Jay Watson: Pond, Tame Impala and Other Genre Experiments
Australian band Tame Impala’s unexpected success has not only turned a younger generational of indie and jamband fans onto a new brand of psychedelic music deeply rooted in the late ‘60s, but it has also brought international attention to Perth’s underground music scene. Of all the bands tied to Tame Impala, perhaps none are poised for as much success as Pond. Part psych rock art collective, part Stones-inspired rock and roll band, Pond is led by longtime collaborators Nick Allbrook (vocals, flute, keyboards) and Jay Watson (guitar, keys, bass and backing vocals). Both musicians also put in time with Tame Impala: Watson has played drums, guitar and other instruments with the band since 2007 and Allbrook played guitar, keys and most recently bass with the band from 2009 until he left the group earlier this year (Tame Impala leader Kevin Parker records most of the band’s studio efforts by himself with the help of Watson and draws from a pool of musical friends for his live band; he also has played drums with Pond.) After releasing a string of underground recordings, Pond made a huge splash in the US last year with their psych-glam breakthrough Beard, Wives, Denim last year. Earlier this month they released Beard, Wives, Denim’s darker, more twisted follow-up record Hobo Rocket and the band already has their sites on their next recordings. While at home between dates with Tame Impala, recording sessions for Pond’s next LP and work on his solo project, Watson caught Relix and Jambands.com up on his current “genre experiments.”
Let’s begin by talking about when you started working on the new Pond record Hobo Rocket. Between touring with Tame Impala and dates with Pond, you’ve had a busy year. When did you jump into working on Hobo Rocket ?
We started recording about a year ago. We did it in about three sessions since we didn’t have any time because of touring with Tame Impala and stuff. Originally there was supposed to be an EP. We’ve been working on this other record for ages, and we’re finish it in September but we wanted to put something out, so we did this EP — which became the album Hobo Rocket.
We wanted to do something that was kind of heavier and more evil — less kind of cutesy. For some reason we were paranoid that the last album was like that. And then we realized how long our EP was so we just put two more songs on it and made a very short album. It’s 34 minutes, which is short by today’s standards, but I think it’s kind of cool. You probably don’t get your money to the dollar if you buy the CD or whatever, but I don’t really care.
You mentioned you wanted Hobo Rocket to be a heavy album and I think you accomplished that goal. Have you been listing to heavier music in the past year or was it simply a reaction to critics and your fans’ responses to Beard, Wives, Denim and Tame Impala’s international success?
Well, I mean we actually listened to less and less heavy music. I think it was just because we were going for a particular sound. I remember when we were listening to the Butthole Surfers and kind of heavy music that’s kind of freaky and heavy. I mean, the two singles are the most kind of straight-up rock songs on the album. But the other heavy ones are these weird, more freaked out heavy sound rather than a marching, heavy sound. The singles are the most kind of marching, heavy ones.
We’re all just obsessed with songwriting now, and there’s only a couple of really traditional songwriting songs on here. I think the next one will be more of a verse, chorus, verse, chorus, classic sort of thing, but I think we just wanted to do it as an experiment. And we’re not one of those bands where we try to make an attitude of our musical state, which might not be the best thing to do. We might never have an album where everybody thinks all the songs are really like a classic album or whatever. But that’s not really the aim. The aim is to have all these albums with different kind of feelings to them—like Beck or someone like that. Each album is almost sort of a genre experiment.
In terms of the songwriting for this album, did each of you bring different ideas to the table within this heavier, more experimental genre or did you hash these tunes out as a band?
There’s three of us [who are songwriters], and it is usually split three ways. [Singer/guitarist] Nick Allbrook wrote more of this album, I don’t even know why or how, but we just chose his songs because they suited that kind of heavier thing. But yeah the next one is more of my and [bassist] Joe Ryan’s songs. It’s still completely collaborative as every other [album] in the production and playing the instruments and everything. I think he just wrote more of the songs earlier. I wrote a song and Joe wrote a song, and Joe and I wrote a song together. So that’s like three out of seven anyway.
How far along are you into your next album?
It is all written, and we will record it in September. It’ll come out next year because we can’t tour these records this year, so the aim is to tour them both next year, which will be a blast—playing new songs from our two albums or the singles that’ll be out in a year from the two albums. I think it’ll be pretty fun, like, people coming to the shows in six months will get to hear songs off of two records—plus all the other records we have—so it will be a party. I don’t know if it’s gonna be a double album, it’ll definitely be long. Probably not too long, probably a bit longer or shorter than Bear, Wives, Denim. But definitely not half an hour like this one.
We don’t have time to tour right now. We’ve spent our whole lives flying between the States and Europe and Australia. That’s not that big of a deal. I mean, it is expensive, but as time goes on we are finding it harder and harder to tour [given all the bands we are in and family commitments.] If you want to have a relationship you can’t just tour with your band constantly, or else they’ll leave you. There was a story I was reading about Jack White—I was a massive White Stripes fan when I was younger—I was like “Man, how did your wife not go like, ‘Fuck you Jack. Stop starting bands you prick.’” Yeah I don’t know, I worshipped the White Stripes.
Have you had a chance to meet the White Stripes?
No. I don’t think I’d like to meet [Jack White] now. I’m not saying he wouldn’t be a nice guy. I don’t know, I mean I haven’t really gotten into his records post Get Behind Me Satan — The fifth one? The first five. But every time I meet someone in bands that I like, if I liked their earlier records or whatever, it kind of de-mystifies the whole thing to me. So I kind of try not to now. I don’t know. We met the Queens of the Stones Age with Tame Impala and they were really fucking cool. It’s just weird knowing that they’re just normal, completely. I mean, I’m sure they’re crazy but they’re just fucking dudes in bands that drink beers and play guitars. You know what I mean. I like to have this vision of them as mystical cartoon kind of guys. It’s fun, its just fun you know. I wouldn’t like to meet Prince either. I mean, I’m sure Prince wouldn’t be quite like Prince either. I’m sure he wouldn’t tell me a story about the shit he did earlier and demystify it for me.
Speaking of double albums, it is almost like you are releasing a double album but with a several month leg between the release of each disc.
Yeah! Bears, Wives, Denim was a bit long, and so I don’t know. I like this album at length. I mean, I don’t have a fucking attention span at all anymore with albums, unless it’s like [My Bloody Valentine’s] Loveless or fucking [The Rolling Stones’] Exile on Main St., a complete classic all the way through. I just get bored, and this isn’t Loveless or Exile on Main St. I think it’s cool—you can play it if your in a car ride with your friends to like a party or whatever. It’s a bit of a bro-album, I think the next album is more of a feminine album. This one I can imagine you with your bro’s. like Lords of Dogtown. Going to a fucking bong party or something and putting this on. Not that that’s what we were doing, but I can imagine you doing that