L.A.'s Franki Chan, equal parts record label owner, DJ, comic book artist, and promoter, is a defining force in his city's art and nightlife scenes. Known for parties such as Cinespace Tuesday, Fucking Awesome, and Check Yo Ponytail -- which have earned a nearly cult-like following among L.A. scenesters and frequently attract some of Hollywood's young stars -- Chan has also been a force in international dance music with his IHEARTCOMIX label. Collaborating with Danny Johnson (Media Contender) and his longtime friend Zane Landreth, Franki has now returned with a national tour labeled Check Yo Ponytail 2. We spoke with Franki and Zane about the acts on this tour, along with just how Franki manages to balance all his artistic endeavors. This Friday, they debut their first show on the road featuring Spank Rock, Big Freedia, The Death Set, Pictureplane, and more at Mezzanine.
Give us a brief history of the original Check Yo Ponytail party.
Franki Chan: I'm the only original member. The party began in 2006 when I wanted to get my own party going. I wanted to focus on booking live acts and bands, rather than just have people show up and DJ. The timing was great because it appeared right at that zeitgeist of new music where DJ acts became more like live acts, for example Justice, Boys Noize, and Diplo.
Why did it end in 2008?
F: For some reason, towards the end of 2008, there weren't many new artists like that coming out. I was also getting really busy with music. I wanted to end it while it was still good.
What made you bring it back? Did you want to keep it the same style as the previous parties?
F: Fast forward to summer 2010. Danny (who runs Media Contender) and I were talking and I, at that point, hadn't put out a new record on my new label in about a year. I found myself missing doing shows, and he said we should bring back Check Yo Ponytail. I didn't know how I felt about that, and if we brought it back it wouldn't be as good as it was back then. But he kept pushing me. He and I had worked on a few other shows together and developed a mutual trust, and when he kept pushing me to do it, it began to feel right. I didn't want to do it without him, so together we began to formulate the idea of what it would be. Yet I didn't want it to be like how it was, which was just cool shows and a mix of band and DJs. There wasn't any real branding or theory behind it besides that it was a cool local party. I wanted it to be an entire brand this time around.
So what inspired you to take this party on tour?
F: As the shows began to do better and better with a major audience showing up each time, we realized we wanted to take it further. I had wanted to do a tour for a long time, even for IHEARTCOMIX, but for some reason it could never work out. Then there were also the artists we were working with that had new records out. Then it just seemed obvious. One night I literally called everybody and the artists, and said, "Let's go on tour!" And then that followed with three months of agony with planning everything out.
Zane Landreth: My reason for wanting to do it is because Check Yo Ponytail is a really unique experience. We not only focus on great music or bands, but we incorporate visuals and more. There's a certain allure of the atmosphere at the party we do. You walk in, and it's different than just another show at Slim's or Great American Music Hall. It's a lot different than just a regular slot on whoever's tour. We bring a vibe that we've really tried to curate. It's been going really well in L.A., and we wanted other towns to have fun with this, too. It's an experience in which we can come into any venue or town and just deliver.
F: What Zane says is right. When we decided to re-launch the party, we knew we wanted to do something bigger. We didn't have every step planned out, but very quickly it became obvious we had something going on. We didn't want this to be something in L.A. that just happens. We wanted it to have a life of it's own.
How does the party name of Check Yo Ponytail reflect the personality of the party?
F: It doesn't have any real meaning, but it began as a joke between my friend and me. At some destination in 2005, she walked into a room and I said,"Check yo ponytail!" It's a pretty dumb phrase, but it works because it's fun. There's something about it that has a nice ring.