While in lockdown like the rest of us, Matt Pond of Matt Pond PA talked with QRO. In the conversation, Pond discussed his upcoming EP, Songs of Disquiet (out August 7th), Zoom video of “A Pillar of Salt” (QRO review), making covers, working with new girlfriend Anya Marina, working with comedians like Nikki Glaser, bringing back ‘Matt Pond PA’, partial nudity, The Mets, and much more…
QRO: How are you holding up, with everything that is going on?
Matt Pond: I’m pretty good, considering, but at the same time…
If I turn the news off, I’m good…
QRO: Where are you quarantining?
MP: I’m in Kingston, New York.
QRO: I always think of you being in “PA”…
MP: That was a long time ago. [laughs]
QRO: How are things in Kingston?
MP: They’re good. It’s not totally different than from before, because I kinda isolated, trying to write an album. I’m in town, but it’s not absolutely different. I just wear a mask now.
The town’s suffering, but it seems like all the restaurants & things are coming back, in one weird way or another.
QRO: So, you’re working on a new album?
MP: Oh yeah. I’m always working on a new album… [laughs]
Video of Matt Pond PA playing for “Brooklyn Stars” at Doug Fir Lounge in Portland, OR on June 13th, 2010:
QRO: How was making Songs of Disquiet EP?
MP: I mean, it was the songs we’d been working on, that kind of just fell into place. A few friends really loved this “Pillar of Salt” cover. We’d kind of put out one before, to a limited release, before. It’s just a song I loved. It just sticks with me, especially now. And then a small group of people, over the internet, kind of couldn’t get it out of their heads. They started generating this idea.
At the same time, I have friends with kids, and you wonder what they have to do with their time. It’s not for me to tell people what to do with their kids, but this would be the time for everybody to start their amazing rock n’ roll closet band.
So, then I thought, ‘How do we do this?’
The singer on the first song [“Start”] is a fifteen-year-old daughter of a friend of mine. So, all these things linked up, to partner with Save the Music, and kind of try to do something a little more conscientious without yelling at people on the internet. [laughs]
I think that there’s a reason to yell at people on the internet, but that’s not how I exist.
QRO: Did you make those songs during this quarantine?
MP: The instrumentals, yes. The other songs were kind of pieces of things that didn’t work with anything. They were sketches, to a large degree. It would be hard to put something like that out in a quick amount of time, if you didn’t have a head start.
I mean, maybe not for Taylor Swift? [laughs] But we don’t have the same, what do you call it, money…
And there’s nothing wrong with that. If we were gonna do a ‘from scratch’ thing, I think it would be much more kind of acoustic, and right now, that’s not what I want to do. Especially for our next album, too.
And the funny thing is, I wanted to get into a studio, but even that’s difficult, these days. And they’re shutting down, more & more. Unless you own your own studio. I have a living room, and rooms in my house where we do things, but we’re not quite at the point where we can make a massive sounding recording.
We do our best. That’s kind of the way that I’ve always liked doing things, but I would prefer, at some point, to have that expansiveness, once again. A drum room…
I’m always working on a new album…
QRO: Is it “A Pillar of Salt” or “Pillar of Salt”?
MP: [Original artist The Thermals are] “A Pillar of Salt”, we’re “Pillar of Salt”.
I sang the wrong lyric to it for years. And I like the wrong lyric.
The funny thing is, some of my songs have the wrong lyrics.
QRO: How do you go about picking songs to cover?
MP: I love covering songs. It may be almost a point of weakness, but I feel like you learn so much about getting inside of a song. It’s something unexplainable, not just the chords, and the melody, and the structure. You exist as an extension, an homage to what the song was, and try to bring it back to life, if it’s forgotten.
Nobody really listens to Shocking Blue, and they wrote brilliant songs. Including, I think, “Rock In the Sea” [covered on Songs of Disquiet], but also “Love Buzz”, which I think Nirvana covered. They’re a great band.
It’s really a way of expanding and connecting with music, more than just listening.
I think right now, the model that we did this – there was an old album, Winter Songs, and it was a bunch of covers. There’s a certain sense of, not to be too obvious, isolation, and just this kind of desire for real connectivity.
And, like I said, the way I connect with music best, if I really love a song, I’ll just sit down and start playing it. And I feel like drawing people into that sense of something familiar, but then in new ways, it seems important to me. It may not be important to other people, but I hope it is. You never know.
QRO: Why two versions of “A Pillar of Salt”, “(Still)” and “(Stirred)”?
