Matt Pond | The Highest Form of Living

prof matt-pond2014_sqIt’s a strange setup when you have a video camera pointed at your bed at all times. It requires a lot of explaining.

 

 

prof matt-pond2014

When I first spoke with Matt Pond, I wondered if we’d be able to cover everything going on in his musical life. He just released an album on NoiseTrade, Skeletons and Friends; he’ll be releasing another album, State of Gold, later this year; and he’s currently on tour playing 2004’s Emblems from cover to cover. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the overarching theme of the interview seemed to be change and evolution—both for Pond himself and the music world as a whole. He appears intelligent, charismatic, and persistently questioning. He is, it seems, constantly thinking and trying, something that has no doubt helped him maintain a career in a business that can be undeniably ruthless.

One way in which we discussed how things have changed for him is in the songwriting process itself. He starts off by confiding, “I don’t know where the songs come from.” About writing 2010’s The Dark Leaves, he said, “I wrote every song in my head, and all the parts mostly in my head. I don’t know how I did that.” Going farther back, though, the process was more involved. About writing the songs for Emblems, he told me, “I used to videotape my hands playing in different tunings, and then I would take all the tapes and listen back to them over the stereo—the songs I liked, I would re-teach myself and then I would pursue those songs. Now I make notes. It’s a strange setup when you have a video camera pointed at your bed at all times. It requires a lot of explaining,” he says with a laugh.

What he’s doing now, though, seems to be working. He released Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hand in 2013, followed by a free offering, Skeletons and Friends, in April of this year, with State of Gold due later this year. Considering it had been three years since the album preceding Lines, it’s obvious Pond isn’t slowing down even a little. While Lines is more upbeat and—dare I say—danceable (see the video for Hole in My Heart for proof) than Pond’s previous offerings, Skeletons has a dreamy quality to it. The 10 songs show off the evolution of Pond’s voice, which has grown in strength since Emblems and helps infuse some of the songs, most notably “Heaven’s Gate” and “Take Me with You,” with an aching, haunting sadness.

The forthcoming album, though, is another sign of how things are changing, both for the artist personally and music in general. The album is being funded through PledgeMusic, a site that has developed in the last few years to allow fans to donate toward their favorite artists’ new albums, while providing updates from the writing and recording process. This was very different for Pond, as the place that they were working on the album is a secluded cabin in the Northeast—a place Pond would go to be technologically disconnected from the world. Now, with the invention of constant connectivity and the need to post updates for PledgeMusic, it’s not the same as it had been for years. As he explains, “We had to be in touch all the time from there, and I had to wrap my head around that. It’s just a thing to accept: Just as the internet isn’t the answer to everything, but to be fundamentally against it isn’t the answer, either.”

Pond does seem to have the ability to see both sides of an issue, and tries to give credit to both without being indecisive. I asked him if perhaps he was a bit of a perfectionist, and he said, “In a weird way, yes; in a weird way no. I don’t mind a spirited rock and roll show.” As my first exposure to Pond was seeing him live, I can attest that the shows are not sedate. He continues, “I’m not scared of mistakes, but within that, I want the fabric to be the way I want it.” He is open with the fact that it’s not always easy for him to explain what he’s looking for. “It’s hard to always articulate, even to myself. I sometimes will tell someone the song needs to be more German, and I don’t even know what that means.”

Another area where Pond can see both sides is touring; sometime with which he has plenty of experience. I asked him about it, wondering if it was energizing or exhausting, and he told me, “It’s everything. It’s amazing, and then you want to be done with it.” He speaks highly of the group on the road with him. “I am lucky to be doing what I’m doing with the people who are doing it. These people are repetitively playing songs, taking critiques from me, and then repetitively playing the songs again.” He knows the life they’re leading isn’t super-cushy: “We’re not millionaires; this isn’t exactly luxurious.” Pond seems to see it as worth it, though, telling me, “I’ve never lived in the moment as much as when we’re doing all this stuff. Things are really heavy and then they’re really fun and it’s kind of insane, but to me, in some ways, in some manner, this is the highest form of living.”

He will be sharing this form of living with us when the tour comes to St. Louis on May 10. The tour will be over a week in by then, and the group, which includes longtime collaborator Chris Hansen and keyboardist Tierney Tough, will no doubt be hitting its stride. It will be a fun show that will demonstrate even more of the ways in which Pond has grown as a musician, while making the crowd stick around to see where he goes from here. | Teresa Montgomery

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