For a (seemingly) part-time band POND sure seem to keep busy. The Perth-based psychedelic rockers have just released a new album, The Weather, their seventh since January, 2008.
Their history has been closely linked with that of Tame Impala, a band they share members, producers and general history since coming together in the Perth music scene in the early part of the last decade.
'Shiny' Joe Ryan, one of three songwriters within POND's ranks is also Tame Impala’s 'video guy' and has settled into a life where he is travelling around the world with one of the planet’s biggest bands and then fitting Pond commitments around that.
“POND don't work much because I work with Tame Impala,” he explains from a Fremantle beer garden while soaking up the city’s temperate autumnal sunshine. “I've been working with them for six years or so and since they have blown up I guess it has become pretty normal to me to be heading off all over the world.”
Ryan says that the transient lifestyle meant that he has recently rented a room in a share house for the first time in three years. Having an actual place of residence has not made much difference to his nomadic lifestyle though and within days of this interview he would be taking off for a two-and-a-half-month trek around the world.
Recording for The Weather was completed in January, 2016. The lag between recording and release occurred because Pond were waiting for their producer and one-time drummer Kevin Parker to be free to mix the recordings.
Parker is famed for his lone wolf approach to all aspects of Tame Impala’s albums, but Ryan says he is very open when working with POND. Ryan paints a rather idyllic picture of the POND guys sitting around with a drink in hand while making suggestions to Parker.
“He is amazing. Someone will ask about bringing up a keyboard and he will say, ‘let's bring it up here, we don't need it before that, it's just filling up space’. It's great to have a critical ear that did not create the music.
“We have had other people produce and mix our records but it's hard to speak the lingo with them. I don't have the vocabulary to describe what I am trying to get at in a song or what a song should be sounding like. With Kevin, we can just ask him to juzz it up a bit or can you make it sparkle and he is like, ‘oh yeah’. Or shimmer left right left right. He'll be like, ‘Panning? Yeah, no problems’.”
‘No problems’ sounds like it might almost be POND's creed. With three songwriters and singers in the band – the principal writers are Nick Allbrook and Jay Watson – there needs to room for discussion and consensus. Ryan says that gets easier and easier with each album. He points out that he had two songs that did not make the album, despite the fact it has a running time of just 40 minutes. “We all agreed they didn’t quite suit the flow of the album.
“I was like, ‘I agree, whatever you guys reckon’. Over time I have learned to be less precious about my songs getting cut or getting changed.
“The fact is that it is album number seven and we are experienced. Because they are friends I fought tooth and nail a couple of times to keep things in past albums. Because they are your mates you can lose, not your cool but go at 'em hard, but I have learned that it should all be fun and natural. I'm ready to go with the group mentality when it comes to making an album.”
Each writer comes to the sessions with ideas they think will work with POND. They gather and play demos and immediately band members see ways to change and enhance what was in the original sketch.
“It's those contributions that make it different from a song for our solo projects,” says Ryan, who released and toured a solo album, The Cosmic Microwave Background, in 2014. “It's a bigger thing. The song you had in your mind might not actually turn out the way you thought it would. It turns out even bigger than you thought it would. It takes on its own life.”
The album contains a winning blend of psychedelia and some serious pop smarts. It begins with 30000 Megatons, an ode to death and destruction before lightening up to offer a glimmer of hope for the future. Much of Allbrook’s lyrics are about their hometown of Perth. It was a concept that grew during writing and recording sessions.
“When we were recording it all Jay and I had lyrics for our own songs but for the most part we thought let's just let Nick write the bulk of the lyrics so he can develop a theme. The theme just naturally landed on Perth because it was summer and there was sunshine. It's not just that though, Nick is a lyrical surgeon. I was reading the lyrics in the liner notes. I didn't even know all the lyrics until I read them. I was like ‘Woah, my boy!’ It's not obvious, like (sings) ‘I'm going to Kwinana...’ it was quite cerebral and eloquent.
And Ryan’s thoughts on Perth?
“It's like LA, but better. Lots of sunshine and even in winter it's warm.”
The Weather is out now on EMI Music.