Making A Splash

18 March 2012 | 1:53 pm | Bryget Chrisfield

More Pond More Pond

After a couple of false starts when the voice of multi-instrumentalist Jay Watson is replaced by the piercing squeal of a fax machine, Inpress starts to suspect the band of mutating into robots. “Yeah,” Pond's guitarist chuckles. “Next album. Our Gary Numan album.”

All of Pond's three official band members once cohabited “in a really posh suburb of Perth” in “one of those houses that's a big house, but it's separated into three,” Watson reminisces. “Everyone around us was kind of old and posh or had kids or whatever and there was this park out the back of our house that all the houses around there used and they had a massive mulberry tree, but we were the only ones out there all the time because I think everybody else didn't wanna come out because we were always sitting there playing bad guitar. You know, because we weren't as good back then we probably played some pretty awful stuff out there and made a lotta noise – beer bottles and whatnot. So it was this idyllic, mulberry paradise. They sold the house, but I think they probably sold it because of us. After that house we learnt to live in dodgier suburbs [laughs]. Not dodgier, just not upper middle class, quiet, residential areas.

“I went past the other day to get some mail. We haven't lived there for a couple of years, but I thought the post office had something there accidentally.” Watson believes their former party pad is now inhabited by “a working couple in their 30s”. “But far more respectable than us,” he adds. “The poor guy next door was really nice and Joe [Ryan, bass] would always climb up and sit on his roof in the middle of the night. So [the guy next door]'d be lying in bed and he'd hear this guy clomping on the tiles. He just had smoke and beer and loud music coming at him, but I think he would've had a nice cup of tea the day we left.”

On the mulberry tree under which the trio would jam, Watson muses, “I think it liked us. We had a lot of mulberries. I think Nick [Allbrook, Pond frontman/Tame Impala bassist] ate more mulberries than he ate other things back then. And they stain your fingers for, like, a day. I think we made something [out of mulberries] once. Some sort of pie or something.”

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Initially, Pond's identities were concealed by psychedelic pseudonyms – such as “Ayayayai”, “Paisley Adams” and “Kaykay Sorbet” – which were presumably also invented in “Mulbaria”. “Well see everything we used to come up with sounded really brilliant to us and now it just sounds kind of stupid – ha,” Watson acknowledges. “Joe's still endlessly coming up with stupid nicknames for himself, but I dunno, I guess we've grown up a bit.”

Explaining Pond have been busily “practising and trying to get good for all [their] live shows” of late, Watson (who's also Tame Impala's drummer) isn't fishing for compliments. “It's just because of all the Tame stuff, you know?” he continues. “Pond's never actually got the chance to get really good at playing live.” In between touring commitments with Tame Impala, Watson says Pond often end up with just “three days to get good and remember all [their] songs”. The band were in fact called upon to support The Flaming Lips at their Harvest sideshows last year and word on the tweet was that Wayne Coyne endorsed Pond's sweet sounds. “We just got a new drummer, Cam [Avery, also frontman of The Growl and Allbrook's partner in musical crime for Allbrook/Avery] and, yeah, we hadn't practised that much, but we did alright. We were quite sloppy, we weren't that tight and I remember Wayne was like, '[puts on his best American accent] Guys, that was brilliant!' And I was like, 'Yeah, we were a bit sloppy though, weren't we?' And he was like, '[returns to Coyne impersonation] Yeah, you guys – I dunno what you guys were thinking. You were all outta whack, but I liked it'.”

Recalling Pond's first-ever gig, Watson estimates, “It would've been a house party in 2007 or '08. It was a lot different then. We were just a freeform, acid-rock jam band thing. We didn't really have songs or anything, you know. We did that for a while, the first two albums [Psychedelic Mango and Corridors Of Blissterday] are kinda like that, and then I think we thought that everyone thought we were just stoner idiots and so we wanted to prove – to ourselves – that we could write pop songs, choruses. I think by the third album [Frond] we were mostly listening to Prince and Fleetwood Mac and stuff instead of all the old acid-rock bands. So we naturally came up with melodies, I guess.”

Pond played three fundraiser shows in their hometown of Perth in the lead-up to their upcoming South By Southwest showcases, which will be followed by a tour of the US and Canada. Tame Impala, however, have already toured America “a bunch”. So has Watson noticed the American press getting confused by Pond's cross-pollinating band members? “They don't get confused, but the headline'll say, 'Tame Impala, something-something-something',” he laughs. “Which is fine. It's kind of like, we're not kidding ourselves, there's no way we would be – well I don't know, actually, but – you know, 'noticed' as much if it wasn't for the Tame Impala thing. So it's cool. I guess The Saboteurs or whatever probably wouldn't have got as much success if it wasn't for his [Jack White's] other little band. I mean they might have, and Pond might have, but it definitely wouldn't have been as big a deal.”

White comes up again later in our conversation and Watson's admiration of The White Stripes' live shows is evident. “I'm probably in the minority, but I hate bands when it's too perfect-sounding. I love it when you see a band and they've got really good songs but they're kinda flying by the seat of their pants, you know? And they're killing it, but they're a bit out of tune or stuff up a drum fill. Like, we stuff up all the time. I think The White Stripes were a bit like that. I mean, not that they [stuff up], but they never had setlists and they would go between being insanely tight and being kind of sloppy, so that's why it had that sound to it. I think that's what Pond are going for.

“The thing I've learnt is that every time any of my bands play a killer show, like, Tame Impala played this show at the Roundhouse in London once and it was the biggest show we'd ever played – three-and-a half-thousand people and we thought we'd KILLED it. We thought it was the best show we'd ever played and all the reviews were really negative. And then whenever we have a bumbling show or we get angry at each other or we have a complete meltdown, everyone finds it more exciting – they go a bit rowdier in the crowd… You can't really force playing well or badly. You just kind of try and play your best and if you're overtired or you're drunk or you've had three Red Bulls, I guess they're the influencing factors.” Wouldn't overindulging in Red Bulls lead to abridged sets? “Yeah,” he agrees, “it's all up to the drummer. That's the thing: in Pond, I like not being the drummer – I play guitar. But rock'n'roll guitar's kinda built upon noise and sometimes, you know, if I stuff up on guitar I can just turn around and get feedback or play some wild bent note.”