Last week, I spoke with Nick, frontman and vocalist for Pond. We chatted about colonialism in Australia, his relationship with Tame Impala’s frontman Kevin Parker, and why Pond’s members have started listening to Kanye. Read on:
Let’s dive right into it – You have an upcoming album that you’re going to release on May 5th. How did the concept for this new project come about? Are there any themes that run throughout it or came about during its conception?
Nick: I suppose the overriding theme has turned out to be about Perth, Australia, and colonialism. By that I don’t mean a Rush-style concept album where we do stories of each song. There won’t be any epic quests in a 13 minute prog suite. We’ve really just been trying for a long time to be more honest, which really seems like the only way to progress into making something that’s original.
What do you mean by being honest? Does that mean being more frank with your political views or freer in how you create your music?
Nick: I think it means being more honest personally. Being less vacantly whimsical or fantastical. We’re trying not to create random concoctions of psychedelic phrases and banging them all together. We want it to be more quotidian; we’re not trying to make ourselves anything more or less than what we are. We’re not painting ourselves as the great saviors of some social movement. We’re still just confused, scared country boys trying to navigate a fairly terrifying world.
Going back to the idea of Perth – A lot of the readers at BIRP might not know much about the area. Can you tell me how growing up and living in this sleepy Australian beach town has shaped your worldview?
Nick: Well, I grew up in Kimberly, which is way, way up north. Even today, the great rolling wheels of globalization have found it just too fucking hard, hot, and awful to take hold there. It still doesn’t have big towns at all. Australians are really apathetic about the rest of the world because we’re comfortable as white people. We’ve inherited the cushiest end of the British Empire after the most fucked lead-up. We’re slowly trying to pull us out of this quite embarrassing apathy and out-and-out racism that pervades a lot of Australia. But it’s also beautiful, pure, and people can be kind to each other. I can’t instill you with much of a really comprehensive worldview. It’s just confusing, being an Englishman who’s been put down here. I feel Australian, but at the same time I’m not because it wasn’t very long since my grandparents came down here, giving everyone syphilis and blowing shit up.
I want to go back to something that you said earlier about not creating “random concoctions of psychedelic phrases”. Does this mean that you guys are taking a more measured, focused approach to songwriting on this album?
Nick: I don’t know about that! At times, it feels outrageously eclectic to me. I’m hoping that we’ve gotten better at focusing our eccentricities. I think a lot of it has to do with living it and being conscious of the movements you make. Learning why a certain sound is appealing. Why a fucked up section where someone screams for no particular reason is more palatable to my tastes and why not.
I noticed on your latest couple of singles that your voice sounds a little bit clearer. Is this a conscious effort on your behalf?
Nick: I don’t know, I think I’ve just gotten better at singing. Just practice. All of the singing was recorded at Kevin [Parker’s] studio and he’s got good equipment so he can hear shit properly. Another reason might be that we’re more into the lyrics and we want people to actually hear them. In our early stuff it was a bit *eeughh* so I was a bit guilty and wanted to wash them out. It’s just easier to be proud of what you’re saying now; speaking truthfully.
I want to keep the focus of this interview on your band, but I have one more question about your band’s relationship with Kevin. As a producer, what does he bring to the table and how does he influence how Pond’s sound evolves?
Nick: We’ve been making music together for so long and we’ve formed our own school in which we can all learn how to be musicians. It’s just straight back to how we do it. He’s another creative voice, hanging out and fucking about. He knows his role; he’s real chill and likes being a producer. We write everything and have the main formative ideas. He’s known as a very good creative voice among us.
Hearing your new singles, they’ve hinted that guitars are taking a back seat to synths on the upcoming album. Is this true and if so, what are the reasons for this change?
Nick: I suppose we just like that music more. I don’t really listen to a lot of guitar-guy music. I still do a bit – it’s still badass, but it’s not our musical focus.
Do you feel like you’re fatigued after doing so much in that style?
Nick: Maybe that has something to do with it. We just haven’t really been consuming those sort of sounds.
What have you guys been listening to then?
Nick: Aw, man… Lots of shit. Arco, Robert Wyatt, Arthur Russel. Lots of Kanye – the newer Kanye. Travis Scott, Lauryn Hill. Alice Coltrane.
Here’s a question from a long-time fan: You guys dropped songs from Beards, Wives, Denim off of your setlists pretty quickly after your follow-up album. I think I remember seeing an interview where you stated that you thought Hobo Rocket was a much better album. Can you tell me why you thought Hobo Rocket was a better project or why you weren’t that jazzed about playing BWD songs afterwards?
Nick: Well I reckon Beards, Wives, Denim’s a better record than Hobo Rocket now, personally. I think that’s just what everyone says, you know? When you’re in that particular moment and having just made something new, you always say “Oh man, this stuff is wayyy better than my old shit”.
Originally, you were a concept band where every member played every instrument and rotated positions. How and when did you move away from that model?
Nick: It was a natural progression. Back then we were so jazzed on the whole (crew guru) communal, free form, acid-freak-puppy-type of thing. We were influenced by Funkadelic and stuff like that. We slowly got more jazzed on Prince and Fleetwood Mac, etc, etc. So now we’ve become the total pop fruitcakes that we are today.
Thanks for your time Nick! Readers can find out more about Pond’s upcoming album and tour at pondband.net.Artists: Pond