It was mid-afternoon last Friday when I rang up a barely settled in Nicholas Allbrook. He and the rest of Perth-based psych group, Pond, had just arrived at their residing hotel in Phoenix, Arizona awaiting to play a show later that night. “We’ve only been here for about an hour so I’ve only just rung up people back home and haven’t settled in at all really; haven’t really done anything. We were just in Austin,” the lead vocalist stated with a type of placidity that comes from years of routine touring and performing around the world. By the time you’re reading this, Pond is likely headed to their next destination on the US leg of their tour. If there is at least one thing to take away about any of the members of Pond, besides their ever-evolving, densely packed, psychedelic, synth-tinged sound, is that there is no stopping them. Literally, when they aren’t touring they’re most likely producing another album or working on solo works, side projects, and collaborations.
Pond’s origins began in 2008 and fully formed in 2014 with Nick Allbrook on lead vocals, Jay Watson on drums and vocal, Shiny Joe Ryan on guitar, bass, and vocals, and Jamie Terry on keys. These seasoned artists’ relentless passion for their craft and ego-free collaboration, mixed with playful sarcasm and humor seems to be the driving force for their musical longevity and continual motivation to experiment and discover more of their identity as a group. A small hiccup with their visas may have hindered them from being able to tour in the US earlier this year, but they are in full gear now. It doesn’t stop there; they have two upcoming Los Angeles shows tonight and tomorrow, will be hitting some major US festivals and will play shows throughout the summer.
Since the group’s conception, they’ve never claimed to be experts or authorities on topics with absolute certainty due to the acknowledgment of their limited experiences and time on this earth. That awareness and humility resonate in Pond’s growth in style, interests, and sound. The Australian group has made a natural progression from “a band of brainless psychedelic whimsy” to a band that maintains humorous eccentricities with more subtleties, depths, and meaning. The Weather carries a darker comical presage with ruminations of their lives from varying perspectives that seems much more thematically refined compared to earlier works like “Heroic Shart” or “Hobo Rocket.” Though there is more of a defined structure to The Weather, the record has a harmonious mix of lighthearted, hazy, and funkier tracks like “Fire in the Water” or “All I Want for Xmas (Is a Tascam 388),” and more heartstring-tugging songs like “30000 Megatons” and “Edge of the World (Pt. 1 and 2).” Allbrook’s fantastical lyricism and reverb-drenched vocals perfectly accompany an almost orchestral wall of sound that exhibits Pond’s combination of honesty, cognizance, and piss-taking sarcasm and humor. Nick graciously carved out some time from his hectic touring schedule to chat with me about everything from Pond’s current record, future projects, and favorite past times, to the marvelous wonders of kimchi.
Like many of the members in Pond, it seems that you are consistently churning out music through multiple platforms, whether it’s your solo work or side projects like Allbrook/Avery. Do you find that this allows you to explore and experiment with your creativity and style to varying extents depending on the project?
Yes absolutely. That’s the reason for it!
Are there challenges in keeping the distinct vibes of each or does it sort of evolve organically as you do?
I suppose it’s everchanging. You always want to have a balance between tastes, inspiration and getting different [variety]. Part of me feels like it’s sort of expected in modern music culture—maybe it’s not [considered] modern anymore—but some section of music culture where there needs to be strict delineations [via] project names or something. If I started to get into disco house bangers, it feels like I would need to check on [creating] a new project or something. I guess it is handy but I also feel like, why can’t it all come out of the same source? I guess sometimes when you’re collaborating with other people though, they don’t want to hear some of your bullshit so that’s where you can benefit with different projects.
What do you do with the limited free time you’re able to carve out? How do you typically unwind and distress?
I like reading.
What do you like reading?
I’m currently reading a book by the late Dr. Oliver Saacs called The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. It’s really really beautiful. I like chilling out with my girlfriend at home; I’ve been pretty homely lately like cooking dinner, going to the market—the Ridley Road Market. I like to keep pretty productive; I get antsy very quickly. When we were recording last year and organizing the tour, I had some other pretty heavy responsibility projects. During all that, I vowed that as soon as it was all over I was going to spend two months just in pure relaxation to get back to a calm normal pace… normality. It only took about five days before I was like, “Fuck, let’s start hooking up some more things again, maybe start building up some more projects. Then [before you know it], you are under the pump again. It’s become kind of a normal state for me… a normal state of flux. Stasis makes me really uncomfortable.
It sounds like you’ve gotten more used to the fast-paced lifestyle so being stagnant serves as more stressful than relaxing.
For sure. Maybe I’ve got an extremely high tolerance for self-affirmation: I need constant self-affirmation that I’m not being a useless piece of shit [laughs].
