matt pond PA
matt pond PA has gone through an inception or two, and have never shied away from trying new sounds and reinventing themselves both in the physical and metaphorical sense. After several line up changes, a location change from PA to Brooklyn and and a side project here and there, one thing remains the same – visceral songwriting that reaches out and grabs you from the inside out, grabbing your heart and giving it a little shake, not unlike full on heartbreak and falling in love at the same time.
Never one to mask emotions matt pond PA (Matt pond on vocals and guitar, Dan Crowell on drums, Steve Jewett on guitar, Chris Hansen on guitar and keyboards and Matthew Daniel Sisken on bass) lay it all out on the line with their latest release Last Light. With help from the likes of Neko Case who makes a cameo appearance, Last Light invites you onto the matt pond PA rollercoaster of longing, loving, and everything in between. While this album is a bit richer and edgier than albums past, it doesn’t lose any of it’s emotional intensity.
The band tours incessantly and can currently be found making their way from the west coast to the east coast of the US before heading off to Japan, catch them if you can!
Interviewed by: Lexi Shapiro| November 2007
So, at the end of this past August, you embarked upon a week-long fast. What was your inner motive for doing this? Was it a cleansing of the spirit for you, a challenge to yourself? What was it?
Yeah, it’s supposed to be a focus thing. I’ve done it a bunch of times, and sometimes, it works. And, recently, it did not work.
This one didn’t go so well?
No. It was almost like everything kind of imploded. And, it’s really hard to set up these tours. I mean, we’re involved in every part of it. So, it’s like, they’re kind of nuts, you know? So, I was up in New Hampshire trying to get away, and everybody was calling me, everybody was freaking out on me, and I had no means of focusing on anything. And, I was just hungry the whole time, and I just kept like saying favorite foods. It was like being on a desert island.
So what eventually broke the fast for you?
I only stopped one ten hours early. But, there was so much food in the fridge. See, that’s the thing. My mom…I’ll go on a fast, and she’ll buy all this food, and it’s almost… it’s just impossible.
It’s the exact same way as if a girl goes on a diet, so her mom gets food for her.
Yeah, and I was like, “I’m not trying to lose weight. I’m just trying to get clear.” And, then, it just kind of messed up my system, in general. I think it was because, when I broke it… you’re supposed to eat really lightly out of it, and I ate EVERYTHING. I ate everything in the fridge. I ate every kind of food.
Right, because your stomach shrinks, and then that stretches it way big.
Yeah. It was just horrible. I felt horrible. So, the next time I do it, I need to know that… you know, no phone calls, no nothing.
What do you guys do to keep being the road from becoming monotonous and boring?
We like to hang out *laughs*. I don’t know. It kind of just seems like we don’t stop; we stay up all night, going out and either going dancing or things. That was stupid to say *laughs*. No, we get along really well, so it doesn’t really… I mean, we want to be here, you know?
Right. What about during the drive time?
I love driving. I love quiet. I love listening to bad radio. Do you know how much new country there is out there and how crazy those songs are? There was this one today about being a Redneck girl. You know that one?
Yes, I do!
Yeah, it was cool! It’s like, you don’t get a chance to just kind of have conversations uninterrupted that way. It’s kind of cool.
What was it like growing up as the son of a minister?
It was weird. I didn’t see my father that much. I don’t know if ministers are supposed to be jerks, but he was kind of a jerk. He did great things, but he wasn’t a good person. He was someone that you wouldn’t want to spend a lot of time with. So, I didn’t. So, I mostly grew up with my mom.
Was he really tough on you, or did he try to force values upon you?
He was just crazy. He was literally crazy, did crazy things. We had many pets that mysteriously died in the dishwasher growing up.
Oh my god!
Yeah, it was weird.
I would probably be traumatized for life…
I know, it’s weird. He was a weird dude. He did weird things. He was just crazy. They have medication for people like him, or, they did…he’s dead. And, I don’t mind at all. I’m kind of relieved. It’s much easier. The less crazy people around in your life, the easier life is.
That’s a good motto to go by. So, in many of your reviews, the label “chamber pop” keeps coming up and being applied to your music. Do you agree or disagree, or like or dislike this label?
It would be more “baroque” if they were going to try and do that, but then, I just think it’s too easy. Using strings, and having that define what we do We don’t play with strings right now, because we wanted to do different things. We wanted to be able to do more, and you really are limited as to how loud you can be, to everything. It’s really hard for people to play strings, and their frustration with it made it hard on us sometimes. But, I don’t think that ONE instrument defines us. But, then again, of course, people call bands “guitar rock bands.” I guess it’s just that people like to have labels or name things or characterize things.
Yeah, everybody likes to put something into a group, because classification makes it…
… easier to understand.
Because, I know that when you guys are touring this time, you don’t have the strings, and the album has far less emphasis on the cello, but do you have any plans of bringing it back at all?
Sure, I mean, it’s the parts. People were writing other stuff on other parts. I was writing other stuff on other parts. Or, other parts on other instruments…got that all mixed up. This whole thing has been about people being in the right place at the right time. You can’t force or un-force anything. It would be so fascist to be like ‘No, we HAVE to have strings. We can’t play without strings.’ That doesn’t make any sense.
