Wading through the noise: Jay Watson on refinement, maturity and the future of POND

With a decade on the circuit, seven LPs to their name and a shitload of facemelt along the way, POND have well and truly blasted their way into the psychedelic consciousness. Poster children for the mangled, psychotic rock ‘n’ roll which exploded out of Perth in that period, the fusion of Nicholas Allbrook, Jay Watson, Jamie Terry and Shiny Joe Ryan has been a Happy favourite since day zero.

2017 saw them drop their latest, a world-ending collection of synthesised balladry named The Weather. As the tour supporting its release loomed close, we sat down with Jay Watson to chat his home in Fremantle, Gina Rinehart and the double-edged sword of maturity.

This article will appear in Happy Mag Issue 6. Grab your copy here

jay watson pond the weather australian tour dani hansen
Photos by Dani Hansen

DJing at Kevin Parker’s house, keeping the fun alive and canning the half-baked ideas: this is the new life of Jay Watson and POND.

HAPPY: Hey there Jay, how are you?

JAY: I’m good, how are you?

HAPPY: Good, whereabouts are you at the moment?

JAY: I’m in Perth, in my house.

HAPPY: Oh nice, last I heard you were kicking around London.

JAY: Yeah, I moved home from London in November, but that sort of thing takes a long time to get updated on the internet.

HAPPY: Of course, is that home base for the foreseeable future?

JAY: Yeah, I guess so! At the same time, I worked out that I’ve lived in 13 share houses over that time, and now I’ve got my own house and it’s so awesome. Everything in the fridge is mine.

HAPPY: Moving up in the world.

JAY: It’s so good. Well, mine or my girlfriend’s. But I’m loving it at the moment. There’s a studio in my house too, I’m happy here.

HAPPY: Well this may be less true now, but POND seemed a bit scattered all over the world lately.

JAY: I was for a long time, and in fact it was the same with Tame Impala. But now, everyone from the band is back in Perth. Actually, we’re all in Fremantle, it’s crazy, we’re all pretty much in the same suburb.

HAPPY: Sick.

JAY: Yeah! So later on today Joe, Nick and I are going around to Kev’s studio to practice our DJing on his decks. We’re rubbish DJs and we’ve got lots of sets coming up.

HAPPY: Well it’s not the hardest thing to learn anymore, luckily. Unless you’re on the wax.

JAY: Yeah, we just find it incredibly… I think it’s like ‘too many cooks’, we find it incredibly difficult to play a coherent set with smooth transitions. But we haven’t done it much, hopefully after some practice we’ll be half decent!

jay watson pond the weather australian tour dani hansen

HAPPY: Sweet. So, you guys have been playing for the better part of a decade now, do you ever feel like you’re not just a few mates jamming in a room anymore?

JAY: Yeah, I guess we’ve lost that feeling, but we didn’t jam for very long. The first two [albums] were jam and improvising-based and they’re kinda… terrible. All our best stuff has come from working individually and then getting together for a few weeks and doing a record. I mean, no one hates each other! You hone in on the very fine depths of the good and bad of people’s personalities over a decade, but no one’s a dick.

HAPPY: It sounds like you’ve definitely done some growing up, and I have heard The Weather being called a ‘growing up’ record but I don’t know, that idea can grate against me; the idea that a band or person has to grow up as they get further into their career.

JAY: I think it’s about, just naturally, doing your best to reflect where you are in your music, or any kind of art. There are probably a few people older than us who find our ‘non grown-up’ music very grating, just like, 20-year-old loons. Then there are probably people now who find that the more mature stuff is grating in its seriousness, or maybe it’s quite boring. As long as you’re reflecting yourself quite accurately, you can’t really lose. And if everyone finds it old and boring… I guess we’re old and boring! But I feel like, with POND, it will be very hard to become too straight. If anything we’re trying to make it more manic because naturally it’s all floppy, out of tune and has seven ideas going on at once.

HAPPY: That’s the way we like it.

JAY: Yeah!

HAPPY: Well you’ve pretty much iterated what I was going to say, that a lot of people think becoming mature equals having less fun, but I think you guys are a nice bit of proof otherwise.

