Across the pond

xxi-6-m-pondFlying the Irish tricolour down under, Joe Ryan of POND chats to Aisling Kraus about ‘nerding out’ to records, playing in space and illicit substances

Experiencing POND’s fuzzy take on neo-psychedelia is mellowing, intriguing and never boring. A conversation with Joe Ryan, the Perth based band’s Tipperary-born, afro-sporting guitarist is no different. Laid back and obviously in good spirits after the show he has just finished playing, he is eager to discuss their newly released sixth studio album, and other Pond tales.

Since their inception in 2008, the band has seen an ever-changing line-up of musicians, with the number of band members fluctuating between three and five. This presents interesting challenges when it comes to adapting the songs for live sets. “Our bassist quit, so we’re down to four people. We use a Sub Phatty synthesizer and an extension on my guitar that lets me play bass and guitar at the same time. It’s kind of cool being down to four people, it’s like cutting the fat off of the prime cut of meat. It’s a lot of fun thinking about who’s going to play what part, and little tricks to make it work.”

At several points in the conversation, it’s evident how highly Ryan values honesty and authenticity in the music that Pond produce. This can be audibly heard in their 2012 release, Beard, Wives, Denim, where there have been traces of studio dialogue left in at the end. “I think if I listen to a record, you want to hear a little bit of what’s going on in the studio. Why wouldn’t you leave it in? When you listen to albums you love, you hear little fruit, as we call it, and you just really nerd out about it, trying to decipher what someone’s saying or what’s going on.”

From the outset, whenever asked the clichéd interview question about their musical influences, Pond have been clear in stating that these change with each album they produce. “We’re genre spanners” he explains. “There’s not one particular type of music I listen to. It’s sort of everything really. There’s no bad music in my brain. There’s just stuff I like and stuff I don’t really like. If you say you hate anything you’re just shooting yourself in the foot because your tastes change, so you might even end up liking what you said you hated, and then you have to ‘fess up and be like ‘yeah, I was wrong’. Although your tastes may change, I think as long as you’re honest in the recording, you can never really be too dissatisfied with it. It’s more of a musical diary.”

Being at the forefront of the psychedelic glam rock revival of recent years, it’s assumed by many that Pond’s sound has been moulded not only by the music listened to by its members, but also by certain other “illicit, possibly illegal substances”, as Ryan puts it. “Maybe somewhat” he muses, “in the way that you have moving experiences and then that will, at a later date, give you some lyrical content or at least a bit of inspiration for a movement of chords, or whatever. But not intentionally, and certainly not directly.”

I think as long as you’re honest in the recording, you can never really be too dissatisfied with it. It’s more of a musical diary

The title of the new album, Man It Feels Like Space Again, undeniably brings to mind these kinds of connotations. Where did it come from, then? “We were in Osaka at a festival and I was a little bit bleary-eyed, wide-eyed” Ryan recalls, with a note of mischief in his voice. “I think I turned to everyone and just said one of those crazy things that comes into your brain, ‘Man, it feels like space again’, and everyone was like, ‘Jeez, that’s not a bad name for an album actually!’, and I said, ‘Well, you remember it, because I won’t remember it!’ And the next day they were like, ‘That album name you thought about, let’s do it!’ I’ve never been to space, but I hope that Richard Branson lets us soon enough. Let us record an album up there, or at least one vocal take!”

Having five full-length LPs already under their belts before their latest release hasn’t made POND complacent about their knowledge of recording. This was their first album recorded to tape, as opposed to digitally, as with all of the preceding records. “Recording to tape, especially one inch tape, which we did, only gives you sixteen tracks. It makes you think a little bit more about what instruments you’re putting in, whereas if you’re doing digital, we do three guitars with the same lick to fill it out, but you lose that spacey-ness in the tape, which is more psychedelic than anything you can play. Just having space in the recording is the hardest thing to get. It was nice having sixteen tracks and just being able to go, ‘Alright, we need this, we need this. That leaves one track for us to sing all of our harmonies together into a mic, and one track for Nick to do his vocals.’ It was just an interesting and different approach. I feel like, why would you do the same thing twice? You increase your knowledge of the game, of recording music.”

POND can expect a warm, welcoming reception when they bring Man It Feels Like Space Again to Whelan’s later this month, for what will be their first Irish gig ever, which Ryan had to “press heavily” to have added to the tour. In his own words, “it should be great craic!”