That would be adhering to the label that they gave you.
Yeah, it would be adhering to it. People got mad. So many people have gotten angry. And, I’m like, “When were we hanging out, and when did we have this band meeting where you had a say?” Not that I don’t want to hear what people have to say, but this thing either works or it doesn’t work, and if it doesn’t work, then there’s just no point.
So, is there anything new in the works for The Dark Leaves?
Yeah, that’s what I want to do. I want to kill matt pond and have this… I think I got some of the crazy from my father, I don’t mind splitting my personality down the middle. So, yeah, that’s really what I want to focus on after…I mean, I’ve already spent…I have so many songs.
More fawn songs?!
Oh my god. It’s all, it’s all…it’s crazy! And, I’m not allowed to really do anything with them, but there’s, like, thirty of them. It’s crazy.
Don’t kill matt pond, though!
No, no, no, it’s cool…not in a bad way. Nobody wants us to do it. People that we work with think it’s gimmicky for us to start another band with everybody that’s in the same band. And, I’m like, “It’s not a gimmick. It’s what it is.” You know? We don’t want to play any of THESE songs. We want to play Dark Leaves songs.
Yeah. It’s something I’ve probably never heard done before, the exact same members in a different band.
*laughs* It’s stuff that Dan and Steve and I worked out, and that other people had helped out on. And this is a little bit like a kind of a tyranny and that’s a little bit more of a commune.
A collaboration on songs…
There IS a lot of collaboration on this. It’s just that that would be everybody’s band.
Without your name being the band name…
No, and we’ll actually get to vote on things. with my vote counting more. But that’s okay! *laughs*
With your lyrics to your songs being so autobiographical and unguarded, does it ever feel a little too personal when you’re performing them?
You know what, it’s funny; it feels personal when we’re sound-checking. I don’t like sound-checking in front of crews and singing some of these words, because you’re kind of joking around with these dudes about pick-up trucks and keggers and blowing things up. And, then you turn around and you start singing the song and it’s like “I don’t want to do this in front of these guys.” But, I couldn’t write any other way; even the fawn songs, even The Dark Leaves… I guess it’s less about me and more about another person. But, it’s still the same thing to me.
Have any of the girls in the songs ever come to the shows?
Of matt pond PA, definitely. It’s really funny, like, KC and I became friends after. I don’t know if you know her; and her daughter is named Lily…I don’t know if you know our songs, but I have a couple songs named for her, and I bring up KC in a few songs, and we’re friends. I mean, the fawns KNOW. The fawns are done. There are two of them, and I’m not allowed to speak to them, so…
But, the fawns know who they are.
Oh yeah, no, they know.
What was it like working with Neko Case and how did that all come about?
I just asked her. We opened for The New Pornographers. I remember we played with them at Club Café YEARS ago, and it was our first decent tour. And, they thought we were so weird; we thought that they were weird. But, it was cool. We loved them and they loved…well, we loved them…I don’t know if they loved us *laughs*. But, we got along with them. And, I wrote that song after listening to her record, and I just really wanted her to sing on it. So, I was kind of persistent. It was cool. It’s stressful a little bit working with people that you really respect. And, you’re nervous…and I hate being nervous and working, because you can’t just relax and perform. You’re thinking about everything that you’re doing. But, she’s amazing, and that’s all that I can really say.
So, in 2006, you had a whole bunch of your equipment stolen. Whatever happened with that? Did you ever get any of it back or did you catch the person?
No, no, but, we had insurance. That was cool. The bad part about that is when people were telling us that we deserved it for being so stupid and that wasn’t cool *laughs*.
I saw a whole bunch of that last night. I felt so terrible when I was reading that.
What, from Brooklyn Vegan?
Yeah, our van was breaking down. It was the first day of our tour. We were trying to figure out all of this stuff. We had never had a trailer before. We were done at five in the morning and we had to get up at nine, and we were just like, “Should we find better parking than this?” And, we all had this meeting. And, we were like, “No, it’ll be fine.” And, everybody was like, “Are you sure? You think it’ll be fine?” I mean, none of us knew how to drive it properly. It was kind of like…what are we going to do with this thing? Now, I can back it up and do figure-eights. But, it was rough that it was happening. It was REALLY cool the way people acted at most of the shows. It was REALLY crappy…people saying you’re idiots or you don’t DESERVE stuff like that. Like, we don’t deserve the equipment that we worked for to buy. We’re not trust fund kids or anything. Probably the first four or five tours we did as a headlining band, we played to NOBODY. And, whatever, that’s just the way it is. You almost can’t have an ego in this, even though it’s all egocentric. It’s really strange.
So what equipment did you play with the rest of the tour?
We got all this lent stuff, and I had a turquoise guitar that was terrible. Ugh, I hated it I was just like, “I can’t look at this thing. I can’t look at it ON me.” And, I mean, I’m not vain, but TURQUOISE?! That’s just one color beyond my realm of acceptance. So, we were lent a bunch of stuff. We bought stuff with credit cards, expecting the insurance to come back in. And it did, and most of the stuff got covered, and that’s where we are now.
