Good luck nailing the sound of Pond. Since forming in 2008, the Australian quartet – Nick Allbrook, Joe Ryan, Jay Watson and Jamie Terry – have released a succession of kaleidoscopic albums bursting with psychedelia, pop-art, glam, space-rock and more besides.
Produced by Tame Impala vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Kevin Parker, The Weather, Pond’s seventh album, is their most dazzlingly expansive yet. “We all bring our songs to the table, in varying degrees of completion, and from there they get ‘Pond-ified’,” says Ryan. “We try to take it up a notch with every album.”
The Weather is Pond’s first real concept album.
“We stepped aside and let Nick write the majority of the lyrics for this one, regardless of whose song it was,” Ryan explains. “So you get this theme developing, about today’s general political climate in Australia. The songs touch on everything from ice [methamphetamine] epidemics in Perth to simple pleasures like sitting on the beach, to politicians and their weird agendas.”
The band’s musical playfulness is in direct contrast to some of the most venomous lyrics they’ve ever recorded.
Pond clearly have a lot to say about regressive attitudes in their home country and abroad. Songs like space-metal opera Edge Of The World Pt.1 and 30,000 Megatons pack a suitably explosive punch.
“Our Aboriginal population got pretty well fucked by the white colonial settlers,” says Ryan. “Australia’s still a very young country. It only became a British nation two hundred years ago, so we’re still trying to find our place. Nick grew up in Derby, up north, and his parents were historians who were involved with both colonial and Aboriginal cultures, so his childhood brought him into contact with these issues and it’s stayed that way throughout his life. I think this is the first album where he’s really gone out and addressed that. When you read the lyrics, it’s like: ‘Oh shit, boy! You’re spitting fire here, man.’ Previous albums have hinted at this kind of behaviour, but this is the first time he’s gone full out over the whole ten songs.”
Pond have a shared history with Tame Impala. Watson continues to play in both bands, while Allbrook was TI’s bassist for five years.
“I feel like everyone goes through a period in their twenties when they’re inescapably confused about the world, but it had to be done,” Allbrook explains of his decision to quit his former band in 2013. “I’ve always been a cynical chap, so I had trouble being completely vapid on the road. I ended up being in a big circle of self-flagellation, so I decided to not treat myself as badly as I did for a while. Even going away into the country by myself for ten days of silence changed my view on the world.”
Tame Impala leader Kevin Parker was Pond’s drummer for a while. Now he’s their go-to producer.
“He finally got around to doing his weird thing with these songs after Tame Impala had been so busy last year,” Ryan says of the guy who’s overseen every Pond album since 2012’s Beard, Wives, Denim. “I don’t have the correct vocabulary to fully articulate my ideas to people you might hire. But Kevin understands when I ask something like: ‘Can you make it shimmer like a coin in a fountain?’”
For all their weirdo psych tendencies, Pond are classic pop bunnies at heart.
“We haven’t had a rainbows-out-of-our-earholes jam for some years now,” says Allbrook. “In fact, we’ve been off the flower-child idea of things for ages. We just really like making pop songs. I see psychedelia as something that affords the listener a moment of transcendence. That doesn’t necessarily mean it has to involve bell-bottom pants or fucking tie-dyed T-shirts or Jimi Hendrix replica guitars. As long as it’s transportative, then that’s psychedelic.”
Their band members’ varied musical tastes can play havoc on the tour bus.
As befits a band who are virtually unclassifiable, Pond’s broad spread of influences is most apparent when travelling from gig to gig, which doesn’t always make for a restful situation.
“We’re always listening to tons of different things,” says Ryan. “In fact I often dread getting stuck in the car with Jamie and Nick, because they just love their rap, whereas I’m a chord progression guy all the way. But when we get together in the studio our music becomes bigger than any one style. That’s probably why we’re such genre-spanners.”
The Weather is out now via Marathon Artists.