Australian band Pond have followed up their 2017 album ‘The Weather’ with ‘Tasmania’, a progressive meditation on the state of the world we live in today - particularly touching on issues around the environment and climate change, with frontman Nick Allbrook questioning in ‘Sixteen Days’, “While the whole world melts, am I just meant to watch?”
Throughout the ten songs, the five-piece continue to expand their musical horizons, with songs like ‘Goodnight, P.C.C.’ adding a cinematic tone to the album, juxtaposed with poppy ‘bangers’ (as described by the band’s Jay Watson) like ‘Daisy’.
We caught up with Pond’s Jay Watson ahead of the album release to discuss the recording process, bringing the songs to life, and more…
COUP DE MAIN: I’m so excited about the new Pond album, ‘Tasmania’! You guys seem to have such a constant flow of releasing music. Do you ever get writer’s/musical block when working on music?
POND - JAY WATSON: Sure, we get it for little periods individually. I think the making-the-music part of it is kind of the easiest part of it, it’s the touring it and promoting it which requires a bit more tact that we don’t necessarily have. I think the getting in a room and making stuff up is-- We’ve always got more ideas than we have time to do.
CDM: That’s good! Do you have an ideal writing environment that helps you guys get creative? Or is it just being in a room together that helps the creative juices flow?
JAY: I think because I’ve been touring for so long, you get used to trying to come up with stuff on aeroplanes, in band rooms, in hotel rooms - so if we’ve got time at home it’s even easier, you know? I guess what I’m saying is I don’t need a certain environment to get inspired, I just need some sort of instrument or my laptop, or even just like the notes app on my phone.
CDM: Do you remember which song on ‘Tasmania’ was the first that you guys started working on?
JAY: The album is a mix of Nick [Allbrook]’s songs that were pretty much fully formed as demos, and then ones that we kind of wrote together, or were music from Joe [Ryan] and I, and then Nick wrote stuff over the top. We probably recorded one of Nick’s fully finished demo ones first, maybe ‘Sixteen Days’, I think we probably started that first up actually.
CDM: Have you spent much time yourself in Tasmania? You should do a special album release show there or something.
JAY: I know, I know! I’m not sure why we’re not going there on this trip!
CDM: I’m sure the people of Tasmania are cursing you.
JAY: Yeah it’s a bummer. I spent a bit of time there around Christmas time, my family went there for Christmas - they don’t live there but they went down there. It’s really nice. It’s very similar to New Zealand actually, in climate and geography and food and wine. It’s kind of like our little New Zealand.
CDM: Cool! A very small place?
JAY: Small place, not many people, but very pretty and a bit cooler temperature-wise than the rest of Australia.
CDM: In the title-track Nick questions, “How could I know where I’ve been / when I don’t know who I am?”, which is a pretty existential crisis within that one line. Do you think that self-discovery is an endless quest in life?
JAY: For sure, yeah! I think unless you’re either a) a moron <laughs>, or b) full of 100% self belief and confidence in your merits as a good person, I think you’re constantly on that quest. I’m sure there are some people that haven’t thought about it and I envy them.
CDM: Yeah, it’s kind of nice to imagine life without thinking about it.
JAY: Yeah, it would be. I think most of us know that we’re not the best versions of ourselves that we could be, you know? And are constantly trying to attain that.
CDM: I also love the line, “Should I be worried ‘bout my kidney or worried about war?” Do you think humans instinctively worry about problems that impact themselves first, before things that impact the world?
JAY: Probably, and I probably wouldn’t blame them really. I think biologically that’s kind of your number one concern. <laughs>
CDM: Yeah, humans are all inherently kind of a little bit selfish.
JAY: Yeah, I mean very selfish - I’m very selfish. But I think it’s just about how guilty you feel about that. Nick probably feels more guilt than most.
CDM: I guess if you’re more aware of it then you can be more aware of other issues around or outside of yourself.
JAY: Totally, yeah. I think it’s important to feel a little bit guilty about everything that you do at times, you know? Well, maybe not guilty, but at least having a decent amount of reflection on everything you do, without driving yourself insane.
CDM: I also don’t think one person can solve the world’s issues by themselves - it kind of requires multiple people being like ‘this is something that’s wrong with everything’.
JAY: Totally, yeah. I think it’s funny that you notice all the heavy lines - I know that bit of the song, but the bit that I always like out of that bit is, ‘I left my phone in Sydney,’ which always makes me laugh!
CDM: Yeah, I love the mixture of those lines and then the deep questioning of humanity - it’s cool to have that kind of juxtaposition within one song.
JAY: I just remember Nick freaking out about having left his phone in Sydney - it’s just fun, I like the funny bits! I guess because maybe the existential bits you notice early on, or you’ve spoken about, or you’re talking about the themes or something amongst yourselves, but that bit sticks with you. I guess a lot of songwriting as well is big themes, so it’s the tiny little anecdotes which I find most amusing.
