Pond on new album ‘The Weather’: “We’ve got better at directing our eccentricities”

"We've got better at directing our eccentricities in a more effective way," the band say of new album 'The Weather'.

So devoted are Pond to the business of having fun that it’s hard to imagine listening to them without wearing a big, goofy grin.

2012’s ‘Beard, Wives, Denim’ had them announcing that they’d decided to skip a step in the “ultimate pop music career cliché”, instead going “straight to the next rock’n’roll archetype; the country getaway to rediscover their love of making music and find God and grow beards and chop wood and all that business.” Their fifth album, 2013’s ‘Hobo Rocket’, was a seven-track, 34-minute primer in fuck-yeah melodies – ‘Xanman’, ‘Giant Tortoise’, the lot. And 2015’s ‘Man It Feels Like Space Again’, the sixth album by the Perth psych-rockers, was crammed with blissed-out chord changes, and titles like ‘Heroic Shart’.

All that irrepressible cheer seemed to be under threat on November 9, 2016. In the wake of “the big T-man”’s election victory,  they put out ’30000 Megatons’ – a Sonar-infused nuclear lullaby whose artwork was a prayer-hands emoji and in which frontman Nick Allbrook wails like Cassandra for an impending moment of climactic fallout. For the first time, the Aussie four-piece sounded really quite sombre – we could hear that, like us, they lived in a world with nuclear warheads, and democratic lunacy, and consequences. Listening to it on that day, you’d have been forgiven for wanting to cry: their friend and former bandmate, Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, certainly did. It was actually at his insistence the band dumped it on Soundcloud without consulting their label.

“I was in Argentina,” Nick explains backstage in east London’s Moth Club. “I was like: “Oh, I don’t know, we’ve got a new record label, you know how these guys get.” And he’s like: “Fuck it! Do it!” Which is why Kev’s Kev. The fact he saw some pathos and he was like ‘I had a real emotional moment to it’… I was like: ‘You had emotion?! Fuck! It must be good!’”

POND ‘30000 MEGATONS’ by POND

This song was going to be released with the rest of the album but today it seems like the right time

It’s Valentine’s Day 2017, and Nick and guitarist ‘Shiny’ Joe Ryan are sitting backstage ahead of their first UK show in 18 months – during which, a few hours later, moshing carnage will ensue as they unleash ‘Xanman’ and other storming classics. But we’re here to talk about their seventh album ‘The Weather’, due out in May, and which signals a real shift in Pond’s attentions. More than ever before, synths dominate the picture in the three cuts so far released (‘30000 Megatons’, ‘Sweep Me Off My Feet’ and ‘The Weather’), and as well as nuclear fallout, the lyrics cover Australia’s meth epidemic and even the status of Perth as the world’s ‘most remote city’. “It’s a big leap forward in the quality of the sound,” reckons Joe – but that doesn’t mean they’ve had to grow up too much…

You’ve been away for two years, which is longer than normal. How come? Was your solo stuff [Nicholas Allbrook, Shiny Joe Ryan, GUM] getting in the way?

Joe: We recorded it last January, so for us it was pretty much a year between albums. It took another year for Kevin [Parker] to get around to mixing it, because of the success of his other band [Tame Impala]. You may have heard of them… 

So what have you been up to recently? Hanging out?

Joe: I think it’s the first time we’ve actually all been in Perth together.
Nick: We’ve been chumming it, chumming it up back in Perth.
Joe: And we got KP to actually mix – we just actually knocked on his door, like: “Hey man, the guys are at the studio waiting for you.”

Were you insistent that he mixed the album?

Joe: Yeah, he’s approachable and he’s our mate and he’s got good taste.
Nick: There’s just no point in thinking about anything else. He’s like our best buddy – it’s not often you get the opportunity that your like best, best friend and bandmate is actually one of the most significant mixing and sound people in the world.

Let’s talk ‘30000 Megatons’ – what context was it written in? Was it written about Trump?

Nick: Obviously I’m not like fucking saying anything groundbreaking in it… but there’s been a lot of fucked-up stuff happening for a while. I was in bed, didn’t wanna get up – it was during the Abbott administration of Australia, which was a pretty dark time for Australia. Not that now is any lighter. But, that was a particularly scary time in Australian history, when we had Tony Abbott as Prime Minister. And I don’t know – somehow I read that there was now that much nuclear weaponry ready to deploy in the world and it just seemed like that was like such an obvious statement from ourselves to ourselves that we were doomed. Like, we had already written our own doom. We weren’t giving ourselves any chances.

So when Trump was elected – did you already feel like Australia had experienced that sort of politician in power?

Nick: No way, no way. Fuck no. Nothing has been that bad. This [Trump] is just ridiculous, isn’t it? I mean, Tony Abbott’s a fucking thug, he’s a monster, he’s a horrible guy. But he’s truly dumb. He’s just a truly dumb guy that has like no legitimacy or power, or anything. He’s a turd.

You can imagine him doing Trump’s weird handshake though.

Nick: Yeah, he did all that sort of shit. Like that weird power-grabbing rich-boy public-school type of racist elitist bastard-type stuff. Yeah.

Let’s talk about how you wrote ‘The Weather’.

