Words by Aksel Nichols - Published on January 17, 2013
Pond is at the forefront of a wave of psych rock bands coming out of Australia in the last few years. They’ve come off a killer year, with their latest album, Beard, Wives, Denim receiving rave reviews, including bagging the #7 spot on NME’s top 50 Albums of 2012. We talked with guitarist Jay Watson about his upcoming shows at Laneway, new albums, influences and Kylie Minogue.
SCENEWAVE: You’re about start on the Laneway circuit. Do you prefer bigger gigs at festivals, or are you more fans of smaller, more intimate venues?
JAY WATSON: With Pond it’s good at the small, intimate venues, but I don’t mind festivals. My least favourite are probably big, headline shows, but Pond doesn’t seem to do too much of them. I either prefer small club shows or an outdoor festival.
SW: Beard, Wives, Denim has received rave reviews from plenty of music publications, and I’ve got to say, it’s one of my favourite albums of 2012. Was there any difference in the creative process for this album as opposed to your earlier ones?
JW: It was a bit more serious I suppose, it’s always getting more serious. We did it two years ago, so we’ve done a couple more and we’ve all done solo albums, so the whole process is really different now. We didn’t really think anyone would hear it, or anyone more than the first few albums, so it’s quite uninhibited. I think if we knew that so many people were going to hear it around the world, we might have toned down the silliness a bit… but I also think that’s why it’s good.
SW: Yeah, there seem to be a lot of songs that aren’t about anything in particular. Is there some deep hidden meaning, or are they really just about nothing?
JW: Yeah, well they mean stuff to us. There’re some songs that are kind of really heartfelt and meaningful and then there are some that are just, well, stupid, and I don’t think we’ll ever be able to do that again really, because we know so many people are listening and critiquing it. That’s a good thing, because we’re growing up, but I don’t think that we’ll do an album with that sense of fun again, because with that fun comes the idea that everyone thinks you’re a bit of a fool. It’s good though, I think my favourite thing about the album is that a lot of my favourite music isn’t completely serious. It can be life affirming, but it’s not all “woe is me” and “my life is more meaningful than everyone else’s”. I love Frank Zappa and Todd Rundgren and The Stalin, and all that shit is completely fun and silly, well not all of it, but especially Zappa or Captain Beefheart. They have serious songs, but they aren’t afraid to have albums called Hot Rats, or Trout Mosque Replica or something. You don’t really get that anymore in music, obviously in mainstream pop music, but especially in indie music. I find it so unimaginative and boring, so it’s kind of fun being idiots.
SW: You met Flaming Lips a couple of years ago; do you consider them as a big influence?
JW: Yeah they’re a pretty big influence on us, probably too big sometimes. I don’t really listen to them anymore because we have a tendency to liken to the same sort of things, and I don’t really like the idea of ripping them off. We always come up with ideas for things and then someone will say the Flaming Lips already did that and we go, “ah, bugger”. You know for a stage show or a certain sound, or a piece of artwork or something. They’ve covered a lot of ground that we want to.
SW: With all your other projects like Gum and of course Tame Impala, do you find it hard to find the time to get together and make music?
JW: Yeah definitely. I think there’s a band called Gum in the UK and I can’t be bothered with that again because there’s a band called Pond as well, so I might just call it my own name, Jay Watson. I just finished my solo album yesterday, which is pretty cool. But we squeeze it in… As Pond, we write the songs over a long period of time, but we actually recorded the new album, the one we’re releasing soon, in 3 days. We just smashed it out. It’s really awesome; it’s a lot more far out than Beard, Wives, Denim. There’s still some really good song writing on it but it’s pretty fucked up as well.
SW: Is that Hobo Rocket?
JW: Yeah, it’s a pretty silly title, but I was a bit iffy about it because it’s completely silly, and the album’s actually not that silly. There are no songs like “Leisure Pony” or anything like that. It’s kind of serious, but again, I was like, “Zappa’s going to have some album called Bongo Fury” so I should be proud I have an album called Hobo Rocket.
SW: Where does the nickname ‘Wirey B. Buddah’ come from?
JW: That was a long time ago, I think someone read it in a magazine or something. That was a while back, I can’t remember what the last one was, I think Wesley Goldtouch, I came up with that one. We don’t really do them anymore, I think my normal nickname is just Gum or Gumby or something. We’ve been coming up with some stupid ones for the new album, but I don’t have one yet.
SW: You recently covered Kylie Minogue’s “Slow”. Is she a big influence for you guys? Do you see a future there?
JW: Not really, but that song’s pretty awesome, and I love Kylie. Uhh maybe, I’m sure Kevin could write some good pop songs for her, and I’ve got some pop songs she can have. But again I didn’t realise until recently that The Flaming Lips did “Can’t Get You Out of My Head”, so see what I mean? Every time we fucking come up with an idea… bastards. But I really like that cover. After the next record, or maybe the next one after that, we’re going to do a Best Of. It’s kind of a joke but also it’ll be our best of, and then we’re going to have a B-sides and rarities album called Bee, with a bee on the front. Kylie will be on there with a few other covers we’ve done over the years.
SW: You end quite a few shows with “Eye Pattern Blindness”. Is that a favourite song of yours to play?
JW: Yeah, off the new album that was probably the best song I’ve written for Pond, up until we did Hobo Rocket. Most of Hobo Rocket is that kind of song, super heavy, super epic guitar harmonies, kind of mountain rock. But yeah, that was my favourite for a while. I’ve got this riff I’ve had for years, it’s on the new album, called “Giant Tortoise”, and that’s kind of a better version of “Eye Pattern Blindness”. Pretty epic.
SW: An NME writer said “Zanman” was the best riff of the year, will we be seeing that on Hobo Rocket?
Yeah that’s on there as well. We’re finding it hard to get that one to sound good. It’s pretty trashy, which I guess is good because that’s how it sounds live. We didn’t record it like other bands would… we did it live and then just went with the first take that was reasonably good, and I regret it now because there’s heaps of mistakes on it. But I think that’s the good thing about Pond, you can hear that it’s realistic when you’re listening to it; it hasn’t been altered or fixed up like every other record. People forgive a bit of sloppiness.
If you could play with any band, who would it be?
I don’t know about band, maybe Prince? I think that’d be pretty cool. I would have loved to play with Nirvana just before they released Nevermind, I reckon that would’ve been wild.
You play guitar for Pond and you’ve played keyboard and drums before. What’s your favourite instrument?
Guitar, definitely. I feel like I’m starting to get my own distinct style on guitar as opposed to just copying other people, which I’m pretty excited about. I’ve got my own tone, type of playing, type of solos and stuff like that. I think this year I’m going to really take it to the next level on guitar. Shred people’s faces off.
What have you been listening to lately?
This band called Chrome, they’re a psychedelic punk band from the seventies and early eighties from San Francisco, and they’re pretty wild. What else… I put a Phil Collins song on my solo album, I listen to a lot of Genesis and Phil Collins.
Probably the first gig we played in SXSW. I think we were just super fired up, the album was already out and it wasn’t like we needed a label or anything, so we weren’t really going to SXSW to promote it or make it or anything. I think we just wanted to blow people’s tits off. Within one song Nick was crowd surfing, and I was bending over backwards trying to get feedback and stuff, it was pretty fun.
Do you think Pond has a big future?
I think eventually everyone will go their own way, but there are a couple more albums left, and Hobo Rocket and the next one are going to be pretty epic, especially the next one. After that we might call it off, I don’t know, I don’t want to get shitty, like The Office or something, shit after two seasons.
You can catch Pond at their upcoming Laneway shows. Tickets are still on sale, for only $120. Click here for further details.