Industry Weekly

[Emerge]

Ponytrap pioneers unique sounds with help from robots

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Ponytrap—Quentin and Hilary Thomas-Olive—will come to Las Vegas from Austin to perform at the Emerge Music + Impact Conference in November.
Courtesy
Ian Caramanzana

In this weekly series, we spotlight the performers and other participants who will combine for the Emerge Music + Impact Conference on the Las Vegas Strip November 16-18. Tickets are available now at emergelv.com.

Robots are taking over the world, and Ponytrap is helping them.

The Austin, Texas outfit isn’t harvesting a massive mechanical army like Terminator’s Skynet or rebuilding the earth like Wall-E. Instead, the instrumental husband-and-wife pairing of Hilary and Quentin Thomas-Olive is building robots to create music.

Ponytrap fuses the instruments and nuance of classical music with the pounding drums and brash nature of industrial acts such as Ministry and Nine Inch Nails. Think of it as a modern, electrified version of traditional chamber music, with an entirely unconventional approach. Quentin plays viola, Hilary plays cello, and the third member of the group is a towering 10-foot tall creation of metal and mallets, whom Quentin calls Dotman—Ponytrap’s drummer.

“We never set out to be a robot band. [Dotman] was born out of Quentin’s lifelong desire for playing music, and his frustration with finding people to fit within his artistic vision,” Hilary says.

During live sets, Dotman is joined by what the couple calls “a small army of robot percussionists,” all converging to form Ponytrap’s unique, harsh sound. “There’s a weird master-slave relationship between us and the robots,” says Hilary. “When we’re making music, we control them, but when we play live, they control us.”

Ponytrap has some lofty goals. “I would like to do this full-time, and play for as many people as I can,” Quentin says. Hilary’s are more defined: “I want to play in Japan. I think we’d be huge there!”

For now, the couple is in Austin, further developing the Ponytrap vision before their performance at Emerge in Las Vegas. “The robots are all battery-powered, so we sometimes pack them in the back of our trucks and have a mini parade on the streets of Austin,” Hilary says. “That’s just normal here.”

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