Analogue Music | Matt Pond

Matt Pond

By Scott Elingburg

Matt Pond doesn't have any sympathy for me.

But I can't say I blame him. I am, after all, griping about the above-normal temperatures for March at the beach. And he just isn't having it. 

"This is probably one of the most grueling winters that I’ve been through,” the Kingston, New York resident says.

But Pond has weathered the physical and the metaphorical winter, a season that saw him abandon the moniker of Matt Pond PA after a final tour in December 2017. With Spring arriving slowly, Pond is ready for a new project, a new challenge, a new stack of creative endeavors. Tentatively titled Spaceland, the new project is ambitious and creative; a work-in-progress that eschews the standard format of the album cycle.

And Pond has found a new set of collaborators, as well: you, me, and anyone who wants to contribute. Or, as he put it, anyone who wants to help "pay for gas money." 

Analogue: So, to begin, you've gotten rid of your moniker, Matt Pond PA.

Matt Pond: Yes, I don’t really like putting my name all over everything. It was kind of a mistake in the first place and it was just a manner of establishing who’s in charge. I know how to write songs from that persona and I just wanted to stop doing that. The problem is, though, I don’t have a lot of personas. So writing in a different way is a little…tough. 

Matt Pond
Matt Pond

Analogue: Did you feel like you said all you wanted to say as MPPA, or was it just time for something new?

Well, it definitely is a new perspective. But it was this way of seeing things--trying to connect--that stayed the same. We tried to change the elements around as much as we could without blowing the whole thing up. And once you put out so many albums under one name, everyone comes to a different show with a song they want to hear and it just started to seem like I was trying to… (pauses) we don’t really have any “hits," but the “hits” within our audience, we were always missing them. Or it felt like that. In a smaller format, I could see playing some of those songs but bringing a five-piece band and touring and releasing records…

Analogue: As far as your records and songs go, I always felt like everyone had their one favorite song and no one could ever agree on what it was.

Matt: (Laughs) Yes, my favorite was in San Diego, we were playing Emblems as a whole and someone just kept yelling “Specks!” so loud. And it was such a small place. I was like, “Look, you’re really pushing my buttons and we’re trying to do this thing...” And they just wouldn’t stop. So I was like, “Fine, let’s play it.” Then they continued yelling “Specks” while we were playing it. And then they left halfway through. 

Analogue: Oh no.

I’m not a prima donna; I get it. People come to see a show and you’re supposed to give them something. But...I don’t always know what I’m doing.  

Analogue: Well, you’re supposed to be fulfilled by doing it, right?

Matt: Yes, but there’s so many parts to this process. And, especially towards the last few years, I basically withheld to doing a lot of things myself—even booking a lot of shows myself. It’s fulfilling, yes, but it’s a lot of work and then you play this hour or hour and half show. And there’s all this build up, all this driving, and…there’s got to be another way. 

Analogue: You did the final tour in December. When you were done, how did you feel? 

Matt: It’s strange because I don’t like to publicize or draw out these things, these moments in your life. I’m not big on graduations or weddings or final shows. The great thing was it was one of the best groups of people I had played with in a while. Because not everyone is always available to run around the country and play rock and roll shows. I’m not a complete sentimentalist but it does get heavy when you realize, “This is the last time I’m going to play this song.” Or this could be the last time. We all die, but you can’t live every second with that on your mind. 

Analogue: It would make you mentally sick. 

Matt: I think there are different ways of doing things but I don’t want to be the focus and the one rambling on in every single interview. Others can do it better than me. (Laughs) But, through the good and the bad I realized I really do love making music and I do love playing music live. But all these mediums are different than they were when we started playing. And I imagine they are all going to keep changing constantly. For me, I like to ignore everything and try to write music. That’s what’s fulfilling.  

I like to ignore everything and try to write music. That’s what’s fulfilling.

Analogue: This new project that you’re working on, tell me as much as you can about it. It has to do with soundtracking dreams?  

