Published on January 31st, 2013 | by Ballard Lesemann0
Matt Pond is Living a New Pop Life
New York-based pop songwriter Matt Pond has led a prolific and dynamic career as a bandleader, composer, and touring machine. For years, he was known as “Matt Pond PA,” a name that was interchangeable as his long-running project name, too. He formed Matt Pond PA in 1998 as a versatile and melody-minded chamber pop quintet in Philadelphia. Pond only recently dropped the “PA” from the title and struck out on his own with the support of a new label and longtime publishing partner, BMG.
With a brand-new studio album titled The Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hand in hand (the disc is due for release on Feb. 5), Pond is back in action with a solid backing band and a renewed appreciation for his career in music. Pond and his band will perform at the Tin Roof this week. Metronome caught up with Pond as his current tour kicked off this month.
Metronome: Listening to the new songs on The Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hand, there seems to be a timeless “pop craft” quality that’s familiar — not only from previous Matt Pond PA albums, but from various power-pop classics, too.
Matt Pond: I don’t think I think about that. It’s not the goal. It’s a nice compliment. I don’t mind referencing things that are going on and things that are happening. The songs really dictate what’s happening more than anything else, and I don’t even know how we get to these points.
Metronome: When and how did this new album come together?
Matt Pond: About two years ago, we were doing a lot of touring, but I just started to kind of see the end of it. I was taking what I was doing for granted and the ability to do this, I mean, it’s not luxurious by any means, but for some reason, I started not being able to appreciate what I had. Then I broke my leg in the beginning of a tour. It was rough, but I got through it, and I realized that this what I wanted to do, even if I had to drag myself to wherever. It’s the one thing that’s content, and it’s the one thing I can believe in and it forced me to be optimistic. I’ve realized that I’m lucky to be able to do this.
Metronome: The new songs and their instrumentation are both very carefully arranged, from more delicate and orchestrated songs like the title track to the sparse but aggressive guitar-driven rockers like “Love to Get Used.” It makes for a cohesive collection.
Matt Pond: Yeah, I think it clicks. In our minds, whether we’ve deceived ourselves or whether we’re doing something right, the point is always to create a full album I still believe in albums; I’ll never let go of that belief. Some people tend to want to generate singles, but I don’t think it’s wrong to aim for a larger idea. Sometimes that idea will almost crush the album, because the concept is heavier than the songs beneath it, but not always. I believe in this new album, and I like what it’s saying, It leads me to the next album, which is exciting – the “to be continued” thing.
Metronome: Have the overall tone and attitude of your lyrics and songs changed much since your early days? There are some serious undertones throughout the new collection, but there are lighthearted and amusing moments as well. It’s a nice balance.
Matt Pond: Well, I’ll never stop being sarcastic, and I don’t want to lose by critical ability, but you can easily fall off the edge from critical into cynical, you know? You can get lost really easily. I believe in doing this even if it’s terrible at times, and it will get terrible at times. But even the mistakes have a reason. I needed to get beaten up badly to see how important it all is.
Metronome: Rhythmically, there’s some pep to many of the songs, too.
Matt Pond: When you simplify a drumbeat, you sometimes can make it more complex and stand out more. The guy I worked with was constantly taking things out here and there — like less cymbals and less fills — and then adding little bits back along the way. Arranging drums can actually be really fun. If a band knows what they’re doing with their drums, it makes the whole thing easier when you make an album. Little adjustments can change the whole song.
Metronome: So many bands tend to agonize over the recording process, fretting over extra takes and overdubs. Do you experience that, too?
Matt Pond: Yeah. But all that stuff is always secondary to performance. If you have a small imperfection in a great performance, you have to go with it. There’s a humanness to it all. Every note will not be absolutely in tune, you know?
Metronome: Do you feel any new pressure or push from agents or managers in your current situation, or do you feel more independent and in control than usual?
Matt Pond: I want help, actually. I don’t see it as pressure. I see it as having people who want me to succeed. You get more opinions than you’re used to sometimes, but I don’t mind opinions. I don’t appreciate it when someone tells me to do something I don’t believe in, though — I’ll find a way not to do that. I won’t compromise something that’s important to me. I wish I could operate my personal life with the same kind of judiciousness that I operate my music life. Musically, I think I know what I’m doing, and I know what I will do and won’t do. Getting rid of the “PA” part of it means I’m simplifying a name; it doesn’t mean that it’s just me. It’s a good talking point, maybe. But I can’t do this stuff without help from people like Chris Hanson, who’s worked on several albums with me.
Metronome: What can local fans expect from you on stage at the Tin Roof this week?
Matt Pond: It’ll be at least as aggressive as the music on the album. It’s five of us, with keyboards and two guitars. It’s a bit simplified, but nothing is diminished. We try to make sure that everything we do on stage ties together exactly live as it should. We can;t do an album exactly how it was done in the studio on stage … unless you simply play the CD. What we’re doing can be daunting and ominous, but it’s exciting, too.
Matt Pond and his band share the stage at the Tin Roof with the Company at 9 p.m. on Fri. Feb. 1. Admission is $10 (adv.) and $13 (day of show). Visit mattpondpa.com and reverbnation.com/venue/tinroofwashley for more.
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