MP: Because, I feel like you can see it two completely different ways. It’s kind of a reprise, or whatever way you say that word; it’s kind of bringing back a theme, totally different.
I like taking it down to the spare bareness of it, and showing off, ‘These are great words. This is a good song. This means something right now.’ Without, again, shouting it.
I’m not into ultra-specificity. I don’t connect as much to every detail of a person’s hand; I connect to what that means, and where that leads.
I like how crazy the song, to me, means something profound. Especially right now. All the songs do that with just a little bit of looseness. You can take them as politically serious, or you can enjoy them. I love that.
Not to be hung up on the sometimes-mystical effect of classic rock, because it’s been played so much, but there are real moments of being able to enjoy something, and being able to feel profound change also, at the same time. And timelessness.
But now I’m sounding like someone with a Budweiser in a koozie. [laughs] Nothing wrong with that, either…
The way I connect with music best, if I really love a song, I’ll just sit down and start playing it.
QRO: How did you get Anya Marina for your “(Stirred)” cover of “Salt”?
MP: We’ve collaborated a lot, musically, over the years, and then we started collaborating as a couple. We started dating.
She was touring with Nikki Glaser, and I was helping tour manage [The Bang It Out Tour]. It’s most devastating of Nikki, and Andrew [Collin], and Anya, because they were doing such a great job. It was so much fun to see these shows.
And I was loving it, because apart of isolating and lighting, I’m kind of a little bit of an introvert. It was a wild world, and it was exciting. And then all this stuff hit. This tour was supposed to be continuing through now through end of the year, and maybe even beyond.
So, when we were making it, we were working on the tour, we were in Kingston, and we were happy to be together. And we still are, which is crazy. I wouldn’t want to be with anyone else. And my dog, which has now become her dog too… [laughs]
We work on each other’s music, and together, all the time. I’m not one of those people to run around saying, “I’m so happy,” but it strangely kind of worked out, us being together, to be able to build these things.
I think [Glaser] is going out again, for different events, I can’t say for sure. Outdoor things, and hopefully I’ll get to help out, and they can make fun of me the whole time, which is, everybody’s happy. But it’s really fun. They’re really funny people.
But now I’m sounding like someone with a Budweiser in a koozie. [laughs] Nothing wrong with that, either…
The weird thing was, watching them perform – this is probably more important than any of this stuff, at least with the pandemic and everything. They’re sober people who work really hard, and are both brilliant & ridiculous. And it really showed me how much I missed performing, by just watching people have a lot of fun.
It’s a little different – she’s playing huge sold-out theaters, and doing often two shows a night. So, it’s different. But still, there’s just this kind of enjoyment in the performance, which I remember.
[Touring] is a grind. Whatever kind of excitement of, ‘Hey, we’re just hanging out. Who cares if people show up?’ That disappears, soon, especially with money. And now, it’s not even an option.
But it was kind of strange. ‘Oh, I could do this!’ I’d also planning it anyway, but planning it in a kind of, ‘Ugh,’ not looking forward to it. And then I was starting to really look forward to it. And now, I don’t see when next year things will come back, in a way we can do it. Nobody knows.
And that’s the thing of all of this stuff. I love plans, even my small, little plans, with my dog. There’s no planning. Like, the grocery store is a plan – that’s not enough…
QRO: I’ve been doing these interviews – that’s something to plan for.
MP: Yeah. This whole thing taught me. This too.
I never paid attention to when interviews would happen before. Oh, just pick up my phone because someone’s calling. I wouldn’t think about it before. I think I took a lot of this stuff for granted, you know?
As much as a grind as touring is, right now, I think for both me and people that like us, it’d be a lot of fun. [laughs]
Matt Pond PA’s video for “A Pillar of Salt (Stirred)” (Thermals cover):
QRO: How was making the Zoom video for “A Pillar of Salt (Stirred)”?
MP: They get on the call, and they start just talking, and it’s funny. I had to turn them off, and not see anything I was doing, because it’s too distracting. I was just sitting there watching, not singing, just watching them before.
And it was fast. They’re fast. I’m sitting here, giving these compliments – these people are generous, and hard-working, and they make it seem easy. I’m kind of in awe of them. It’s really refreshing to see, to get outside of music and watch this kind of performance. And work with them on little things, or even talk to them, and get made fun of. I love it.
MP: I met them through Anya. Nikki actually likes my music, so that’s amazing. Ian is actually into my music too.
To see them at the Comedy Cellar, all hanging out and talking, and then going downstairs and watching them do a set, it’s just surreal. How much they’re always working, always thinking. I may be complimenting them too much, but it’s all real.
