In recent years, Australia’s Sunset Coast has been a particularly fertile breeding ground for a group of artists who have broken into the mainstream. Kevin Parker, Nick Allbrook and Jay Watson are the architects of this assault of sun-baked antipodean rock oddness, the trio making up the DNA of Tame Impala, Mink Mussel Creek, GUM and POND, who drop by at Invisible Wind Factory in August.
Having done his stint as the regular bassist in Tame Impala’s live band, Allbrook has now turned his focus fully on to Pond, the fabulously weird rock band he pilots alongside Watson, Shiny Joe Ryan and Jamie Terry. The band’s seventh record – The Weather, released in May on Marathon Artists – finds Pond moving into the sort of territory normally inhabited by Wayne Coyne and his Flaming Lips: a glitter-strewn place where prog gambols happily next to psychedelia, delivered through the medium of some perfectly-crafted pop songs. It’s a step up as much as it is a step outside of their normal sphere, and heralds Pond’s arrival in the big league.
Although Parker has enjoyed the greater successes of Perth’s latter-day musical bigwigs – what with his chart-topping Tame Impala records and collaborations with Lady GaGa and Mark Ronson – he remains close friends with his old allies, and has produced each of Pond’s four albums. On The Weather, Parker and the band have found a sweet spot which allows Allbrook’s madcap genius to run wild, confined within the bounds of rock operatics and tongue-in-cheek humour. The curious world this throws up – which Allbrook has stated is a quasi-concept album about colonial cities around the world – is captured in all its glory on the video for Sweep Me Off My Feet, which veers from send-ups of romantic holiday promo films to Allbrook’s impish religious posturing.
Thanks to Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia, we’ll be getting a chance to witness the full Pond whirlwind up close in August, as part of a showpiece launch event for September’s festival. They will be joined by hypnotic guitarist Chris Forsyth and his Solar Motel Band on the bill, along with a host of special guests. Ahead of this show, we caught up with Pond’s guitarist Shiny Joe to lift the lid on the group’s most ambitious work to date.
First and foremost, congratulations on The Weather, it’s boss! How long has the album been with you?
We recorded the album in January 2016. We sort of constantly write stuff and then when we find time, pooling all of our ideas together and go and record them. There are songs on that album which are over five years old now, while there are other bits that we have just written while we were recording. So, all in all, it’s quite a hodge-podge of the last five years of writing.
So, is the album a collection of home recordings which were mastered or was it all made in the studio?
We did it in the studio but there are elements of home recording mixed into it. So, we’ll bring our own solo material and little bits and pieces before going into the studio and recording those pieces as a full band. Sometimes we use bits of our own home recordings within the song alongside the studio recordings – and sometimes even bring elements of other people’s songs into the mix.
Where does the name The Weather actually come from?
Well, we didn’t have a title so we just named it after one of the songs on the album. Where we’re from, it’s something that people always seem to be talking about. It’s pretty hot today; I don’t know if it’s hot in Liverpool, but this is what our summers are like constantly, and hotter again.
It’s been said that the album is somewhat of a concept album based around your hometown of Perth. Could you elaborate on this and what Perth means to you?
There’s a lot of criticism of Perth – and Australia as a whole – contained within the album, but there’s a lot of love for it on there too. We’ve lived in other places but we always come back to Perth. It’s a weird place, as is Australia in general. It’s pretty difficult to explain. The bulk of the lyrics are Nick [Allbrook]’s musings around that.
At this moment, Shiny Joe becomes a little less shiny as he comes under excremental fire from flock of seagulls (not Liverpool’s own 80s synth pop band, that would be horrific). While cleaning himself up with “dunny paper”, Joe dutifully soldiers on with the interview.
There’s a lot of news report samples scattered throughout the album. Could you tell us a little more about their significance of these?
We were trying to evoke a mood in general across the whole record. We were trying to create something that was very Australian. We have this show back home called 60 Minutes, which has stories such as ‘WASHING MACHINES KILL PEOPLE!’. A lot of them we just found funny so we just threw them in there – however, there were a few which were a bit more poignant and meaningful.
Paint Me Silver contains a sample with Todd Rundgren’s Cosmic Cowboy on it. Did that bring about a dialogue with him, in order to get clearance to use it?
Yeh, it was a pretty simple process. He was pretty cool with it all and was fine for us to use it. Obviously he has a cut of the track, but I’ve not cleared stuff in the past when I’ve used samples and it wasn’t a great idea. With Cosmic Cowboy I just slowed it down. Jesus, I really am covered in this stuff… Man, I might have to pick this up another time if that’s OK? I need to clean myself up…
Safe and sheltered from birds, Joe finished off the interview via email…
What are your thoughts on the Australian music scene in general?
I feel like the Australian music ‘scene’ is as good as any other country, but maybe there are a few factors that help us out. Most people are reasonably well off: you can record drums/make loud noise and rehearse in your house – very few people I know live in apartments in Perth. And there’s quite a strong history of live music and bands in each city.
There are far too many bands, artists and producers that I’m a fan of in Australia to name and not leave anyone out, but I feel now with the internet, if something is good enough and vital enough it will come to light and be discovered or heard. It may not be commercially successful, but great music is always passed around and heard at some point, even if it’s 50 years down the line.
The Weather is out now via Marathon Artists. Pond play Invisible Wind Factory on 26th August, presented by Liverpool Psych Fest and featuring Chris Forsyth And The Solar Motel Band. Tickets available here.