Since 1998, Matt Pond has been writing complex, genuine music for his band Matt Pond PA. He’s been busy recently: besides the recent Matt Pond PA EP Spring Fools, Pond wrote the soundtrack to the film Lebanon, PA, toured with the band the Wooden Birds, and both toured with and released a split with Rocky Votolato. I sat down with Pond on the night before he set out on his fall tour to chat about life on the road and the challenges of songwriting (among other things).
You’re living on the road — do you enjoy the travel itself?
I like living in the moment and I like being around people I like. Of course I like it, but it’s work! It’s not exactly...but then again, I can’t complain at all, it's probably the best thing I could have done. I don’t know how I ended up doing this. And it’s not always easy; there are people out there who want to destroy you. But you know, I tend to have just gotten stronger, which is weird. I’m even a better lover than I used to be, which is weird.
Do you think that ties into your music?
I hope so! I wouldn’t want to be making crappier music, I’d want to be making better music. The album that we’re working on for the spring, I’m really putting a lot into it. Although as I work on songs I think that they’re the best I’ve done, but I sometimes will deceive myself in order to get what I want from myself.
I think we all do that. At least you’re honest enough to admit it to yourself!
I admit everything to myself — there’s no way to hide.
You’ve recorded some of the new album. Do you know what it’s going to be called yet?
No, there are three different names it could be, so I can’t...I haven’t decided. One is a letter, one is a word, and one is a long sentence.
One name is “S.” I don’t know if I’m going to go with “S.”
I’m just curious about the really long sentence...
I can’t tell you the long sentence! The long sentence is changing.
All right, fine. Is it true that you recorded that at the same time as Spring Fools, in Austin?
We tracked a bunch of drums at the same time, yeah. But nothing is completely done yet by any means, and there’s so much more work on this record. We have November to really finish it and December to mix it, so it’s been over the past year I’ve been working on it. I put out of a lot of things but I spend a lot of time working on each one, so it kind of takes over my life. So each album is like this story of defeat and then triumph in some way, at least in putting my hand over the finish line and there’s an album. But they’re so tough to make. People think that in the digital age everything is quick and easy, but it’s not easy.
Nothing good is easy!
I’d like to hope to think that these are good. I’ve put everything I have into them.
Tell me about your touring schedule. I know you’ve been insanely busy.
We did a tour in the spring for a couple months with Rocky [Votolato]. It was just us broken down into a smaller version of ourselves touring solo, and that was probably the best time I’ve ever had touring because he’s just such a good guy and a good musician and we worked on music together - it was just a lot of things I’ve never done on tour. Usually exhaustion and shyness and frustration all contribute to closing off, so working with him like that was cool. And I did a tour with the Wooden Birds for a few months this summer and then we’re about to start on a two-month tour now. I’m really tired going into this, but I’m tired with resolve. It’s inspired exhaustion.
But it’s not that you’ve just been touring, you’ve been releasing a lot of stuff recently. I know the Lebanon, PA soundtrack just came out...
It was digitally released yesterday [September 6]. I also just released a single with Rocky Votolato.
How did your collaboration with him come about in the first place?
Usually, you tour with people and you become kind of temporary friends. It’s hard for me to stay in touch with people because when I’m home I’m writing, I’m stuck inside my own world. And I stay that way sometimes on tour but he just forced me out of kindness. I’ve never experienced that genuine kind of warmth in music. It’s really fun but it’s also exhausting doing this, so he kind of reaffirmed my faith in the whole process. And when people believe in you, you start magically believing in yourself.
Spring Fools has some changes from your earlier work, and it’s a little dancier. Is that a result of recording in Austin with Louis Lino?
The last album was the least “dancey” thing that we’ve done. Emblems has a lot of...I don’t know, I just write songs. I mean, they’re based on a theme. An album gets caught up in a theme and then we have to work into that, and that’s where it gets tough because there will be better songs but they don’t work in with the theme, so your hands are tied. I like to make groups of songs that mean something and are supposed to point out something. I don’t really know how all this stuff evolves or why it is what it is. I definitely like to dance, though.
How would you describe the music you’re making now?
I think that there are always positives and negatives; I think that generally the destruction of things is how you get better. So a lot of the frustrating things that happened and are always going to happen until the day I die, I try to think of them as lessons. Like smashing my head yesterday on a piece of plywood...it was kind of funny to be walking around with blood pouring down your forehead. And what you learn is not to run into a piece of plywood, and now I’ve learned that lesson. And I’m only better for it. That’s a stupid high-school way of describing it, but I hope that I’m getting better at communicating a commonality, or the things that I believe are common among people that might not be positive in their immediate form but end up being positive.
Would you say that getting to that core commonality is at the base of a lot of your music, getting to that “essential truth”?
I want to speak to people, I want people to speak to me, I don’t want to feel alone. Computers make everybody feel alone in the way that we’re using them right now. I like the idea of email or electronic messages, but I don’t like the idea of virtual selves. That’s my fight in the world, [it's] probably against the virtual self. We all exist in those mediums and you can’t not, but we’re becoming less and less face-to-face type people and less and less involved in our own lives. The amount of pictures that people take of themselves...it’s almost like you can’t go anywhere and enjoy it without taking a picture of yourself. And it’s starting to make me crazy; I almost don’t take pictures because of it. I have my memory, and my memory is pretty good.
What haven’t I asked that I should know?
I have to wait until tomorrow night to see what happens, but I think that this could be one of the better tours I’ve ever been on. It’s going to be chaotic because we’re all traveling together. I think it’s seven people, just really entangled and integrated, and we are all doing things for each other. It’s going to be amazing in some sense — I’m just hoping it’s amazing in a good way.
Matt Pond PA & Rocky Votolato Tour Dates
09.23 – Athens, GA @ 40 Watt Club
09.24 – St. Augustine, FL @ Cafe Eleven
09.26 – Orlando, FL @ Will’s Pub
09.27 – Tallahassee, FL @ Club Downunder
09.29 – Houston, TX @ Fitzgerald’s
09.30 – Austin, TX @ Stubb’s
10.01 – Dallas, TX @ Prophet Bar
10.03 – Tucson, AZ @ Plush
10.04 – San Diego, CA @ Casbah
10.06 – Costa Mesa, CA @ Detroit Bar
10.07 – Santa Barbara, CA @ Velvet Jones
10.08 – Pomona, CA @ Glass House
10.09 – San Luis Obispo, CA @ SLO Brewing Co
10.11 – San Francisco, CA @ Bottom Of The Hill
10.13 – Portland, OR @ Dante’s
10.14 – Vancouver, BC @ Media Club
10.15 – Seattle, WA @ Neumo’s
10.16 – Spokane, WA @ A Club
10.17 – Pullman, WA @ BellTower
10.19 – Boise, ID @ Neurolux
10.20 – Provo, UT @ Velour
10.21 – Denver, CO @ The Marquis Theater
10.22 – Kansas City, MO @ the Record Bar