It kind of allowed me to open up these songs. It’s not like they weren’t finished, but we were kind of working on them, but they all made sense. ‘This song, and this song, and this song,’ having worked with them before, just kind of gave me this confidence, to be like, ‘This is what I want to do, and I’m gonna give it away’ [laughs] – which is good for other people. But it’s like, ‘I want to do this. This is a pure plan. I have no doubts.’
It’s fun to feel that way. That’s a way you feel when I was making records back in PA. No doubts, just pure emotion, pure motivation.
As one goes through a musical landscape, one could get cynical, and I guess that’s the point where all this stuff kind of… I think when thing are bad, I think I can be better. In a car crash, or in a torrential storm, I think I’m useful member of some kind of ‘elite force.’
And then, at the same time, coming out of working with these people, I’m learning, because I’m not quite perfect. [laughs] I’m learning to be less cynical about the process and how it all comes together.
I’m learning to be less cynical about the process and how it all comes together.
QRO: And why comedians for the video, other than you & Anya?
MP: It’s more fun, their willingness, Andrew, especially, his willingness to take off his clothes. Desire to take off his clothes, is really what first – cause the song is, “Our dirty clothes / Our dirty bodies.” Nikki really liked the song; Anya really liked the song.
A lot of what I’m doing right now is kind of learn how to rebelieve in what I’m doing through singing, through who I’ve hung out with. And the people I’ve hung out with are comedians. It makes sense to me. They’re just inspiring people, and they’re nudists… [laughs]
QRO: Was it all their idea to bring some partial nudity?
MP: When the idea struck, it was kind of Anya & I were talking about it.
I don’t know who came up with the partial nudity. It could have gone further. I think if you start the word “nudity”, if you get to the “u” of “nudity,” Andrew will go, “Yes!” He’s nude. He’s a good guy.
It made sense, and they were just all into it. It’s kind of like, ‘This is what we can do in these times.’
We filmed another video in New York, just a really small crew, and it’s kind of a really beautiful slice of New York, during this time. You try to figure out how to interact with people, and make something, either over computer, or standing far away from each other. It’s exciting; they’re good problems in some of this.
I know that people are really suffering, both economically and health-wise. You know, the world is burning, but I think that’s why I wanted to put something together that’s kind of a ‘Choose-Your-Own-Depth’ distraction.
They’re just inspiring people, and they’re nudists…
QRO: I did notice that everyone stripped but you…
MP: I’m a nudist when I’m alone. I enjoy nudity, but I am gonna cling to my introverted sensibility. I get nude with my music… [laughs]
QRO: You’re not Andrew Collin… [laughs]
MP: No, no I’m not. And he’ll tell you that too – I’m no Andrew Collin…
QRO: And I was a little disappointed that this interview isn’t on Zoom…
MP: I really don’t like it.
I think when I was a kid, I thought it would be cool to have this technology where you could see someone you’re talking to. I don’t enjoy it. But you can only watch people get nude on Zoom…
Video of Matt Pond PA playing for “Halloween” at Brooklyn Bazaar in Brooklyn, NY on September 25th, 2017:
QRO: Didn’t you say in 2017 that ‘Matt Pond PA’ was over?
MP: I’ve tried so many times to do that… [laughs]
There are two reasons. One was to get people off our tail, managers and labels. If I’m not doing this anymore, then maybe, I don’t know, I can get my albums back, masters? At least that’s what I thought. There was that thought.
The other thing was, I always wanted to have an egalitarian band. That was something I was planning on doing this year. Finishing the album with a bunch of people, we share responsibilities, we share the pain, we share the glory.
I mean, for the first time in my life, I have a basement practice room and rehearsal space. So, it feels like it should all come back to the beginning, when bands were bands.
But then there’s a pandemic, and you can’t see people in person. I don’t believe in signs – well, yes, I believe in signs. I believe the sign is, ‘Just choose the right people to play with. That’s the most important thing.’
I wouldn’t have made the records I’ve made without people like Chris [Hansen], who’s a bandmate currently. But there are people like a cellist named Eve Miller, and a guitarist named Brian Pearl, and Dan Crowell – all these people had to leave at a certain point.
When you think about it, it worked out because no one suffered gravely in the departure. People like to move on from things. Only the Rolling Stones can be married that long.
But so, yeah, I wanted to a bunch of times. I’ve tried, I’ve thought of things, ‘I’m not this other thing. I am going to have to come up with whatever this is. It’s not a committee; we can’t hang out.’ And I don’t smoke clove cigarettes, and I don’t like to have sleepovers – what do people in bands do now?
