Words by Lucy Campbell
Photographs by Genevieve Brandenburg
The first time I set eyes on POND it’s as a nervous support act for cult heroes The Flaming Lips at Thebarton Theatre. They were kind of quasi psych, all big matted afros and 70s hippie schtick with a waif like singer that called himself Paisley, half-heartedly pulling Jagger ‘78 moves when the feeling overwhelmed him. Despite said moves, there was something missing in their set, and though the sight of freak-in-residence Wayne Coyne nodding appreciatively from the wings and Lips instrumentalist Steven Drozd sitting cross legged on stage thumping the floor and rocking back and forth excited the audience, it was clear that POND had a long way to go before their psych freak-outs took a shape of their own. It wasn’t until weeks after the gig that I discovered two core members were of Tame Impala, and POND had barely had a chance to breathe (or rehearse) under the monolith of Tame Impala’s rise to grubby underground stardom.
So when I had the chance to cover their Adelaide album launch I was curious. I’d heard they had a sincerely intense US tour in the meantime, and now were a tight live band baptized under fire in a thirty date run in the States, returning home in ragged celebration of a job well done.
I phone interviewed guitarist Joe Orion the day before the show, and it went like this:
Hey man, how’s it going?
Joe Orion: Really well, thanks.
How’s the tour going?
JO: Yeah pretty good. We’ve been getting pretty loose and rocking out pretty hard.
The first time I saw POND, you were supporting The Flaming Lips.
JO: The Adelaide show?
JO: I just want to say that I didn’t mean to diss Adelaide that time.
Well, I was gonna pull you up on it…
JO: I felt so bad afterward. I hope everybody forgot about it once the Lips took the stage.
How was playing with the Lips?
JO: It was amazing because they’re my favourite band to listen to. I started off around listening to At War With The Mystics and worked my way either side of that. It’s just like, dream come true for me. First time I met Wayne Coyne on that tour he came up to me and grabbed my hand and he was like, ‘what is this man, a hair contest?’
JO: We’re following the rock cliché kinda pattern where you do your super huge album, which never happened for us but meant to be ‘Frond‘, and then you ride into success developing coke addictions and then all of a sudden you’re like, ‘I need to get back to my roots.’
Kinda like the George Harrison with beard moment?
JO: Yeah, totally. So you grow beards, wear Canadian tuxedos and bring your wives our to the bush. But none of us can really grow beards except for our new drummer. I attempt but I don’t really get anything, I’m still a little patchy. But that’s the idea where bands get back to their roots and get all wholesome, even though it [Beard Wives Denim] doesn’t sounds remotely like a wholesome country album.
JO: We went down to a friend of ours’ farm, this one room shack in this big old property with cows goin’ round and just locked ourselves down there for ten days and belted out the album. We had so much fun doing it. We did it all live, and we’d get to twelve takes of a song and be like, ‘oh we’re so close,’ so we’d pump out a couple songs a day until we’d get the right take and move on.
Ten days doesn’t seem like a long time. How do you write songs? It sounds like the jam them out.
JO: We recorded that album a long time ago, like 2010, and at that time me, Nick [Allbrook, vocals] and Jay [Watson, guitar] had all the songs, just chords and the lyrics and when it came time to record we’d go through it once or twice and it would start developing itself and so at the end of take ten there’s like, a five minute freak-out jam in the middle of it. We did kinda jam out the album, but we still came to the table with bones of the songs.
This is your fourth album, and to be honest I hadn’t heard of you until you supported the Lips. But I’ve a lot more since. POND have been flying under the radar, to some extent in the shadow of Tame Impala, but do you think the band is finding its feet now?
JO: In all honesty we’ve hated being referred to as the side project of Tame Impala. All the other albums we’ve made don’t sound anything like Tame Impala, POND are like stoned acid fuelled operas with guitars. We’re developing our sound now because we have more of a solid lineup. Everybody has their place.
Does the band ever have difficulty separating ideas for Tame and ideas for POND?