I heard that Last Light is your first time taking up the reigns as Producer. Has that been difficult or stressful at all for you?
Oh, it was the most stressful thing in my life. A bunch of people were supposed to do stuff; we had people that were supposed to be producing, and when things wouldn’t be done enough, they would just be like, “I think that’s good enough.” I’m like…no, no, that’s not right. It wasn’t something that I wanted to do. And, I mean, not that I haven’t produced records. I just never took the credit. I just did it because I had no one else to help me.
It was a necessary evil.
Yeah. But, it was cool. I mean, it just was like a year I spent by myself, trying to find the right people to help do the right things.
So, I read that you are a vegetarian?
Is that for moral reasons?
Yes. I was driving behind a truck that had a picture of a steak on it today, and all I wanted was that steak. I think it’s unfair. A lot of vegetarians have it easy, because they never liked meat. Well, they don’t have it easy. It’s a good thing to do. I always thought that I could kill animals, because I grew up with friends that hunted and stuff like that. But, I couldn’t kill an animal, and for me, it’s not right, you know? Other people can eat whatever they want. I’m not going get preachy about it, but I just wouldn’t kill an animal and eat it.
So what definition of vegetarianism do you go by: Anything with a face? Anything with a mother?
I eat eggs, but I don’t eat any meat. I was thinking about eating fish, but I was like, you know, it’s an animal. I don’t want to kill it.
How long have you been a vegetarian for?
I’ve been one on and off, because I’ve thought it was wrong. But, last, it’s been about a year. And people are like, “That’s not enough time.” But, it’s hard when you LOVE cheeseburgers, when you’re wicked into steaks. I LOVE Thanksgiving, because of turkey, and now I’m vegetarian *laughs*, which is…cool. But, no, I do feel good, and I do feel better. I have to say those things. My subconscious is going, “No, you can eat meat.” But, I just can’t. Do you eat meat?
I didn’t for a while. I think it lasted, like, a month. And then, I tried again, and it lasted for about another month. I never really make it past the month marker.
That’s what I did my whole life. I did that. I think I was a vegetarian once for like 3 months. But, I just won’t ever eat meat again. I’m just not going to do it, because for me, personally, I just don’t think it’s right, and that’s a very sad, sad thing *laughs*.
You released Last Light in vinyl format, as well as CD. Do you prefer the sound of vinyl?
I do. I just don’t have any records; I’ve moved so much, I’ve lost so many records in relationships, that I barely have anything on vinyl, and it’s sad. But, at the same time, it does sound better. Withh our new record, the artwork person worked on it and made it look like records from when I was young, where you open it up and just stare at the record for a while. I’m into that. It’s very physical. It’s not just this little, tiny thing in a plastic case.
I read that with Last Light, you started with about 25 songs, and then narrowed them down. So, should we be expecting the other songs to be released on a record in the future?
Not a record…I don’t know. The thing that happens…you can’t let yourself be swayed by people around you. People that were supposed to be producing or doing parts would pick favorites of a songs based on arbitrary sets of criteria that weren’t about universal good or bad. They were kind of about what they thought they could do to it or where they could take it as opposed to what we could ALL do with something or what EVERYONE could make good. So, some of them just went in the wrong direction for a long time, you know? And, I would prefer them just as crappy demos somewhere locked away.
Tell me about a day in the life of Matt Pond.
I have a really hard time sleeping, so I wake up early, because sometimes I don’t fall asleep till six. And, then, it’s like, well, why bother? …If you’re already awake? Sometimes I go a couple of days without sleeping. THAT makes you crazy. And then, I always wonder why people aren’t up. And, I start calling people. People in the music industry don’t start until like eleven or twelve. So, I’m up way before them all, thinking about things. And then, I just start playing guitar or whatever. This is on a day before this tour started. Tour days are different. I’ve been really into recording my own songs and staying up all night doing it. And, it’s really funny… I’ll talk to myself, and I know I’m doing it, but I have such a good time doing that. I did that all spring in Louisville, Kentucky and at my mom’s house in New Hampshire and it was some of the greatest times I’ve ever had. And, I honestly think that if you can have a really kick-ass time with yourself, then you’ve achieved the thing where you can actually deal with death. So, it’s kind of cool.
You have to learn how to enjoy your own company…
Lastly, tell me about one of the funniest or craziest experiences that you have had on tour.
See, I can’t do those, because they’re too incriminating. Steve, Dan, and I have done some things that we can’t tell anybody about. I have a problem with taking off my clothes a lot, and then, like, running around. And, what I do is: I take off my clothes and I tell myself that I’m doing an impersonation of someone else. I’m like, “I’m like you…NAKED.” But, it’s really me, and that person doesn’t really get naked that much. So, I have this problem. I just wish SOMEONE would say, “No. Put your clothes back on,” more often.
Stripping fueled by alcohol?
Energy..after you play… we drink beers, but also, you’re so “up” after playing. And then, you load all your stuff, and what are you supposed to do with yourself? Just go and lie down?
Yeah! Yeah! So, just take off your clothes and run around!