JAY: We’re quite proud of the fact that we’ve made it something actually, I can’t think of a better word than ‘half-decent’, and the last two were a bridge to us writing songs about things, not just pure whimsy, you know?

HAPPY: Yeah.

JAY: We feel like it’s a whole lot easier to articulate ourselves, everyone’s less cooked, we can execute our ideas. Before we’d play a million parts on a million instruments and kind of waded through the swamp, waded through the noise and tried to piece a song together out of it, but now we have a more deliberate idea. It’s less stressful than it used to be.

HAPPY: The Weather definitely saw you guys articulate yourselves more, and we’ve seen a ton of artists do something similar lately. Did you feel any sort of, I guess, obligation to do so as the world changed around you?

JAY: They’re mostly Nick’s lyrics, almost all of them are, but I think he’s always written about what he’s thinking. I guess in the last couple of years he’s just been thinking more about external things, while in the early days we lived in our own whimsical bubble. He’s been thinking about weightier things, that’s how it came out. I mean, I can’t write about specific things or even tell a story when I write songs, I just have to… mental diarrhea comes out and if the lyrics are too cringe I scrap them. Nick’s much more of a writer than I am.

jay watson pond the weather australian tour dani hansen

HAPPY: Did it feel rewarding doing an album like that, is it something you want to take forward? Or are you about ready to do another record about space and shit?

JAY: Haha. No, I think we’ve done that! A lot of the lyrics have been, not that whimsical, just packaged in a certain way. I think since Hobo Rocket, that was the first one to have some pretty cynical and grim stuff on it. I mean, if it’s going to be that pessimistic, you’ve got to have a lot of joy in the music, and if it’s really dark music you have to have some joy it the lyrics. I find a lot of that stuff cringey, either one of those extremes.

HAPPY: So you’re all constantly writing, that’s your process, and you bring everything together for a record…

JAY: Yeah, I think the decade of touring has helped a lot because it’s so boring, you know, those 12 hour drives through the middle of America or something. There’s no internet so we’d just write songs on our keyboards. I’ve never actually owned a MIDI keyboard, but I’m quite good at playing QWERTY.

HAPPY: Haha, nice.

JAY: And the limitations of that force you to come up with better chord progressions, better ideas. And Nick writes a lot of lyrics like that, in the van or on the plane. So more than ever before, he’s just writing stuff and we’re marrying it to music. It’s getting a bit more… he’s beginning to articulate things exactly the way he wants to, even while fitting it to a pop melody of mine.

HAPPY: Would you say the amount of total material that you bring to the table is getting more refined, as well as the final product?

JAY: We all bring different parts of it to the table. But there are a couple of songs which didn’t make the last POND album, and we’ve never really done that before, we’ve kind of just put it on. This time we edited ourselves more, like there’s this one song By The Water which ended up being a Japanese only track. There’s a song which is actually on my upcoming solo album we left off as well. We’ve never really done that before, we used to use every half-baked idea we had, and that’s why you had 50 minute albums…

HAPPY: Do you ever go back to those old albums and cringe?

JAY: I used to cringe a lot more, now I’m kind of ok with it. Mostly it’s lyrical stuff, I find the music quite endearing. But we were young, I don’t know, I feel like I’m jealous of people whose stuff that they wrote when they were 19 isn’t stuck on YouTube. But my stuff is. But that’s alright, hopefully it’s funny or charming to someone.

HAPPY: Cool. Now a bit of a weird one to finish; The Weather, as we’ve said, was pretty critical at some points. It’s not like you’re reaching the kind of audience who would disagree with anything you say but I’m curious… have you ever gotten serious hate mail?

JAY: Uhh, not really.

HAPPY: Well, good!

jay watson pond the weather australian tour dani hansen

JAY: I guess there are some references… but I don’t know anyone who does like Gina Rinehart? I’m sure the Gina Rinehart fan club don’t like it. If it was as big as Tame Impala, maybe people would have picked up on that stuff much more. But it’s still largely a… I can’t think of a less shit word than ‘indie’ concern.

HAPPY: Haha.

JAY: Yeah, everyone hates Gina Rinehart.

HAPPY: I’ll be more than happy to publish that.

JAY: Awesome, thanks man.

HAPPY: Thanks.


This article will appear in Happy Mag Issue 6. Grab your copy here