LISTEN: Jay 'Gum' Watson from POND
“If Gina Rinehart gets you down”. That’s Pond, on album The Weather, simultaneously wearing their West-Australian heart on their sleeve, and the weight of the world on their shoulders. The band that have always danced in the shadows of Tame Impala, that other Perth band (with whom it shares members and crew). But now all of a sudden they’ve wedged seven LPs under their belt, in almost as many years. And despite the weightier content, their psych pop's ever buoyant. At the edge of the world, not drowning but waving.
Just decompressing after back-to-back US & Euro tour stints, they’re about to head out on their Oz leg. But first we chatted with Jay ‘Gum’ Watson.
Whereabouts are you today?
I’m in my home in Perth…it’s really rainy and horrible! It’s been really rainy and horrible for like a month or two now.
Like proper winter!
Yeah I haven’t had a Perth winter in like six years or something. I forgot that it was pretty horrible. In my head it was just like autumn anywhere else.
So are you based back in Perth now?
Yeah I live just outside of Fremantle.
Have you been London-based for a little while?
Yeah I lived in Melbourne for a couple of years and I lived in London for a couple of years and now I’m back in Perth.
How is it being back?
Yeah I love it yeah. I guess I still go away so much that it’s like I don’t feel like I’m cooped up. It’s good, I think I’m partying a lot less. Like, Melbourne was a little bit more and then London was like ten times more. So having a break…Gotta get healthy!
Between Tame Impala and Pond and Gum, how do you divide your time? Is it pretty hectic?
Yeah I mean, it’s kinda like whatever’s coming up next - because Gum doesn’t really tour - so if there’s a Tame Impala show then that’s what we’ll be focused on. Because I’m in Tame Impala and Joe, who plays in Pond, works for Tame Impala in the crew. So it’s not like it’s me holding the other things back from happening, it’s him as well. Actually we have lots of the same crew as well. And then my solo stuff I just do in my [spare time] … like today after this interview I’ll work on some mixes.
The Weather - lyrically, it feels like it’s shaking its head at the state of the world. How do you see the album in terms of the evolution of the band?
I think it’s the same…It was made in exactly the same way really. I think Nick wrote almost all the lyrics on this one. It changes from album to album, sometimes it’s kind of like three solo albums squished together. But this one was more like Joe and I and then Nick would work on the music…Nick would do the lyrics and the melodies. But I think it’s the same principle as all the old records, it’s just [with] the old ones whatever was in Nick’s head would be more whimsical and fantastical. Or might be about real things but he would use that sort of wordage to explain it. Whereas I guess maybe now it’s more obvious and that’s what he’s thinking about all the time…It’s more fucked up stuff…I don’t know.
Like we all are I guess...
Well exactly. That’s the thing, everyone’s just real confused in general.
And there’s a Christmas song on the album. How did that come about?
I think Joe had contributed a couple of ideas but they didn’t fit too much. They were really good but they didn’t fit the rest of it…Not that it ever really does with Pond. He was on this Christmas EP years ago, just had this home-recorded song ‘All I Want For Christmas is a Tascam’ and I really liked the chords and the melody. And I just thought it was kind of a waste, it was just on this thing that like 10 people heard … five years ago. I was like, we should re-do that one completely differently. And then it kind of turned in to this weird…[we] put this big Timbaland beat on it. That one’s almost meant to be confusing. And also like a reprieve from all the heavy stuff. Somehow, in our brain, it fit in there.
It’s like Christmas in July or something
Yeah exactly. We like records that have ‘that’ song or couple of songs where you’re just like [laughs] ‘why’d they put that on there??’ That’s just funny to us. And it’s important …There’s lots of bits on the album that we find funny that people probably don’t find funny at all but we need those bits to keep it amusing. And also to offset some of the bleakness.
You’ve just been touring internationally, do you think there are any noticeable differences in the crowd depending on what country you’re in? Like any broad generalisations about who acts which way?
Broad generalisations…I feel like there’s less dudes in the crowd these days, which is a good thing. I feel like it was a bit more man-heavy before, I’m not sure why. Can’t explain it but it’s very welcome. Yeah I don’t know, I think maybe there were a few more singles off the last [album] that were a bit more easy to listen to or pop and that’s brought more people or like a wider variety of people rather than just people that look like me… kinda like crusty, long-hair psych dudes.
What’s the most memorable gig you guys have ever done?
I mean I have memories of very memorable ones but not really for the right reasons. Trying to think of what the best, positive gig was. I don’t know.
There were lots in the early days, we’d just have to kind of stop halfway through and give up just because it wasn’t happening. It’s come a very long way Pond. Even in the idea that we can get to the end of a song and deliver it semi-professionally. It’s quite amazing to think, based on some of the early things. But I can’t think of one that stands out. Primavera this year was very big, I don’t know if we felt that good about it, but it was like a really big crowd and it looked really beautiful. That was kind of a highlight.
And your side project Gum - I understand that came about from the nickname Gumby? Can I ask why you were called Gumby?
I think someone called me that in high school, I was very tall and thin and flexible I guess. I don’t know how because I’m not very [flexible] anymore!
And not green..
No, well, I’m quite yellow coloured. I have this thing called Gilbert’s Syndrome which is really benign but it means your liver pumps out heaps of bilirubin which kinda makes you a bit yellowy-coloured. That means absolutely nothing - having it - except that I’m kind of permanently jaundiced. And I feel like kids don’t need much excuse, there just needs to be some sort of tenuous link and it will stick.
What was the first gig you ever went to?
First gig I ever went to was Big Day Out, Perth 2005. So I was 15. I grew up in the country where there weren’t really gigs. So I guess that’s kind of late for your first gig, at 15? But it was Big Day Out, it was The White Stripes - I was a huge White Stripes fan. All I remember is it being very loud and I was really worried about my hearing for like the next week. Iggy Pop was so loud I scrunched the program up and put it in my ears and then I couldn’t find the bit of paper in one of my ears and I was freaking out. Actually now I think about it, I’ve always thought my crippling anxiety was an adult thing but now I think about it I was very paranoid then about the program in my ears and just the volume of it. So I think that’s good evidence now I think about it to remind me that it’s been lifelong.
Well it’s probably made your hearing last, that you were that conscientious at a young age.
It just makes me think if that’s like one five-thousandth of the damage I’ve had in the decade since.
You probably have some really good earplugs now though.
Nooooo...No, just riding it out. Part of me kind of can’t wait for it. Just to be old and senile and not be able to hear anyone and just be in my own world.
And earlier this year we made a beer together...
Yeah! I’ve just finished the end of it - the last crate. I had about 20 in my bar fridge.
Well I was going to ask - obviously it goes without saying that it wouldn’t be as good - but if Pond did another collaboration with any type of product, ever, anywhere what would it be?
I don’t know, I’d love to say clothes. I feel like I can never find the right clothes for me. I’d love to make my own pants and jumpers and stuff. But I don’t know how to do that.
Well, we’ll put the call out.
See POND tour dates here.
**GIVEAWAY**We've got a POND prize pack to give away for each city - Adelaide (15 Sep), Melbourne (20 Sep), Sydney (23 Sep) and Brisbane (24 Sep). Pack contains a double pass to the POND show in your city, a copy of The Weather on vinyl and a longneck of our latest collab beer, Brown Bagger. To enter, email firstname.lastname@example.org with your city as the subject.