Wild Woman of Rock!
Tahita Bulmer of New Young Pony Club rocks her veggie ryhthms with Viva!’s Juliet Gellatley
You’ve probably heard of the New Young Pony Club, and if not, you’ve almost certainly heard something by them. Most likely the band’s ‘Ice Cream’ - a seductive piece of electropop with teasing lyrics - which appeared as the soundtrack to Intel’s Core Duo 2 processor TV campaign last year. “I can give you what you want,” suggestively sings vegetarian Tahita (or Ty) Bulmer, NYPC’S vocalist.
She certainly gave the crowd what they wanted when I went to NYPC’s gig at the Bristol Carling Academy in September this year- part of a busy tour covering the UK, USA and Australia (where they are big news played over and over on our equivalent of radio One). Their mission is simple she says: “to put the fun back into music, and get people dancing. We want to get everyone dancing. Not being po-faced. This is not a dress rehearsal. This is life.”
A British band, they formed in 2003 through the friendship of Bulmer and the band’s guitarist, Andy Spence and completed the line-up with a refreshing mix of genders: keyboardist Lou Hayter, bassist Igor Volk and drummer Sarah Jones.
At their gig the crowds surged forwards right from the start, the women unreservedly dancing throughout and, to my surprise (and I admit, amusement), the usually more reserved men also let go - with some very eccentric movers at the back! There they were giving it their all, a throbbing space of frenetic and exciting movement. It was impossible to resist – it’s a long time since I danced that much, that hard. All led by the immensely likeable, entertaining and gyrating Tahita who, as she says, “we are really quite wild and we give it everything”.
The music is influenced by punk and eighties dance music; there’s often a funky-electro beat and is hard to categorise. Tahita speaks a lot of the intelligent, knowing and compelling lyrics. Before the gig, I chatted with Tahita about her beliefs. Why did this Queen of Indie-dance go vegetarian? “I switched on the telly about three years ago and there was a programme on about slaughterhouses and I thought ‘this is disgusting’. It hammered home that the meat you are eating was once living, so you’re eating dead flesh. It is such a disgusting thought if you apprehend it with any kind of humanity. Then I started reading up on it and I started to think about the meat industry from the animals’ perspective.
“I read a lot - the latest one I’m trying to push on my friends is called Skinny Bitch. It’s got a lot about animal slaughter and tells you how you lose weight healthily if you go vegan”. Weight definitely isn’t a problem for Tahita – she’s a petite, striking woman with an amazing amount of energy. Imagine trying to dance your way through a whole set of songs without sounding like you’re stricken with asthma! Tahita laughs: “Yes and I have asthma! My diet gives me energy and when I tried giving up dairy my skin cleared up. There are definitely health advantages to being veggie.”
“It’s hard sticking with being vegan at the moment because I’m touring. You just don’t get the opportunity to cook or eat at the places you’d like. The festival circuit in Europe is getting a lot better with providing stuff for vegetarians but if you were vegan, omigod you would actually eat nothing! It’s a shame cos I love cooking – I love using fresh vegetables and I’m a big bread fan! I won’t cook meat for others because it is disgusting.”
“I find in talking to people that we are so removed from that whole chain of how meat or dairy comes to the table – like when kids see meat and think it comes in batter or think it’s a vegetable. They don’t relate the chicken drumstick or burger with an animal. That’s why it’s important Viva! makes people associate what they’re eating with the animal and the process that it goes through to get to your plate”.
Tahita isn’t the only member of the band that’s veggie. She tells me: “Yes – Igor has been a vegetarian since he was about eight. He really doesn’t like the taste of meat or eggs. And Sarah, our drummer, became vegetarian at about 12, because of the animals. She’s from Hereford from a rural background - used to seeing farming, she understands that process better than anybody else in the band. Sarah says: “it’s disgusting, it’s dead flesh and I’m not eating it!” And Lou our keyboard player is on her way to being vegetarian.”
“We find factory farming hideous! For the animals obviously it’s got to be incredibly distressing; it’s so horrible it doesn’t bear thinking about. I know if I was ever faced with the prospect of having to visit any of those places I would probably be hysterical at the idea. I don’t like the thought of any animal in distress - particularly distress for meat – something we don’t even need. You don’t have to keep chickens thousands to a shed, pumped with drugs and getting so fat their legs break. And the government stand by and allow it to happen.
“I’m really glad Viva! is campaigning against foie gras. It’s hideous and unnatural, it’s obscene, it - is - obscene, there are so many other amazing things people could be eating.” Tahita has the admirable mix of being passionate and considered, she continues:
“A lot of people probably don’t know what foie gras is – again it’s that problem of people being divorced from the production. They think “oh it’s pate” and don’t understand the cruelty of force feeding geese until their liver practically explodes. The other problem we have in this country is the whole class system that glorifies certain foods so people think they are aspirational - like, ‘I’m going to go and buy foie-gras at Christmas, or I’m going to have veal on a special occasion’ - destroying that mindset will be the hardest thing.”
“It’s like with pigs, we’re supposed to be massive animal lovers in the UK and we take great stock with the idea of motherhood and animals being able to nurture their young - so why would anyone even consider factory farming these animals? Putting the mothers in crates and wrenching the babies away at three weeks? Obviously animals that are stressed are going to be hideously unhappy – it makes me really, really angry thinking about it; it should make everybody angry. I wish that the school system in this country set aside for children to go and see these things – not city farms but real factory farms and slaughterhouses - so they can make their own decision about what they eat. We should all understand the process of how chicken, sausages, veal, whatever it is gets on to the plate.
And what about the environment, does it come into Tahita’s decision to be veggie? “Definitely! What we eat affects so much. Eating animals is major cause of global warming, deforestation, water pollution - the whole gamut of global problems. And I think if you’re finding the whole idea of changing the world quite difficult then one of the first steps to make is to become a vegetarian. You’re going to make such a massive difference just doing that.
“And I like the fact that Viva! campaigns on all these issues. Going vegetarian and joining Viva! is important for the animals and the world. It’s a great thing to do!
Thanks Ty – you certainly rock.
NYPC’s debut album, Fantastic Playroom, is in the shops now.