Joe: We had Nick write most of the lyrics for the songs, bar two maybe, so that we had more of a theme to it. The theme, you could say, is like based around Perth.
Nick: But we weren’t going into it thinking: ‘We’re making a Perth album’. We were trying to be a bit more honest about ourselves and music that we actually like, and what applies to us. And the whole long-denied question of the place of the English expats in Australia, like, white Australians. It’s a pretty huge thing as an Australian, so it’s worth writing a whole album about it I guess.

Do you think it feels more grown-up than your other albums?

Nick: I don’t know. I particularly like it because we’ve also got some equally silly bits in it. If we were just fully going grown-up then I would probably just hate it, but I really like it because I think we’ve got better at directing our eccentricities in a more effective way.
Joe: It sounds like we actually have a clue about what we’re doing in terms of the sound and the way the songs are structured. There’s two tracks, ‘Edge Of The World Pt 1’ and ‘… Pt 2’, which was all going to be one song. If you really listen to it in that context it’s just like, it’s like another ‘Frond’ or something ridiculous like that. Really straining people’s attention. The maturer thing is to break it in two, and put it on different sides.
Nick: We got an egalitarian approach to it, you know, making it palatable.
Joe: I always thought every album so far was a step above the one before, and this is no exception. As a matter of a fact it’s a big leap forward I think, in terms of the sonic quality, and the way it’s written – it was Jay [Watson]’s idea to get Nick to write like a bunch of the lyrics so it had a theme to it. Not just me writing about vegetables, or fruit…

Until now it feels like everything’s been quite guitar-based, but it isn’t so much any more – do you think that’ll surprise people?

Nick: No, we’ve been trying to do this for ages. We’re just getting better at being honest and doing what we actually want to do. I think we might have fallen into habits before regardless of what we were actually trying to do, just because we didn’t have as much of a solid idea of what we wanted. Whereas now we’re getting a bit better at doing exactly what we want to express.

It also feels unbelievably epic in some moments, like the end of ‘Edge Of The World Part 2’. That chorus is just so massive.

Joe: That’s a perfect example of like all three of us getting together. I’ve got these chords, Nick’s got these vocals, and Jay’s just like shredding on like seventeen synths. Like: ‘fuck yeah’.

What about ‘All I Want For Christmas’? Where did that come from?

Joe: Ages back I did a Christmas album, I just bought the Tascam 388, which is a big 8-track tape machine. It had been a whole big rigmarole buying it in California and getting it back to Perth. I bought it on Tame tour and our tour manager was just hating me. He was calling it ‘the burrito’ – he was just looking at me with such disdain, cos when I got it I was like, “It’ll fit in my suitcase,” and it’s the size of this table… Anyway, I just remember doing this Christmas album and when we were getting songs together, I’d fallen short of my ‘song quota’, let’s just say. So I just reaching deep back down, and pulled out this song, and Jay was really into the chords.
Nick: Jay was like ‘Why don’t you pull that one out? That’s like the most genius song you’ve written.’
Joe: As a matter of fact I think he berated me a few times about not actually giving it to Pond, like: ‘They’re the best chords you’ve ever written! You fuckin’ threw it away on a stupid like Christmas album.’ But the demo is pretty amazing, it’s like no bass or mids, it’s just like a stupid guy who doesn’t know how to use a tape machine.
Nick: That song and ‘Colder Than Ice’ are Gum [Jay] and Joe’s lyrics.

What happened to your drummer, Cam Avery? Did he just want to go solo?

Joe: Yeah. He also played left-handed drums and when we took breaks during jam I couldn’t jam, so we had to get rid of him! But yeah, his new record’s great. You know Seth Rogen and James Franco did the Kanye ripoff? I’m actually going to do one of ‘C’est Toi’, but it’s going to be the shittest car you could ever see.

You played King Gizzard’s GizzFest recently – how was that?

Nick: It was great. It’s all the long-haired, shit-clothed Aussie rock men all together on one tour. Which sounds fucking awful, but it was so fun. 50 friends touring around, playing, catching the same flights on an entire festival tour organised by King Gizzard. Like, actually them.
Joe: We also have platinum gold status when it comes to Virgin Australia, so we were able to get pretty much everyone from the tour into the lounge. We’d arrive first before like fifty bands with like fifty bits of gear. We’d like get all our shit in and just like go to the lounge and then the tour manager would come in like, “Joe, can I borrow your boarding pass to get four more people in?” So we got like everyone in.
Nick: All these like business men and like high-vis mining workers were just watching this endless stream of long-haired trash-bags come in just like going for the toasted sandwich meals, like ‘Awww, man, these are fucking siiiick.’
Joe: Throwing the tongs aside and just going for the diced tomatoes.

How are you feeling about your UK tour – any big plans?

Joe: I really, really love our support, we’ve got great support: Methyl Ethel.
Nick: They’re incredible, they’re one of the sickest bands to come out of Perth. I’ve been slowly listening more and more. I don’t even like them just because I know them, they’re just actually inspiring.
Joe: We’re also gonna buy a projector with the band money and get a bit of a video show going with the audio… so it’s an audiovisual experience possibly. I’m looking forward to coming back though. Maybe get a bacon batty launcher.
Nick: Batty? I feel like it’s butty.
Yeah, Bacon butty.
Nick: Because batty is your arse.

‘The Weather’ is released on May 5, 2017. Pond will tour the UK from June 15-21 before playing Reading & Leeds Festivals in August. Tickets are on sale now.
Pond have also made NME a playlist of their favourite Aussie acts in the game right now – take a listen here.