Jay Watson: Pond, Tame Impala and Other Genre Experiments
Speaking of heroes, what was your gateway into psychedelic music Pond has helped spearhead? Was it some of the great ’60s bands or some of the more modern interpreters of the music.
Although this album might be our most overtly electro or psych rock album ever—even though we didn’t mean it to be, it probably is. I think we’re getting less into that. I grew up with Hendrix as kind of my idol, he kind of still is. Mostly songwriting-wise. But I had this epiphany the other day that I feel like took me a lot of years to have—a fairly obvious epiphany. I feel like people in retro sort of bands around the world have probably had one though, which is like, all the people you look back on from the ’60s and since, were like the most forward thinking people of their day. Like if Syd Barrett or John Lennon from the ’60s was around now, they wouldn’t have fucking ’60s haircuts or some shit trying to be all ’60s. They’d probably be like Skrillex or someone, you know? Skrillex drops into fucking space jazz or something, I don’t know. I mean, they weren’t the most avant-garde people those two dudes, but within that kind of pop-idiom. They were as far-out as they could possibly be, using the most far-out things as they could possibly use. So we’re gonna use computers on stage, and you’re gonna see some crazy shit. We’re going to start trying to make it actually modern and futuristic—cause you kind of have to force yourself. The reason I love old records so much is almost more to do with the spirit of the sound of the music. I find even good modern records released, the way they sound, the way they’re recorded, even records I really love, I just can’t stand the production. I just want to hear people fuck up, and people laugh, and people yell in the background. And people with out-of-tune guitars, I just don’t know how people can enjoy [glossy modern music]. But that’s just me, I’m a fucking retro-phile I guess. And the thing is, we’re also ashamed of it, and we can’t help it. I think each record from now on is going to be progressively more modern and futuristic. Hopefully, that will retain the raw spirit of Pond.
Nick recently left Tame Impala to focus on other projects, though you are still a member of the band. Can we expect an increase in new Pond material given his newfound free time?
Well, he didn’t really quit to focus on Pond. Pond is his most popular band after Tame Impala. It’s really weird, I can see how people would think that. I think more of his own solo stuff is involved. I think he’ll be looking at that more than Pond. It will help because while we’re on tour he can work on the visuals and all the fun stuff here—the artwork and stuff, which he’s really good at. That’s the thing. It seems like he’s left to focus on Pond, but he didn’t really. I think he’s just had enough with touring. It’s really awesome and fun, but it’s really fucked at times, you know, when you’re creative, because touring it’s the opposite of being creative.
In terms of Pond’s live shows how much emphasis do you guys put on jamming and making each song sound different every time you play it live versus recreating these studio songs which like you said are kind of created in the studios to be these great songs?
Well, we’re gonna put more into recreating them live. We’re gonna do more jamming and improvising. When we toured the last album, we barely rehearsed you know. We were just trying to get through the songs. They were like punk versions of the songs on the albums. They were embellishments. We couldn’t—we did terrible harmonies. We did them very fast, and we got like punk. But I think lots of people loved it. I’m surprised, watching bits of the video back, I’m like “man we’re pretty shitty,” but it looked fun you know? Like crowd surfing. Whereas this time, it’ll still be fun, but we’re gonna do our darndest to sing well. We don’t have synthesizers on stage even though we had a lot of keyboards on the records. We’re gonna have percussion, we’re gonna have an extra dude with a Keyboard and percussion and harmony so we can jump around maybe. Now there’s going to be a lot more improvising. It’ll be a lot harder kind of sound whereas before it was more of a caveman version of Pond.
That’s a great way to describe it.
Yeah, it’s just like the primitive bonehead version but that’s kind of Pond.
In terms of you and Nick’s relationship, when did you guys meet and start playing music together?
It’s all very complicated. I don’t know, we met through playing in bands I guess. I’m the youngest, by about three or four years, and I was playing in a band till I was like 17 or something. And [I] started playing with [Tame Impala founder] Kevin Parker in a band which would become Tame Impala and I played drums. And then I met the other dudes and so then we started Pond, and I played guitar and keyboards and stuff. And they had a band called Mink Mussel Creek, who are like the granddaddies of our thing. They’re this fucking amazing band, we idolize them. And then I don’t know—there’s not a lot of people into this certain stuff, and you eventually meet them. And because we had a particularly unique, exact type of thing that we liked, it wasn’t hard to do it with each other, you know? I’ll be first to admit that Pond is a derivative and or whatever. But I’m also pretty adamant that it’s kind of idiosyncratic. It doesn’t sound like anything else. It’s definitely got this Pond sound, which I’m very proud of. I’d rather it be shit than hear half the kind of like do what you do, and be good without style. Not that we’re shit, but I value that.
I think that’s why people love punk rock so much—Because of the purity of it. The idea that it is primitive but still has that energy and freedom of being that way.
Yeah, I just love to hear music that has really great song-writing or whatever and great playing and great parts but [isn’t] necessarily perfectly executed. Like I love the Stones. I go in and out of loving the Stones. But they are the fucking smocksiest band. Even on their records. And I just love it. I love that Keith Richards wrote these amazing songs with these amazing guitar parts. If the Stones songs were recorded by any other band it would have been the worst shit ever yeah? That’s the part of it. Even a genius song like “Gimme Shelter” wouldn’t be what it is if the Stones hadn’t played it.
Besides writing for the new album what else do you have going on this fall that we could expect?
Nothing man, I’m trying to get my solo album out. Just working and writing the rest of this album kind of everyday and buying as much crazy gear off of eBay as I can to make it— yeah as crazy as possible, as futuristic as possible. Just getting lots of stuff for when we record. I mean we’re spending a month on this next one as opposed to three days so it’s going to sound a lot different. It may not necessarily be better, it may be more boring. That’s why, even though we rushed this one I’m really proud of it, because the chaos is fun you know? To me anyway. I’m sure other people would listen to it and be like, “man this is messy.”
Is your solo album going to have a similar vibe do you feel like? That kind of punk rock feel to it.
It’s less kind of goofy, it’s more kind of jangly or something. Jangly songs, pop songs, yeah. Really simple kind of songs. But yeah, it’s just like all love songs and stuff. It’s different than Pond and Tame Impala I think. But yeah, it is different, and I’m gonna bring it out on the next tour. But yeah, that’s my summer.