What do people in bands do now?
QRO: [laughs] I don’t know…
MP: I don’t know. They don’t hang out together, that’s for sure.
There’s so many reasons in my head, and sometimes I speak before thinking, or write before thinking.
And like I said, there are these comedians backstage, and everything that’s going on – I like this. I like what I’ve built, and what it means to me. Because it’s how I communicate better. I don’t pause when I sing, I don’t say, “Uh?” I can pronounce people’s names perfectly. [laughs]
What I was going to say about lyrics before, there are lyrics on the internet of songs of mine that have been wrongly uploaded. And a few are better – I’m like, ‘That would have been great…’
QRO: You also released A Collection of Bees Part 1 (QRO review) back in February. Is there gonna be a Part 2?
MP: There are tons of songs that we want to re-approach.
I’ve always wanted to redo a song called “Ruins” off of The Dark Leaves (QRO review). And that way, you get to get your masters back, you know?
I write a demo every couple of days. There’s just a lot of music. Some of these things, they’re songs that we’ve finished, that only a few people heard. There are demos to albums that sounded, to me, as good as the finished version.
So, I think that, there’ll be at least another one, if not many more.
I hope. I mean, all these things are all-consuming projects that I think, to some people, seem easy.
Even just the concept behind all this stuff. I think we could have done it from scratch, but to me, it made more sense to me to do it this way. We could have redone the songs, but there were these beginning tracks that we had. Sometimes, it just made sense.
To do something, even this, a short EP, couple videos, this and that, it’s been my quarantine life. [laughs] And I like it, but it’s not the most simple thing.
I’m not complaining at all. I love doing this.
Except for the bad labels, management, ex-publishers, all the stuff that can make it unpleasant.
There are lyrics on the internet of songs of mine that have been wrongly uploaded. And a few are better.
QRO: How was doing the concert with Anya and Chris back in March?
MP: We did three of them. They were great. There was always something kind of – like in the first one, my dog was attacking us. In the second one, Nikki roasted us.
It’s really fun, but there’s no audience. We’ve kind of done some internet things over the years, house shows, things like that, so we were familiar, but technology like Zoom – the last one we did, was a Zoom concert with Anya and myself. My phone overheated, and we had to switch to a computer fast, and the resolution wasn’t great.
It’s amazing, cause you’re rolling with these things, and these people are watching everything fall apart & still stay together at the same time. So, maybe it’s kind of a good thing – it’s a metaphor for the great pandemic living monument. They’re really fun, and I would love to hear a person clapping… [laughs]
I don’t always need it – I don’t have clapping programmed in my home, during my regular days. But if you’re really giving, which I like to do when I play music, ‘I’m gonna do this. I’m into this, and I believe it.’ When there’s silence, it’s kinda like, ‘Wait…’
QRO: You need like baseball, with the fake cheers…
MP: I haven’t seen any games on TV – have you?
QRO: I’m a Mets fan. You can kind of get used to the sound, but it’s weird.
MP: I’m a partial Mets fan. I mean, I can only handle so much before…
QRO: I’m more a fan of the announcers, Gary [Cohen], Keith [Hernandez] & Ron [Darling].
MP: They’re so great! When, eventually in the season, when the just start doing terribly, when they talk about what they’re doing on the weekend. ‘What are you making?’ Just shooting…
Our old drummer was from Long Island, and brought me into this thing, the love of The Mets. After the first game, I always want to go, ‘Undefeated!’ And now it’s not so good…
QRO: During this time, have you picked up and/or accelerated any bad habits? Like I went a long time without shaving…
MP: No. I mean, my hair got long, but that’s so boring.
The thing is, if you’re with a person that you’re romantically involved with, you gotta keep it a little tight. My house has never been cleaner. She’s organized the hell out of my place. The dog is happier than she’s ever been.
I’ve started meditating. I haven’t been drinking all that much. I sound like I’m in a cult, but it’s a good cult.
I don’t want to make light of neither the pandemic nor civil unrest. We’ve tried to participate & support in whatever ways we can.
Like I said, the way that I feel most, in my core, is about what saved me, as a kid, and that’s music. And then you think about kids who are just alone, don’t have anything, and then are going to school online, again. That speaks to me a lot. It might not be enough for some people, but it’s what I have to offer.
I think being motivated by tragedy is not a terrible thing.
Video of Matt Pond PA playing for “People Have a Way” at Bowery Ballroom in Brooklyn, NY on September 28th, 2007: