Back on home soil after their North American tour, the Pond spacemen are all systems go to launch their sixth psychedelic rock album Man It Feels Like Space Again on 23rd January. Happy caught up with the mad scientist himself Shiny Joe Ryan to chat about their traveling freak circus, stargazing back in high school and his plans to pull some insane tricks at Laneway.
HAPPY: So you guys just finished touring over in North America and a few festivals in South America. How was it playing over there?
SHINY JOE RYAN: Insane. Bloody insane. I love going to America and playing there. And it’s our first time getting Pond down to South America, so that was pretty off the charts to be honest. There were some lovely people all the way around that we met with, very warm receptions everywhere we went.
HAPPY: And you guys toured with fellow Perthians Doctopus. What was it like touring with them?
SHINY JOE RYAN: It was like a traveling freak circus, I think. Going in convoy from one town to another. They were a really really good band to have on tour, very good at getting me and the other Pond boys, and the crowd of course, all psyched up before we went on. When we played up in Montreal and Toronto they couldn’t come up with us and I think those two shows I just remember feeling so flat before we went on. And I was wondering why, you know, so we’ll have a shot of tequila to see what’s going on, and it was just because there was no Doctopus there to get us riled up before. It was good. I think they certainly went out on the road with a lot less money than is needed to, but they didn’t care. I think they’ve all got credit cards [laughs].
HAPPY: So, onto your latest album coming out 23rd January. Beard, Wives, Denim was kinda on the funk side, while Hobo Rocket was pretty heavy. What sort of sonic galaxy does Man It Feels Like Space Again transport us to?
SHINY JOE RYAN: Galaxy of this album…The songs are probably written a lot better than any other album we’ve done so far. I think, I dunno if maturity is the right word for that but it definitely sounds a lot more…maybe mature is the right word. But yeah, mature, to an extent. And I guess, I dunno, we’ve been working on these songs for quite a while, maybe even some of them up to like two years, like back when we were doing Beard, Wives, Denim and stuff. So, I guess we’ve had quite a while to sort of flesh em’ out and iron them out and, you know, maybe this core progression doesn’t fit so well, what about this one, you know. That kinda deal.
HAPPY: With all of you playing in like a zillion other bands, how did you actually manage to come together to write, record and mix this album? What was the process like?
SHINY JOE RYAN: What was the process like? Let’s see. We’d just done some touring, I’m pretty sure. So anyway, we had like two weeks, or maybe like two months off, or something. And we were all over the place in different parts of the country. So we all met in Melbourne. Oh, that’s right, Nick had done his solo album with this guy Lukas Glickman who owns and runs a studio that we did Space Again in. So he [Nick] was down there and just really liked the vibe and Lukas’ vibe and everything so we just decided we’d do it there. We didn’t really have much practice before we went in. The songs were probably just knockin’ around as demos so we’d just email that to each other and be like this is the rough idea for how it’s gonna go, at least the song, you know.
And then we just hit it for two weeks, pretty much every night. I think we had one day off, maybe like in the middle of the two weeks, the Sunday, slap bang in the middle where we were like, “You know, I think we all need a break to be honest.” A bit sort of, what do you call it, we’d been burning the candle for a whole week and it was just time for a break. But no, I guess this album we just kinda went into it with the songs already kind of written but not really doing any practice or rehearsal, so to speak. Just sort of jumped in there and used Lukas’ strange, wonderful synth collection and all that kind of business. We came together, you know. We came together to make the album happen.
HAPPY: Your influences seem to change from album to album, like there’s been a bit of Prince, Fleetwood Mac and Black Sabbath in there. Which influences were floating around this time around?
SHINY JOE RYAN: I wonder. Let me think. Probably, well my two songs on there are just pretty ballady country ones so I guess I probably got my Grateful Dead bone tickled during the recording of that. GUM’s, or Jay’s, are just, I dunno, insane. Kind of like, you know Close to the Edge by Yes how it’s just like parts of stuff all comin’ outta the woodwork, that kinda deal. And Nick, who wrote most of the lyrics for everything, I think his song on there is this alien thing I’ve never…I don’t even know how to describe it…some strange, alien music coming through your speaker. We tried to make it, the album, sound spacey. But now I come to think of it, I’m sure we could have done a better job [laughs]. But yeah, it doesn’t sound all that out there to me.
HAPPY: Well, lyrically you guys seem to venture to some pretty far out spacey places, with lots of nods to space. Where does your guys’ interest in space come from?
SHINY JOE RYAN: Interest in space? Pretty bench post, you know. I think everyone kind of has an interest in space. I think, for me, I used to go to this high school in Perth called Trinity College and we had, maybe by the end of Year 10 when I was there, we had this huge telescope that they built on the science block. It was this massive thing and apparently it was like up there with the top five biggest telescopes in the Southern Hemisphere, or something…
SHINY JOE RYAN: [Laughs] I dunno how accurate that is. But anyway, we used to go in and you know just spend all Friday night or Saturday night at the school. And just like, you’d wait for a nebula to be high enough in the sky to go and film it for an hour, you know. So we used to do that, it was pretty cool. I guess that’s where I got my first kinda taste for looking at the screen and being like, “Fuck, I just filmed that and that light’s taken, you know, like however many hundred thousand years to reach my eye just then at one point”. So it’s pretty, once you start thinking about it, it’s kind of like a never-ending hole, isn’t it? It’s just how deep you wanna go, really.
HAPPY: Yep, definitely. That’s really cool.
SHINY JOE RYAN: Thanks [laughs].
HAPPY: Ok, so you guys are also playing at a bunch of Aussie festivals soon – Beyond The Valley, Lost Paradise and Laneway. How do you feel about playing back on Aussie soil?
SHINY JOE RYAN: It’s gonna be fun, you know. We won’t have to travel through any strange truck stops to get to where we’re going ‘cos we’ll be fine everywhere. Nah, I’m excited. It’s gonna be a really good festival, actually all those Laneways will be. I’m looking forward to New Years as well, it’s gonna be great. But yeah, it’s gonna be an insane line-up for Laneway. But we’re also stripping back from a five-piece to a four-piece. So, it’s going to be a little dangerous. But, you know, we’ve never been afraid of a bit of danger.
HAPPY: So any reason why you’re stripping back?
SHINY JOE RYAN: Oh, you know, I mean like since Cameron left and Jay jumped back on the drums we’ve just been cycling through various people coming in to play bass or whatever. Like, we had Julien Barbagallo who plays drums for Tame Impala and his own solo projects and whatnot. He was playing bass, just as a favour to us. And I guess it’s just to avoid maybe having to keep teaching new people parts, you know. Also, I dunno, I’ve kind of had a few, what would you call it, mad scientist ideas about how I can play guitar and bass at the same time by a few different tricks and whatnot. I dunno, I’m all into mad scientist laboratories and all that. So I reckon I’ll just give it a try.
HAPPY: Cool, that’ll be awesome seeing your tricks.
SHINY JOE RYAN: [Laughs] Yeah, when you hear me go “It’s alive!” playing bass and guitar at the same time then you’ll know it’s worked.
HAPPY: Look forward to that for sure!
HAPPY: Well, just finally, what makes you happy?
SHINY JOE RYAN: What makes me happy? Adventures, I guess. Even if it’s just having a little adventure in a book in the sun, or maybe out on the road in the great unknown. And there’s many in-betweens as well. But, having adventures is what makes me happy.
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