Pond — the innovative dream-glam-rockers from Perth, Australia, whose creative reservoirs have shared waters with Tame Impala —gave an excellent and engrossing set at Coachella Weekend 1, not surprisingly. Having seen them in the desert twice now, first at Desert Daze, there’s something (well, multiple things) about this band that makes them one of the best space rockers and neo-psychedelicists around. I spoke with singer-guitarist Nick Albrook and multi-instrumentalist Jay Watson about their new album The Weather, plus Australian music culture and transcendence.
Tell me about your new album… There’s this new song you played that has a repeating riff, I loved that. It was sort of hip-hop-y.
Jay: That song is a sample of a Todd Rundgren song, really slowed down, sort of like G-Funk and hip-hop.
Nick:: Not so much the G-Funk, but more flamboyant southern sort of stuff, like Kanye flamboyant.
Jay:: We’ve been listening to a lot of rap music. A lot of the music we make is retro rock music, so something like the sampling of J Dilla style stuff is a good bridge between the music we listen to and the music we’ve made without going full trap music, which is a lot of the tuff we’ve been listening to… Somewhere between the Beatles and Migos and J Dilla.
I had a friend who said there’s less at stake in Australian music because life is so comfortable there and there’s a general lack of suffering. What do you think?
Jay: I think that’s one of the reasons there is so much good Australian stuff is because we have the time and space and quality of life.
Nick: It can be true, but Australia is like — the lack of suffering, you’d think, especially now, it would be impossible to write anything with any substance or meaning. But there’s a shitload Australian songwriters, even from a privileged, white, urban, gentrified existence who manage to like pour out a lot of really fucking poignant and emotive and beautiful music.
Jay: That’s the thing as well. There’s people in third world poverty that are happier now than some suicidally depressed first world kid. That kid can’t help it, no matter how much they tell themselves how lucky they are, that’s not how happiness works. You adjust to what you have.
Nick: And there’s all the suffering of the Aboriginals. The English imperial Army did such a smashing job of fucking them up pretty much, you know. And I think also it’s been quite hard to just like take physically/technically be able to produce music, up until recently.
Jay:We’re pretty lucky. The reason we get to make so much music is because we aren’t suffering.
Nick: We appreciate that every fucking day.
The word ‘psychedelic’ — do you identify with it or does it feel more like a label?
Nick: Yeah I would say yes to both, but would err more to the latter. I don’t want to sound angry or disappointed in that; it does have a beautiful connotation for so many people, but it’s it is also just useful as a quick code word.
Jay: It’s all about feeling transcendental. Calling people’s music ‘psychedelic’ because of certain tropes doesn’t do it justice. If someone is listening to Adele and they’re moved to outer space, that’s as psychedelic as someone stoned listening to The Doors.
Nick: A lot of our stuff is really fucking cynical, and cynically sort of pop-arty, taking a really rude pastiche of something else.
Jay: We’re in equal parts psych and hippie and stoner dudes and taking the piss. Deep down it’s supposed to be earnest, but it’s more like the stuff w’re mocking is the surface level. The song writing is very earnest.
Nick: Transcendence is the key word, like times when I’ve been lying there listening to Leonard Cohen or Joni Mitchell or something. A lot of our music is cynical and classic and artificial, purposefully, but we hope it can provide some sort of nuanced experience like a pop art experience of visual art, hopefully.
Do you feel like you have stage personae separate from your off-stage selves?
Nick: I don’t think we really pay much attention to it, honestly.
Jay: I used work more on taste and aesthetic, but for a few years I haven’t even thought about it. The same guy who is mowing the lawn is the same guy playing on stage. When you’re younger, to perform and make music you have to drop a bit of a persona bit to do it, but now it’s so ingrained, we haven’t thought about it.
How’d your show go earlier and how has your Coachella been?
Jay: The crowd was good today. It was as wholesome as Coachella could be. It’s a weird festival in that it started off really wholesome, not so much about advertising, and it’s still more wholesome than it would seem from the people on Instagram. It’s a weird balance. If people offer us a show, we almost always say yes, unless it’s like an evil, evil corporation. I’ve been to festivals that are smaller than this, who are doing their best to blow something out of proportion.
Nick: It’s a kaleidoscope of stimulation.
If you could curate a Coachella tent, what would it be like?
Nick: I would have a lot of plants, potted plants, and because you’re at Coachella you could get money to have massive ones. So there’d be lots of plant growth, and maybe some 18th century lamps.
What is your opinion of ponds, and are there any special ponds in your life?
Nick: I have a very special relationship with any body of waters. I had some sort of whimsical realization that an ocean is just a collection of ponds, and if we all related to each other a bit more like water as ponds, we could all interflow.