POND remain an enigma in Australian music.
They occupy a mainstream space somewhere between the produced pop of Tame Impala and the self-satire of Kirin J Callinan. And yet they’ve carved out an ardent and self-aware niche that is distinctly their own. Right now, they’re sitting on a brilliant new album that continues where 2017’s The Weather left off, but then reveals a new and deeply human compassion, sitting modestly beneath the sheen of its glossy exterior—a sober and down to earth approach that contrasts the otherworldly allusions of their earlier psychedelic work. Seemingly a reflection of an increasingly apocalyptic Australian every day, the album is simultaneously accepting and escapist. I spoke to lead singer and chief songwriter Nick Allbrook to discuss everything from the new record to The Mighty Boosh.
Has becoming more successful and playing all over the world changed your sound compared to working within the isolation of Perth?
It’s hard to say from the inside whether it’s being in Perth or being more visible globally that’s changing how we sound. I think it’s more that the type of things you’re into artistically just change naturally. Whether we moved all around the world or stayed in one spot forever—if we’d never really progressed or moved out of Perth I’d like to think we’d still be trying to make different noises. Regardless of the location, I think that just happens naturally. If we were still in Perth and hadn’t progressed I don’t think we’d just be making Beard, Wives, Denim part eight.
Other bands from Perth–The Triffids and the Drones–have played a huge part in nailing down contemporary Australian identity. Do you feel like you’re aware of yourselves continuing that narrative, or are you trying to keep it fun and independent?
It’s a combination. We definitely try to keep it fun and keep it individual; keep it personal. But for sure, you can’t help but be aware of the precedents and the history of music that comes before you. It’s nice, though. It feels nice and nostalgic to kind of connect yourself to Australian musical history. Having a sense of individuality and belonging is really important. Especially [with] globalisation and uniformity, it gets more and more important to assert some kind of national identity. I don’t know if it’s more important to me as a white Australian because it’s such a thin, brittle idea of identity–contemporary Australia is so fucking young, and it’s sitting on top of an incredibly dense culture. Maybe it feels more important to connect yourself with some sort of national identity which is easiest to access through music like The Triffids and Midnight Oil.
On the new album, you’re becoming increasingly chest-beatingly Australian. The record name-drops lots of locations, and there’s a real fascination with Tasmania in particular. What’s the potency of Tasmania?
I guess the obsession with Tasmania–and it really is an obsession on this album–is more thinking about it as a real-life, tangible utopia. With everything getting scarier, and noisier, and more crowded, and hot, and cold, and volatile, a place like Tasmania–which in reality is this small, pedestrian Australian island … you kind of fetishise it as this escape, this sort of Eden that you can realistically buy property in and use to get away from everything.
Are you still writing songs and performing on guitar? Or are the new songs born from a group setting?
For the new record, there’s a lot more individually written songs. Because to really put time, effort and concentration into songcraft, I think it’s a lot easier to do it by yourself.
Do the songs exist as standalone entities then?
Yeah! I mean there are little bits like the end of ‘Burnt Out Star’ that are really created together. And once we’ve crafted the songs individually there’s still a lot of room; they’re still pretty malleable when they get in the hands of everyone else in the studio, and they add their own flavour to it. It just depends on how finished it is when me, Jay or Joe bring in a song.
Kevin Parker produced the new record. Is that serving to help realise a vision you already have or is he just adding flair?
Oh man, he works with us real well. We’ve been doing it for so long together, and it just works. He’s a real compositional wiz, and he can also just talk to us and not fuck around. If there’s an entire verse or guitar part that doesn’t need to be there, he’ll just say so. And it’s just real nice working with someone that you’re comfortable with and open with; we’ve got the process down. But in saying that, you don’t want to get too comfortable, so we might shake it up in the future.
You guys are really good at toying with insincerity without undermining yourselves. There’s that element of performance where you’re making a show of it and kind of taking the piss without destroying your credibility. How do you approach that insincerity?
I guess it’s sort of like admitting your own ignorance; because none of us are prophets, we don’t have all the answers lyrically. It’s part of admitting your own dumb desires to dance about and be loved. It’s something about that.
You guys played with Kirin J Callinan a bit in America. Is it weird being on stage with him given that you guys are relatively passionate while he’s satirising it at every turn?
I know what you mean. It’s different sections of the same scale. Because he definitely still has this pathos in there, even if he’s doing this really fucking garish trance-pop type of thing. But I guess we’re just on different parts of the spectrum, and it doesn’t feel weird, no.
There were a few other things I feel like I’ve seen crop up in your work but wasn’t sure. Are you guys fans of The Mighty Boosh?
Yeah, we are.
The whole lurid, childlike DIY is really similar to the attitude you guys express.
That’s completely on point. Especially at the very beginning of the band, they were one of our biggest influences. But that’s going back ten years or so. But yeah, I love their shit.
Is there any big difference between the new record and The Weather that you haven’t specified yet?
I’m hoping lyrically the perspective is shifting a bit from being didactic, left-wing soapbox type of shit, to being more accepting of the fact that we’re all flawed, confused and scared little people that just want to enjoy the water and each other, and hope that we’re not cast into some eternal fire.
POND | 2019 TOUR DATES
Tickets on sale 10 am Friday 1 February
Sunday 3 March – Astor Theatre, Perth WA (All Ages)
Tuesday 5 March – The Triffid, Brisbane QLD (18+)
Wednesday 6 March – Metro Theatre, Sydney NSW (All Ages)
Thursday 7 March – The Croxton Bandroom, Melbourne VIC (18+)