those things where I had the idea for Blackletter, and when you heard the name it was kind of like, “That’s the name?” But it also encapsulates what the band is. PonyBoy is American rock ‘n’ roll, but it’s got a little glam edge to it. Songs like “Closet Queen” and “Dying Day” have a bit of a Bowie glam thing going that’s also reminiscent of Blackletter.
DL: Yeah, we even tried “Dying Day” in the other band, but sometimes the songs don’t work in that context. Sure enough, we started playing it in PonyBoy and it did make sense.
RD: Outside of both bands you’re in, you’ve been back doing dueling pianos. How has it been returning to that environment with the COVID-19 regulations being eased up? Have you noticed any changes in the audience?
DL: The thing about the dueling pianos is that I’ve done it for a while and it’s always a great way to make income. I get a lot of enjoyment out of people hearing what they want to hear and I did a couple shows during the pandemic where they wanted me to sing through a mask. I was like, “I can’t do that, that’s ridiculous,” but now it seems on the other side of things that it’s like “The Roaring ’20s” all over again. During the first couple shows in Newport at the Top Of Pelham, it was just packed and people wanted to jump on stage. There’s no plexiglass separating people from one another and everybody is just ready to get out and enjoy live music once again.
As a performer and an entertainer in that room, I’ve done it for four years now and it just feels amazing after being stifled for a while and finding other mediums. I did a live stream series called “Laros Live” which was fun with my wife, Erica, and the dog. It’s a whole different thing being on the other side of the pandemic. People realized how much they loved going out and listening to their favorite bands and musicians. I think it’ll eventually be a whole game changer for the music industry.
RD: I think so too, I really do. People are really itching to get out, have a night out and enjoy themselves. They haven’t been able to do it for the past 15 months, so it’s really great.
RD: You also teach music, so did you have to do any virtual sessions with your students during the pandemic?
DL: I’ve been making the drive to Boston and teaching a couple families for around five years. During the pandemic I started using Skype, but it’s one of those mediums that you really need to get down because you can’t really show somebody how to play music in that way. What you’ve got to do is that you have to figure out how to do it, figure out the angles where you put your hands, but it’s more about how you explain it. One of the families that I teach one student out of, the parents asked me to teach all three of their kids and it became a part-time job.
I’m very blessed and thankful that through that time I had families who appreciated my teaching so much that they made me continue it during the entire pandemic. It was such a big help for my family and I.
RD: I’m glad that it worked out for you like that, especially during a period of so much uncertainty. After the show at Askew, what’s next for PonyBoy? Can we expect a debut record of some sort later this year?
DL: The great thing about PonyBoy is that while we were writing with masks last year at Eric’s studio, 230 Oak, we ended up creating two albums worth of music. Once we got on that train, we just kept writing and compiling material. It’s amazing and the guys are so good at creating their input, which makes the band so special. We are definitely going to go in and record the first record. We’ve also been planning and lining up shows, we’re really excited to get out there and do what we do.