Pond is an incredible psychedelic band from Austrailia, most closely associated with Tame Impala. Their newest and fifth studio album, Hobo Rocket, is a whirlwind listen – with spontaneous and heavy instrumentation placed over a mere seven songs, including singles “Xanman” and “Giant Tortoise.” I had the pleasure of talking with Jay Watson, and I quizzed him all about the new album and what to look forward to in the future.
Dylan: So, first, what’s with the album title, Hobo Rocket?
Jay: Like all the titles, it’s something that someone says and the rest all think it’s funny. It’s a completely stupid album title, and, in another frame of mind, I wouldn’t call an album that. It suits the sound – it’s just a space rock… heavy, explosive album. I don’t know, it’s kind of like taking off into space and there’s a garbage can over there. I kind of feel bad for using the word “hobo,” because it’s kind of derogatory, but it shouldn’t be. A lot of bands have titles that are very Spinal Tap-esque album titles, like The [Rolling] Stones album titles… Beggar’s Banquet… But my favorite albums titles are ridiculous titles. I think it’s been muted by a lot of newer bands who will just play it safe with simpler titles. They’re more introspective. I think we might get more introspective. The view is more serious, maybe more about life or something. But I don’t think we’ll ever lose sight of it. I mean, The Beatles were serious but they were also goofballs sometimes, you know? I feel like it shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.
Dylan: So, Pond will never release a self-titled album?
Jay: Oh, maybe! I dunno! It would have to be something stupid, like P.O.N.D. or something like that. I mean, we try so hard to not make it so silly and jokey. When the band started, we were like The Mighty Boosh or something like that, and we were having a laugh the whole time. And we try so hard to be serious, but we just can’t do it. Being in a band is funny, and I don’t take it too seriously. I try, but it’s just like Spinal Tap. Even if you’re “avant-garde” or “experimental,” you gotta know that you’re in Spinal Tap’s world. Haha.
Dylan: What was different about recording Hobo Rocket and your previous album, Beard Wives Denim?
Jay: We did this one really quickly – three days – but we spent a while with the overdubs and stuff like that and we didn’t have a whole lot of time. This was kind of more rash…
Jay: Yep! With Beard Wives Denim, we did it in a farmhouse and spent a full week recording and setting up. With this one, we went in a studio and did it very quickly, and I think there’s a lot of things we could have done better if we had more time, but I like the “hobo-ness” to the sound. I think I’m proud of how ramshackled it sounds because there’s not many records that sound like that anymore.
It was supposed to be an EP and we have this whole other album that we’d been working on for a couple of months and it’ll come out next year. So we did the EP, and then we realized that it was a short album, you know? We did it quickly and it wasn’t a full year’s album, just in that short time. But, fuck it, you know? It’s still a fun record.
Dylan: What’s your favorite track on Hobo Rocket and why?
Jay: Well, I’m kinda biased on this one, because Nick went in and wrote most of it. Usually it’s Joe [Joseph Ryan], Nick [Nick Allbrook], and I write it – like a three-way thing – but Nick wrote a lot of it. But, yeah, I’m biased because “Giant Tortoise” is mine, and I’ve had that riff since I was a teenager. In fact, my favorite beat is the last three seconds of the track with the flanger, with the stadium rock Queen-esque sound or something…
Dylan: Are there any anecdotes or stories you have about the making of Hobo Rocket?
Jay: The title song “Hobo Rocket” was this instrumental thing of Joe’s. It’s vaguely… dance-able, kind of Beatles music. We were working on it and had this story, spoken-word story in one ear as the song was going, and this guy Cowboy John, who makes his own music. He’s pretty crazy. He’s been in a mental institution for twenty years. He’s a cool guy, but he’s not really “with it.” Anyway, he’s sleeping on the couch and he comes in to read the story and Rob, the engineer, is like, “There’s no way he’s going to do read that or sing it or whatever.” So, then we just got him to make up whatever it is and it was one take, where he says some pretty crazy shit. In fact, we included the lyrics on the album booklet, which we never do, just so we could have that on the record. He says some ridiculous stuff like, “What kind of biology and chemistry do you know?” You know, we were all laughing – not at him, but at the whole thing – but at the same time we all thought it was brilliant. It’s perfectly suited for it – drunk, cosmic, Michael Hutchence-thing – I don’t know!
Dylan: Why did you decide to release Hobo Rocket ahead of Man, It Feels Like Space Again, which you alluded to earlier?
Jay: Because we haven’t put enough time into Man, It Feels Like Space Again – we want strings and tracks to be right – so probably early-to-mid next year. But we wanted to do something more like evil, because, like, jam bands don’t really do that. But we wanted to do something heavy and psyched-out, because I feel like we kinda fell out of the last one – there were some parts that were kind of cutesy or goofy or “sunshine-goofy-kid” sort of thing. So, this one’s a bit of a darker one. And, of course, we failed by making it darker, like, overall, because they sound like goofy party songs. But some of them are darker, heavier, or freakier like “Midnight Mass” and “Aloneaflameaflower.”
Dylan: Does Man, It Feels Like Space Again sound alike or similar to Hobo Rocket?
Jay: The end of “O Dharma” where it’s really blissed, spaced-out sound – that’s more of this one. It’s going to be really dreamy. It’ll sound something like Pond, but we’re just now exploring drum machines. Every time we try and do something really different, we sound off, and to do something properly different, you really have to “go for it,” you know? I think the same kind of juju will be there.
Dylan: Do you guys plan to tour the US anytime soon?
Jay: We’ll have to wait until next year, unfortunately, because Tame Impala is touring, but the idea is to tour with both records, which will be super fun, because there will be ten new songs to the set and five of them will be singles off both albums – you know what I mean? It’ll be a fucking party when we actually tour under both albums!