For the first time in over two years, fans along the Australian east coast will chance to watch Pond, live in the flesh, this April. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has kept the WA psych-rockers bound to local stages (where they’ve played almost a dozen shows) since the plague broke out, but now they’re primed to tear shit up in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne over three wild nights in April.
It’s there we’ll see Pond debut a stack from their ninth studio album, bluntly titled 9. The release – which spans a tight nine tracks, because of course it does – saw the quintet return to their roots, jamming freely and emphasising fun over being fastidious. Shortly after the tour wraps up, they’ll release a deluxe edition of the record with an extra four tracks, including the cool and crunchy ‘Lights Of Leeming’, the swaggering ‘My Funny Serpentine’ and the quirky ballad ‘The TAB Took My Baby Away’.
To riff on both the upcoming tour and the new and improved 9, we sat down with singer, guitarist, bassist and producer Shiny Joe Ryan.
This’ll be the first time you’ve played outside WA in a hot minute, right?
Yes, a very hot minute! The tour got postponed what, twice? So yeah, I’m pretty excited! Everyone is! We played our first show with some of the songs from 9 last Friday, and it was so much fun, so we’re all terribly excited to take it out to the east coast and whatnot.
What was it like to debut those songs in front of a big-ass crowd?
It was great! Y’know, after you’ve written all those songs, and then you’ve waited for the album to come out, by the time you actually get to play it all live, it can be a full year or two later. So it was really satisfying to be able to finally drop it on people – and a lot of fun to play, too. It’s nice to be putting the new songs into the set, y’know, it sort of breathes a bit of new life into it all.
So when it comes to the full tour, what tracks from 9 are you looking forward to busting out?
Well I’ve finally reintroduced a wah pedal back into my board, and that’s there for ‘Toast’ – so that’s pretty fun. It went down quite well the other day.
Do you like to find those little opportunities to improvise when you’re performing?
Yeah, for sure. Instead of just playing everything note-for-note from the album, we like to figure out ways to include little parts of something different. Or maybe blend two songs together – something from an old album with one of the new songs. That’s great when you don’t really want to play the whole song, but there’s like a really cool chorus or riff – you can just pluck it out and throw it on the end of another song.
So what does your live setup look like at the moment?
I’m thinking about changing up my amp, actually. At the moment I’ve got a Fender Twin, but I think I want something with a bit more channel volume, so I can get a bit more gain. The other day, when we were using the Twin, it was on like 1.2 and it was still too loud, there was nowhere to go with it. So yeah, I’m figuring that one out at the moment. My pedalboard is rigged up so that I’m playing guitar, obviously, but I could also do vocoder, and then a little side chain that goes into a few other things, so you could play a guitar synth and do a few other things with it. It’s a jack-of-all-trades setup, really.
Is that the same kind of gear you tend to use in the studio?
Absolutely, yeah. Jay [Watson, vocals and multi-instrumentalist] collects all kinds of wild and wonderful guitar pedals. He comes into the studio sometimes and he’s like, “Oh yeah, this is the fuzz pedal from ‘Convinced Of The Hex’ by The Flaming Lips,” or, “Check out this auto-wah” – and of course I’m just there like like, “Oooooh, auto-wah!” Between the lot of us, we have quite an interesting guitarsenal.
What were some of those secret weapons?
See, 9 was a bit different – we went back to that old kind of ‘jam band’ territory. Because Jay – I don’t know why he has it, but he’s got a roll of one-inch recording tape, so we just spent three days filling it up, dumping it into Ableton, filling it up, dumping it, filling it up… So we were pretty much just writing stuff on the fly, doing two 15-minute jams to fill up the tape, and then repeating the process.
I can’t remember if we actually used anything too wild in those initial sessions, but I do have this one pedal that I’ve been really into for the past couple of months: it’s called a JHS Colour Box, and it kind of replicates the channel strip on an old Neve desk, so you can get that Beatles-y Revolution tone, or you can dumb it down and take a bit a high pass off your bass – it’s pretty much good for anything. It’s my new go-to pedal.
So after the tour wraps up, in May, you’ve got a deluxe edition of 9 hitting shelves with four extra songs. Did these come from the same sessions as the rest of the album?
They did, actually, but in our quest for a tight album, we cut them loose. Sometimes you just don’t want to do a double album on vinyl, y’know? Sometimes it’s nice just to do a single, concise bit of wax. So they’re all really good songs, I think – they just didn’t quite make the first cut. But when the idea was floated about, maybe doing a deluxe album, it was like, “Well, we’ve got those songs!” We just sat back down and touched them up a bit. They’re quite fun to listen to, if I may say so myself.
I know you haven’t even been able to take 9 on the road yet, but I am curious, have you guys started to think about where album #10 might take Pond?
I’ve been thinking about it, at least. But I don’t honestly know. Like, this album was so strange – it came together quite differently than I expected, but it was good. It was such a pleasant experience. So who knows? I’d only be spitballing if I were to tell you – if I had any clue to begin with – so we’ll just have to see what happens. Maybe we’ll do it all again in another yearlong jam session.
Do you make a conscious effort to keep switching up the process and keep things fresh as a songwriter?
Absolutely! I think it’s probably healthier for everything, to keep everyone enjoying it. I think you have to switch up the recording process every now and again, just to keep it exciting. Everyone would still be excited to record if we did it the same way every time, but y’know, we live in a beautiful town where you can either go out to the bush or one of the heap of recording studios that our friends have – it’s not like we’re stuck in the middle of New York with no way to transport our gear anywhere [laughs].