JO: Kevin [Parker, vocalist in Tame Impala] writes pretty much all the songs and parts and records them in Tame Impala so it’s not like there’s any conflict of melodies. It’s never like, ‘is this going to be Tame, or is this going to be Pond?’ It’s always just, ‘this is POND.’ The only thing we have to deal with is press calling us Tame Impala’s side project and when Tame Impala go on tour. But it‘s the boys [Allbrook and Watson’s] song writing outlets as well.
JO: That’s right. Everybody else has got these side projects going but the best songs always get put into POND. Everybody’s got different tastes in the band, y’know everybody gets to hold the pencil while you draw the picture so it comes out all fucked up and POND-ey.
You guys played SXSW this year didn’t you?
JO: SWSW blew my mind. There were just so many people that we experienced in the streets and so many freaks running around there, it was awesome.
What were your impressions of the US?
JO: I loved it! I thought America was amazing. I wanna go back myself and buy a van and just drive around and meet people. ‘Cos everyone is so nice there. We got back to Sydney and went to a bar and all the bar staff were just hating on us. Sour puss on their faces and just like, not really chatty but in America everyone’s wanting to earn their tips and genuinely happy to talk to you. I wouldn’t say we’re paying for their conversation, but…
JO: Well, we’re going to the UK for four weeks. We got a couple festivals and they’re all over the place. Germany, Luxembourg, Britain…
So you’ll pick up some music vibes while you’re over there?
JO: Definitely. I’ll bring my record case and pick up some krautrock records while I’m there.
In America I got some great records and I can’t wait to get home and play them.
Speaking of records, when’s the next POND record coming out? Will there be less of a gap between recording and releasing this time?
JO: Well, if the world is just, definitely. That was ridiculous, two years [between making the record and releasing it] is just stupid. We were bogged down with contractual issues, so this time we’ve got it sorted so if anybody tries to dick us around we’ll just release it on the internet. We’re over it, you know. It sucks having an album waiting around and you can’t progress or anything.
Beard, Wives and Denim is a sprawling cataclysm of loose, frenetic psychedelic freak-outs made by Perth collective POND. Ripping power chords heralds opener ‘Fantastic Explosion of Time’ followed by reverb drenched ‘When It Explodes,’ followed by a bunch of spacey songs that sound not indifferent to one another, until we reach the only real verse-chorus song of the record, ’You Broke My Cool.’ Despite such setbacks it’s all pretty enjoyable and carefree and rather charming. It was clearly made with gusto, waves of psychedelica blending with garage and jams that disappear into distortion and white noise.
Watching them live, the band take a while to get into the groove. A packed Ed Castle is receptive, warmed up by the vaguely absurd Mondo Phase Band and super serious prog-sters Like Leaves. When POND hit the stage, everybody’s a bit drunk and feeling like a sardine in the tiny band room. The band fly through a bunch of recent songs, highlights including ‘You Broke My Cool,’ and the distinctly Pink Floyd-esque ’Eye Pattern Blindness.’ POND seem to have picked up some tips from veteran DIY duct-tape aficionados The Flaming Lips, taping a multi-coloured light to front man Nick Allbrook’s flute (yes, flute!). There’s a sense of the silly with both Allbrook and POND, self-consciously hip titles like ‘Sorry I Was Under The Sky’ and ‘Dig Brother’ are throwbacks to another, Woodstock Age. The androgynously vague Allbrook slithers self-consciously on stage, conjuring tripped out shadow puppets and druggy incomprehensible singing that sits so low in the mix it takes a while to realise it’s even happening. The rest of the band are all flailing long hair and brutally loud guitars, and they’ve found their feet in the months intervening our last meeting.
Rather like the album, POND’s live show is all about having fun, letting go and succumbing to the pseudo-spiritualism of the Bigger Groove. They might be a teeny bit long-winded and oddly self-conscious but ultimately it’s ripping nostalgia with the right amount of self-awareness to satisfy the cynics.