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POND Incandescence

Pond-2014-press

“We finish albums the same way I finished assignments in high school: cramming in the last minute, whiting out all the spelling errors.”

Pond’s new album, Man, It Feels Like Space Again, is released this Friday, January 23. They’ll be hitting the stage at St Jerome’s Laneway Festival on Sunday, February 8, at Fremantle’s Esplanade Reserve & West End. ALEX GRIFFIN reports.

Despite changes in line-ups, cities, circumstances and haircuts over the last decade, Pond have always had one constant; a weird, wild, burning enthusiasm, manifest in everything from the sunburst hooks of Annie Orangetree to the oft-repeated tableaux of Nick Allbrook hanging suspended from an untested part of a unlicensed venue’s ceiling.

Even as he sneaks out of a family holiday to dodge slow-moving traffic in a valiant search for mobile reception, songwriter, singer and guitarist Jay Watson sounds overjoyed as hell to be talking about his work, and the newest addition to the Pond canon: Man, It Feels Like Space Again.

Where Hobo Rocket stomped and Beard, Wives, Denim ebbed, Man, It Feels Like Space Again soars: this is their most lurid, immersive and beautiful record yet. It’s also one with a long gestation, with the title cropping up in interviews as far back as 2012. However, as Watson explains, a promise from Pond about any future activities should always be taken with a pinch of salt. “There’s always so much going on, it’s pretty crazy. When we say we’ve put a lot of time into something, what we really mean is that we found a week once a year for two years,” he laughs. “We finish albums the same way I finished assignments in high school: cramming in the last minute, whiting out all the spelling errors.”

If Pond have sounded overly casual on record before, Man… dials up the complexity – not something achieved without a furrowing of their collective brow. “We’re not naturally Brian Wilson types, so a cool chord structure or working out voice leading definitely takes some time.”

If this sounds like Pond getting corporate or heading for the conservatory, perish the thought – but goofing off on record is now decidedly less of a priority. For Watson it’s a welcome change, and helps make the band a smaller target for people taking cheap shots. “I never worry about making the band more ambitious, it’s just about upping the quality. We used to take the R. Stevie Moore approach to things — throw in good and bad songs, just because you can! Why not? But now, suddenly, it’s not as easy to do that, especially when people are paying you out for it. I admire people who take the rogue approach and don’t censor themselves at all.”

Rogue is right, though: as usual, Pond’s ability to marry drugs, the spirit and the ego with a good dollop of humour isn’t hard to miss. One needs only look as far as Heroic Shart to know their knack for a cosmic joke hasn’t gone missing. Despite sounding like a Butthole Surfers title, the song hums weightlessly, like space junk trapped in a lonely, endless orbit. “That’s one of Nick’s, so I don’t know, but I think it’s a heartfelt song about the void,” Watson notes, “that’s his way of expressing that without being nihilistic. By showing some loving.”

Man’s incandescent artwork comes courtesy of Melbourne cartoonist and musician, Ben Montero, known for being one half of Early Women, his own solo work, and illustrations that have appeared everywhere from VICE to the Huffington Post. However, his work for Pond came out of the most innocuous of creative partnerships – asking your housemate to have a go at something, as Watson explains. “I was living with him for six months when I was in Melbourne. He just totally gets where we are coming from. I think part of that has to do with the fact he and I have a similar kind of aesthetic musically – often we are referencing pop culture and old rock’n’roll culture and making fun of it – like putting David Crosby’s head in a snowglobe. I want people in the record store to look at it and say ‘I don’t care what this sounds like, but I wanna buy it ‘cos it has good art!”

Perthlings may well remember Pond’s 2010 limited run Greens Pond 7”; all 300 copies came housed in a section of a painting by local artist Ben Barretto, something the lucky few who snapped it up should still be cherishing today (if they haven’t already flogged it for squillions on eBay). That care in presentation is something Watson is keen to keep going, as the band cuts down on sonic waffle. “We’ve sort of been forced into vigilance, because so many people are paying attention now.”

While in WA, Watson is adding the final touches to the new GUM album, a record that sounds a world away from the astral glam of last year’s Delorean Highway. “It’s mid-’80s Soviet disco. Someone in the band – I can’t remember who – was giving me shit for my new solo album because I said trying to bring it into the future and make something contemporary, but it sounded stuck in the ‘80s!”

As ever, the closing of one chapter with Pond overlaps with the start of a new one, with the band preparing to start work on the next record with a new set of tools. “I just bought a sampler; we’re going to do a lot of stuff for the next album by starting on those, by recording jams, and chopping them up into building blocks. I’ve been sampling lots of stuff for this new GUM album; my secret is that if you put enough flanger on, change the tune and the key, no one knows what it is, which is good. I don’t want to get sued! But I guess I just hope for the best and then deal with the consequences later.”

 

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