You mentioned cooking. What do you like to cook? Like if someone wanted you to fix up a dish, what would be your specialty?
[Laughs] I think for a lot of people, what I make may be boringly healthy. I don’t know I guess I’d make some sort of salad dish. I eat a pretty healthy, no-meat diet. For a daily typical meal, I’d make some nice salad-y type of dish and some, you know, [animated voice] roasted potatoes or something on top if you need some extra power. I love kimchi. Kimchi is my shit. I can’t… like every time I eat some…
Are you just in awe?
I just can’t believe how delicious it is. I’m looking at the packet in awe thinking how is this possible?! I like making curries too. When I’m impressing people, I’ll do like a dahl vegan-style curry.
To me, curry seems quite challenging to get right, texture and flavor-wise, so that is quite an impressive dish to make!
My dad’s been training me up since way back. He’s curry obsessive; it’s his life’s work. He’s in constant development, in search of the perfect curry.
You also said you like reading. I’ve noticed that in the lyricism, especially with the last album, you guys make quite a few references to poets and philosophers. I’m wondering if you come across this mainly from your readings and if it’s a main source of inspiration?
I mean, a lot of it is. Australia’s a very isolated place. I guess in the same way a lot of Kate Bush’s early material came from imagined scenarios and journeys through her own imagination or in pages, she also grew up in a fairly insular, isolated place. I grew up in a very small town in Northwest Australia; even Perth is a tiny protected part of the world. I guess the internal world is where a lot of people from sort of, I guess, boring middle class, fairly privileged type of situations escape to. Imagination and internal dialogue are way more interesting and inspiring. I’m not writing like Withering Heights as a song. It’s more when I’m thinking of something else, books inform most of my reference points for how I think and my belief system so when I’m writing, that’s just what I think of in relation to other topics.
Do you take some of the core lessons from those readings and reference them in your lyricism, maybe not directly, but more so to utilize the ideas as your inspiration to bring out whatever concept a particular song has?
Yes, or it could be the other way where it’s about a concept [first] and then sometimes, I can only really make sense of a situation by framing it with the limited reality I’ve actually experienced, which is often fictional or literary at least. It’s a strange thing you know; it feels really vacuous and fake sometimes. I think a lot of people like me feel this way, this sort of empty lack of true world experience that as result, draws you into your own world. Sure, you’ve read a million books and done all this stuff but what have you actually experienced or seen?
Your most recent release is The Weather that came out last year. Could you elaborate on what inspired or attributed to the conception of the album?
I don’t think we want to just keep being a band of brainless psychedelic whimsy. It isn’t what we believe in, what we enjoy listening too or are consuming anymore really. I think I stopped being inspired by that sort of vibe for good couple years now; you know, the Flower Pot Men and whatever peppermint fantasy, pink lady lemonade psych bullshit. It’s all fun and games; good on whoever does it but it just doesn’t resonate with me anymore. That’s one thing we wanted to speak to or felt that we owed as something real. Because our experiences are pretty limited, it has to be structured and I guess the other thing is that we wanted the album to sound sort of sound like an hour of Pond radio as if you were flicking through the different iterations of our brains.
There are themes you touch on especially in The Weather with songs like “30000 Megatons” or “Sweep Me Off My Feet” that reflect some of the current social and political climate, whether it be of current elections or the evolving consumerism and voice of the people. But in true Pond fashion, you guys maintain a sense of whimsy, quirkiness, and sarcasm. With the growing intensity and tension in the social climate, how do you think Pond’s sound and respectively, it’s humor, has been affected by this or responded to it?
The main thing is we don’t want to put across, in any sense, that we know anything or have any answers. If we are making anything that sounds [it is] touching on or responding to something like that, it is purely sarcastic. I find what happens a lot with our songs is that we kind of slip from sarcasm to [awareness]. I guess we keep our humor but there’s a lot more aware of our ignorance. There is more darkness and fear in the world, but we’re just being completely truthful and expressing our part in it. We don’t want to be didactic; we don’t want to preach to members of communities. We are just exactly who we are which is middle class, white, Australian blokes who are completely fucking ignorant but full of desire for love and the betterment of people. The whimsy and comedy [as a result] have become darker and more self-aware.
What can audiences look forward to for the upcoming LA shows? Are there any future projects that Pond or you are working on that people can look forward to?
It’s hard to say what is to be expected from the shows. I guess it depends on if you’ve seen it before but there will be no pyrotechnics or lasers. I’ll give you that [laughs]. I would say ‘good times with Pond.’ We’re going to release an album that should come out this year and I’ve been working on some music myself that I’ll probably put out soon.