The Grammy nominated Chicago based duo The PondHawks are one of the biggest and best live indie factions on the planet consisting of singers, songwriters, and multi-instrumentalists Mario Novelli and Jorie Gracen. Widely recognized for their unabashed storytelling, their synth and harmonies, their live shows, and their huge and loyal fan base numbering over 600,000, The PondHawks provide music filled with a raging Kaleidoscopic Tempest of color and a splash of sophisticated anarchy.
Mario Novelli is a supremely accomplished musician and songster who fills the void between indie and commercial artists. He’s as intriguing as a jigsaw puzzle with all the pieces being the same color…..challenging… but once you get to know him….triumphant.
I had an enlightening conversation with Mario with a little help from a friend (Jorie Gracen). Together they had a surprise announcement……
Mario, has there been a moment in your life that has changed the entire trajectory of it?
Mario: Probably… And this is going to sound crazy, watching the Monkees TV show. I said “I want to do that“,. then I started writing, even at a young age. I think I was eight years old. I was writing crap, but I was writing. Then I advanced to semi-crap….. And then advanced crap. Then ultimately I hooked up with Jorie and we formed our songwriting partnership and it was great….fun, fun, fun!
And you’re still having fun?
Mario: You better believe it!
Jorie: Still making music… When we met each other, we were doing live performances and stuff and then we were songwriting.
Mario: I was writing songs for years and years when we had the other band, but they weren’t into the same thing that I was. It’s good to have somebody on the same wavelength to work with.
I like The Monkees too by the way.
Mario: Here’s the weird thing….out of the blue I get asked to open for Micky Dolenz and that was back in 2005. It was great and he was a great guy. Then ironically four or five months later I was asked to open for Davy Jones. Back in those days Mickey and Davy were using the same band because it wasn’t like our days when you go out and play as many gigs as you can. I didn’t want to use all these different bands learning all these Monkees songs, so they just picked different days. So, they all knew me. They also had the same stage manager. It was like old home week. Then another time Davy’s musical coordinator called me. They were set to use a different band, but they insisted upon us. Davy Jones went to bat for The PondHawks. We had this relationship which was really cool. Through this relationship we played when the Monkees would get together for reunions and we got to meet Michael Nesmith. Jorie and I wound up writing a song for Michael Nesmith. It was a lot of fun. We still keep tabs. It was my childhood dream come true.
Jorie: When we released our “Blue Light” album, Mike Nesmith had a listening party on his website. He had a record release party for our album.
How cool! Mario how many instruments can you play?
Mario: Everything except for brass or woodwinds. It’s easy to do. If you get as old as me, you’re going to eventually learn everything. During the quarantine it was kind of a necessity. As a matter of fact, tonight after this interview we are finishing up the next release which is a follow-up to “Invisible Stranger,” which is a song about retrospect and going back in time and thinking “we had it all.” It’s like looking back and saying “did we pull the trigger on it, we had it at the palm of my hand.”
What’s the name of it going to be? AND HERE COMES THE SURPRISE ANNOUNCEMENT ….
Mario: It’s called “Yesterday’s Golden Sun”, and you are the first to know.
I like it already.
Mario: I got the idea because I was looking at a picture of when I was a child. I have a sister that’s 12 1/2 years older than me. She was graduating from high school in a cap and gown and we were all around her and I was thinking “wow how easy was life back then?” Life was so good and we never stopped to savor how great it was. Everyone says “when you get older you’ll have free time, you’ll have this still have that”, but NO you have more responsibilities. It’s cool to listen to someone who’s been through the ringer, all through the years or somebody who hasn’t and says “hey let’s stop and smell the roses” remember that was “Yesterday’s Golden Sun.” You’ve got to stop and check out the rays.
If you could have me ask you any question on the planet what would it be and how would you answer?
Mario: Ask me the winning numbers of the lottery?…Of course it will be a big bust. Ask me what would I like to be doing five years from now? I hope I’m getting interviewed by you 5 years from now in the exact same room with Jorie standing next to me, while working on the next big song.
Mario what do you do when you’re not doing music?
Mario: I’m thinking music. I am a hair stylist. I’ve been in business here since I was a teenager.
Jorie: Mario has 1000 clients and they are all PondHawk fans.
Jorie, what do you do when you’re not doing music?
Jorie: I have my photography. That’s my other life. I did the book on Paul McCartney, plus I have thousands of photos of the most famous people in rock, and superstars, which will probably be the next book. But let’s talk about Mario because he’s so gifted, he really is.
Mario, you two are super tight…. What do you think Jorie’s worst and best qualities are?
Mario: It would have to be the same thing. She’s so wonderful and open and a loving person which is her best quality, but it’s also probably her worst because people take advantage of that.
Jorie: He’s just being kind. We were both born on separate months on the 22nd of the month. We are very much alike.
Mario: Except she parts her hair on the other side.
I’m probably talking to the most talented two musicians on the planet.
Jorie: Mario was good on his own, but when he met me we went into warp speed. Everything came together. We both had all these ambitions in life and that was it.
Photos provided by The PondHawks