Different Animals | Music | Salt Lake City Weekly

Different Animals 

Australian psych-rock band Pond isn't more of the same impala.

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click to enlarge Left to right: Pond's James Ireland, Joe Ryan, Jay Watson, Nick Allbrook and Jamie Perry - POONEH GHANA
  • Pooneh Ghana
  • Left to right: Pond's James Ireland, Joe Ryan, Jay Watson, Nick Allbrook and Jamie Perry

Despite writing and recording a seven-album catalog of original music, Pond just can't escape comparisons to Tame Impala. After all, the two Australian psych-rock bands share not only a general spirit of experimentation, but also members: Nick Allbrook and Jay Watson, founders of Pond, toured with Tame Impala before Allbrook departed in 2013 and was replaced by another member of Pond, Cam Avery.

For all the personnel overlap, the two musical projects are sonically distinct. Pond doesn't have Tame Impala's emotional gravity, for one; its default mode is zany stuff like "Heroic Shart" off Man It Feels Like Space Again (2015) or "Xanman" from the tastefully titled Hobo Rocket (2013). And whereas Tame Impala's records exude the impression of a solitary musician fussing over each and every detail, Pond's sound more like messy, tequila-fueled jam sessions.

Pond's batshit-crazy vibes are attributable to the songwriting duo of Allbrook and Watson. Take the band's new eight-minute, three-movement single "Burnt Out Star," an over-the-top amalgamation of electronic loops, bossa nova rhythms and jam-band improv. It's a master stroke from an instrumental standpoint, but Allbrook's boyishly unserious vocal performance makes the overall package seem as mature as an eighth-grader slapping his classmate in the back of the head because he's bored.

"A lot of our songwriting is premeditated, but that song had a lot of jamming," Allbrook says. "It's very playful. The first section was a chord progression and loop that Jay came up with on his own, and I did all the lyrics. For the jam, we just got a sequencer and everyone took their turns fucking around over it. I did a vocal thing by looking at random pages of my notebook."

In advance of Pond's show at The Urban Lounge on Saturday, Oct. 20, Allbrook says the band has a singular mantra: doing whatever "pleases us" in the moment. For example, Watson bounces between playing synthesizer, bass and drums to accommodate the rotating cast of characters who fill out the touring lineup. "Usually, Jay gets sick of playing what he's playing," Allbrook says. "We'll get close with someone who kind of joins the family, and we're like, 'Hey, we should get that person on whatever instrument they're good at,' and we'll shuffle Jay off onto another instrument."

Somehow, Pond has stayed on the same path since debuting in 2009 with Psychedelic Mango, an evolution evident all the way up to its forthcoming, as-yet-untitled eighth album. "The songwriting and the instrumentals, they're always developing and changing. I suppose we're just continuing," Allbrook says. "You can probably estimate the sound and vibe of [the new album] if you trace the trajectory of everything we've ever made. You can sort of predict what it would land on."

Indeed, "Burnt Out Star" picks up right where Pond's seventh studio album, The Weather, left off. Especially on the album's second half, the band repeatedly veers off-road for the sorts of sonic detours that make all of their music so much fun. The Weather did represent a step forward for Pond, however, because they were favoring lo-fi sounds as a stylistic choice; many of the album's tracks, such as the back-to-back "Sweep Me Off My Feet" and "Paint Me Silver," are glossy disco jams. (Not coincidentally, The Weather was produced by Tame Impala's Kevin Parker.) Notably, both of those songs feature little to no improvisational noodling, and clock in under four minutes, demonstrating that Pond is fully capable of delivering concise pop hooks.

Allbrook explains that "Paint Me Silver" started in the same place as "Burnt Out Star," but received a different interpretation as the band filled in the blank spaces. "That song was Jay coming up with a loop and chord progression, [then] me coming up with a bunch of lyrics and structuring it around the verse and chorus," he says. "If it's a good little thing like that, then it doesn't really need or want to go much longer than a few minutes. That keeps it succinct. And that seems to be the way most of our songs come up—a chord idea from Jay, lyrics and structure from me, and then glittery sprinkles from the other lads."

It's been a winning formula going on a decade, and Pond intends to "keep chugging along at our own little pace," Allbrook says. He's tight-lipped about the forthcoming album's title and release date, but hesitantly divulges that Parker returned as a producer. "I'm always reticent to say that," he says, "because it becomes the headline of every single article about the album."

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