On their 2017 album ‘The Weather’, Australian upstarts Pond, spearheaded by vocalist Nick Allbrook, began a voyage of socio-political discovery. Having always been soundtracked by a collision of psychedelic experimental sounds that often felt like boulders hitting their namesake from a cliff-face, this new-found subject maturity has paved the way for their future. Now, with album number eight, ‘Tasmania’, Pond are getting environmental.
“What else can you write about as an Australian right now?” he guffaws through a thick Australian accent. “With serious catastrophes staring everyone in the face, I’m sort of surprised if any band doesn’t write about it!”
Catching up with Nick over a coffee, it’s fair to say that music has always been an integral component to his life. Pond began as a collaborative lark with his mates, most notably Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, but it would seem he’s got a lot on his mind these days – more specifically, his homelands ever growing state of environmental disasters.
Deathly high temperatures and “animals dying” are all equating to a bubble of pressure that runs deep throughout ‘Tasmania’. He’s quick to delve into more evidence. “Flying foxes, two thousand or more, have just died from the heat. There have been power outages. The grid can’t deal with this new thing, and then suddenly just floods and torrential rains. I think everyone’s starting to get more and more worried.”
His scraggly dirty-blonde hair finds its way into ever more precarious positions as he talks through his heightened state of awareness and what it means for this new mature Pond. “It’s not so much a statement because I’m not making any grand claims,” he begins. “Or plans, or suggestions on policy, it’s there for sure, and I’m sure that’s had some subconscious effect.
“I was really proud for many years about having my head in the sand,” Nick admits. “Staying in our little bubble where all of us – me, Kevin [Parker], Joe [Ryan] and Jay [Watson] – [were] living our hazy lifestyle. It’s now changed, and I’ve got a greater sense of responsibility. Not because of my platform so much as just being a human.”
Even the title harks to the purported island haven south of the Australia mainland. “It’s becoming this thing in people’s minds as the last place to go!” he marvels with wide eyes. “It’s going to stay cool and verdant for longer than everywhere else, and people are starting to buy houses there to legitimately go.”
Apparently, the main worry is us all ending up in a somewhat Mad Max-like state, which can’t be far off.
“This stuff keeps happening, and there are the people who I’m sure will say, especially about what I’m saying, that you’re being left-wing alarmist, and that sort of thing, and that’s fair enough if that’s your point of view, but the facts are people are alarmed. It’s getting beyond a left-wing political tub-thumping ideology. People are genuinely scared.
“I mean I don’t wanna understate how naive I am,” Nick confesses. “I’m just a musician and a writer. Just… freaked out and confused, and that’s basically what all the themes are!”
While the seriousness courses through ‘Tasmania’, the naivety and “us being irresponsible young fucking dudes in a band” hits hardest in its opening track ‘Daisy’. A perfect introduction to the journey ahead, it’s a shimmering bop that lures you in with a memorable chorus and dancing bass lines, but beneath this calm, serene surface is a well-crafted tale about, well, what’ll happen when the shit hits the fan.
“There’s a lot of dualism in the themes and the lyrics; it’s beautiful. It’s warm. You can get your shirt off. You crack a beer after you’ve done it, which is me trying to inhabit the mindset of some of the people who would’ve been paving the way for my family and me to grow up where I did – which is rough, scary, murderous shit!”
Nick explains further his decision to focus upon the facet of care-free youth. “Like what the fuck are we going to do? We just go for a swim, rip a bong, and have a dance. And the music a lot of the time does express the dance side of it.”
The further you dive into ‘Tasmania’, the more it can feel like a major left turn, especially for a band who were inclined to being “more ‘have a jam with the lads and then whip out some psychedelic whimsy over the top of it with some wordplay that Joe thought of when he was on acid’.” But things are different for Nick now.
“Maybe somethings just shifted in my brain?” he ponders. “I guess I care more now about writing. I enjoy it more. [That] was fun as fuck, but you’ve [got to have] some ambition of pushing things further.”
Pond have always been toying with the edges of musical exploration, mostly thanks to their collaborative beginnings which does have its negatives for Nick. “It’s a suffocating pressure to be original, and I don’t want that to get in the way of people having fun. But in saying that, I do think within practice and passion and concentration, you get better.
“I’ve noticed it incrementally. It’s a thing that Kev said ages ago when we were living in a shared house together, and before Tame blew up properly,” he begins, recalling some sage advice. “He was saying this theory that developing is about the bell curve, and at the top is your ideal personal soul – the thing that is right inside of you, and nothing else has been created, and will be created.
“What you’re trying to do with practising is growing gradually closer to the top, and you start at the beginning of your career,” creating the image of a bell curve with his hands, he reaches the lowest point. “All the way down there.”
For Pond, this involved starting in a state of psych-flux, getting a bit lost in all the jollies and, ahem, ‘other stuff’, eventually ending up with something “fun, but a bit shit I reckon”, through to knuckling down and trying to “make mega pop songs”. However, on ‘Tasmania’, the band have found themselves a deliverance to the curve; “Now we’re starting to get a balance of letting things go free and not being so stuck.”
So as the world keeps heating up, and the heavyweight that nothing can be done overnight, it’s about understanding that it’s all a process. Just like Pond, things will work themselves out with a bit of perseverance and growth. Or, as Nick brightly puts it through a smirk – “It takes time, hey!”
Taken from the April issue of Dork, out 8th March. POND’s album ‘Tasmania’ is out now.
Words: Steven Loftin