CDM: Now I hope Nick will never leave his phone in Sydney, because he’ll always think of it every time he has to play that song live.
JAY: Totally. There’s another bit in that song about playing in Tel Aviv, because we played in Tel Aviv, and that’s a real hard one - when we did that, I’m not even sure if we would do it now again.
CDM: It’s a really contested issue, I know.
JAY: But I think there’s a good sentiment in that bit of that song, which is just playing to people. It’s how much do you want to acknowledge the influence of the government versus just playing to people who want to hear you? Yeah, that’s a tough one. I think once the government started tweaking who was playing and using it as propaganda it started to get a bit twisted. I think it’s a case by case decision.
CDM: I think ‘Hand Mouth Dancer’ is one of my favourite songs on the album musically - is there anything you remember in particular about recording/working on that song?
JAY: Yeah, Nick had a demo that was really good. I think it was pretty much the same as the finished version. We just wanted to replace all his digital sounds with all the sweet analog equipment we have to make it have a bit more life. I think that the bridge section where it goes kind of really— it sounds like fairies or something, I just always see the colour, that musk pink colour, like, LifeSavers pink. Do you have LifeSavers in New Zealand?
CDM: Yeah, we do.
JAY: Fruit tingle pink! And then the outro was just a jam, and the motif thing from the chorus comes back. That was an example of one of the ones which was pretty much fully formed as a Nick demo.
CDM: A lot of the songs sound so cinematic - I think the outro of ‘Goodnight, P.C.C.’ in particular kinda sounds like it should be paired with a big epic shot of space, looking down at Earth or something. Would you guys ever want to do something in the film world, scoring for a movie or something?
JAY: I mean, we’d love to! You just don’t get asked to do that sort of thing, I think you’d have to make really, really good music for a really long time before movie people trust you. You have to be a sort of, Jonny Greenwood guy.
CDM: Or Brian Eno.
JAY: Brian Eno, yeah. But yeah, that would be great! I think I always wanted to do stuff like that as early as I could, and now I’m not in so much of a rush because it’s the sort of thing that you don’t have to be a young person to do. Whereas I think touring around and playing in bars kind of is - it just kind of gets a little bit harder every year. So I’m in no rush to do film-work, but it is a dream of mine. And I’m sure the other guys.
CDM: Maybe when you’re sixty years old and sitting in a retirement home!
JAY: Yeah, you’ve kinda got the look for it too!
CDM: You’d have to be bearded, that's like a necessity.
JAY: For sure.
CDM: Are you excited about bringing these new songs into the live Pond experience?
JAY: Yeah, we’ve been playing a couple of the new songs already, the singles, but we’re learning another three or so songs off the record. It’ll be good to fire it up again. First rehearsal back, you always are shocked at how shit you sound, and then you have to remind yourself that it’s not going to actually be like that when you’re actually on tour, it’s gonna get better and better. I think we’re good songwriters, and we’re good producers, but we’re not necessarily technical musicians. It always takes a while for us to figure out how to play our instruments again. We’re certainly not practisers.
CDM: I always feel like it’s nice for a live experience for songs from an album to feel different to how they are recorded.
JAY: Totally, yeah. We’re essentially a cover band of our own band, because it’s not recorded as a band. There’s some songs where it’s almost one person on the whole song, and some songs where I’ll be playing an instrument that I don’t play live ever or something. So we basically cover our own songs in rehearsal. So it’s always gonna be a little bit different, that’s for sure.
CDM: You guys have such a big catalogue now, how do you go about choosing which songs from the new album you want to bring into the set?
JAY: We try and learn as many as we can - I think we’ll know about six from the new album. It’s really good with this new one because I think the first five songs on the album are really obvious single-y sort of ones, or for us - bangers. So that’s really good. Sometimes you have to play a new record and you can tell that they’re not sort of gonna immediately be winners live. Whereas this one, we’ll do ‘Hand Mouth Dancer’, we’ll do ’Tasmania’, we’ll do ‘The Boys Are Killing Me’, plus the ones we’ve already put out. So they’re gonna fit in easily to the live set.
CDM: You guys have announced your Australian tour, but you haven’t been to New Zealand since Laneway last year! Do you think you’ll be doing a Pond NZ tour on this album cycle?
JAY: We keep trying to! Jamie [Terry] is constantly going on about playing New Zealand, I think a lot. We’re really trying to, so hopefully after these European festivals we do in the middle of the year, like the second half of the year, I’d love to. It does seem a travesty that we’ve never done our own shows before.
CDM: We need a headline show!
JAY: I have a feeling some on us are gonna end up in NZ one day, you know, just living there for a bit. So I’m sure there’ll be more of us in the future.
Pond’s new album ‘Tasmania’ is out now - watch the ‘Daisy’ music video below…