Matt: Dreams might be the wrong word but it’s any disconnected thought anyone wants to share—but, without an agenda. There’s several things that exist in myself, like I listen less than I would like, and I see a lot of agenda happening. The reason why people are doing things seems—it’s either financial or ego tripping, or political in music. And these things you can’t get away from, but at the core, I feel like people just don’t listen to each other as much as they should. 

And I can’t find it from any source where I feel like I’m being swayed. And popular music is structured within these three to five minute structures and chords and refrains. I just wanted to bust out and write in a different way. And also try to listen in a different way. 

So we’ve put up the site and asked people to share their dreams, visions, or any disconnected thought. And we’re trying to put music to it. I feel like we’ll figure it out and can do it on the scale we want to, but we still kind of don’t know what we’re doing. And I like that part. As long as no one else I’m working with quits out of anger and anger at me. (Laughs) Because everything has to be perfect or as perfect as you can make it, and I’m obviously not great at articulating finer points sometimes. In music I can’t just stomp my feet and make things happen, but that’s basically what I’ve done my whole life. 

We’re trying to put this together and then we’re going to put it on a radio show and play music that has a sense of dreaminess that sounds loose and strange, but I think soul music and shoegaze music has an underlying theme that doesn’t hold it down to a genre. So creating a sense of feeling and playing these dreams in between a few songs every once in a while. Maybe even on the air having people call in and try to live score some of their thoughts and dreams. Also…just listening.  

The great part is when you get what it is you’re saying and it starts to open up. That’s how albums happen; you’re mining and you’re trying to find whatever preciousness you can find...But it's a long way to get there.

Analogue: So it’s all about listening, but is your project more about responding? Or taking what you’re listening to and interpreting it? 

Matt: We’re not interpreting too much because you can’t really go in wide directions and have the words be heard. So we’re creating these foundations or blankets of music — that we’re still learning how to make and defining ourselves. It’s about setting people’s words apart from their normal tonality. When someone sends something like this in, they’re trusting us. That’s the whole point of collaboration. 

Analogue: What I’m getting is that you’ve really prized this process you’re involved in over a finalized product, or a rubber-stamped album. 

Matt: I like this process but, like most things, I love and hate it. It can be frustrating but I can’t just give into that—there’s just no room. It’s exciting but, also, how many days can I spend playing guitar, writing music that I just throw away. Because I can do that a lot. (Laughs)

The great part is when you get what it is you’re saying and it starts to open up. That’s how albums happen; you’re mining and you’re trying to find whatever preciousness you can find. Once you get to that it starts showing itself. In my experience. But it’s a long way to get there, especially because I don’t know any of these things. I’m not playing songs I played before, I sold my van—that was hard. I’m only driven fifteen-passenger vans my whole life. And I love them. And hate them. I’ve driven over a million miles easily.  

Analogue: Will there be a product you are putting out? Podcast or radio?

Matt: It will stream and then we’ll upload the show—maybe in full streaming at a later date. We want to release the music and it will stream onsite and on the radio station, WKNY. As far as a product, I don’t know. Maybe albums? I prefer to make a massive piece of music with songs and instrumental music that is pieced altogether, but it sounds like a lot of time. I don’t know what it’s going to be yet.

Analogue: Well, that's exciting.

Matt: It is, and I’m excited by it. But i’m just disappointed with myself and my ability. (Laughs)

Analogue: How's the response for submission been so far?

Matt: It’s been good. We’re going to push it more but we’re not pushing it further than we know how to do it, basically. We have to rescore a few things that I don’t feel are good enough. But what they need or how to make them good enough, I have no idea. I just know that I want it to be more transcendent. 

Once we have thirty dreams that we feel good about than we’ll start pushing it larger and larger. 

Analogue: So, if you could look back over your career—the albums, the songs—is there one song, on experience that sticks out to you? 

Almost all of it has a certain kind of place. I meant it all. And they’re all really different experiences--the albums, the songs. All of them were fights. I went all over the country for Last Light and we had a record deal that fell apart before The Dark Leaves and I didn’t care. I wrote Emblems moving to New York and not knowing anyone. I don’t love every song I’ve written but I think of these albums as big chunks of my life. You write a record, put it out, and tour on it, and I really had to keep my doubts at bay. But I meant it all.