If you don’t know Pond, they are the twin band of Tame Impala. Yet, if you had to take one of them to a party, you would take Pond, if you wanted a wild time.
Montreal Rocks spoke with Nick Allbrook about rocking out in a pool of sweat at the age of 7, early experiences with Kevin Parker, the hard yakka to be a musician, musings about slippers and the meaning of the band name. We also play a round of Fantasy Rock Band.
When Nick was about 7 years old, he lived in Derby, a northwest remote region of Australia.
“I really got into this Australian Grunge band called Silverchair.”
Their seminal album was Freakshow.
“When my parents went out, I blasted it so loud! For lack of a better word…rocked out. I was drenched in sweat and lying on the floor panting, when my sister came in.”
Young Nick was oblivious to the knocking, overpowered by the pulsing guitars as the band extolled the virtues of being a freak, which was the word probably going through his sister’s mind as she looked on in disbelief.
When Nick’s dad realized how much into music his son was, he bought him a CD of The Who. On the way back home, they put it on and cranked it up.
Nick’s young ears heard Roger Daltrey sing, “I can go anyway, way I choose,” followed by one of the first recorded instances of a guitar with feedback on the track Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere.
“Blew my mind!”
Little did Nick know that he would choose music as his path, and the first steps were to explore this musical universe.
Mink Mussel Creek
Before Pond and Tame Impala, Nick Allbrook and Kevin Parker were in a band whose one and only album struggled to see the light of day.
This was the band where Nick “pretty much learnt how to play. We were terrible when we started, enjoyed it so much and did it so often.”
The band lived together and played daily, completely immersed in the process, fine-tuning their craft by sheer will and determination.
There is great power in doing something bad. None of us start off walking, for instance, or even brushing our teeth great. We start off doing it bad and gradually improve.
Many stop the adventure of becoming a musician because they want to be great right from the start.
It takes the fearless attitude of Nick, who could enjoy the process of being bad for a little while until he got good.
“It’s a tender balance because it’s very hard as a young or old person when you are learning something new, and the first thing you do sounds awful…like you go for a run and can barely move.”
He received his first sturdy steel string acoustic guitar as a gift, along with a book of Jimi Hendrix tabs.
“I’d sit there trying to nut out his solos, throwing my hands in the hair, wondering why I was so god awful at this instrument.”
The guitar gathered dust until Nick was taught some basic chords on the guitar. He then got hooked.
“David Lynch’s definition of creativity is a process of correcting something that your deep inner voice says is bad, and you want to change it.”
Using an Australian term, it’s all about the hard yakka, or hard work.
Touring in Australia is hard yakka, especially for a band based in Perth.
“You’ve got to fly now, in Australia, if you’re going to tour, which is sad. It’s just unfeasible, economically, to take a bunch of people and spend enormous amounts of money on fuel to drive across the Nullarbor.”
The Nullarbor (Latin for “no trees”) is a desert-like 1675km long drive and takes approximately two days to cross.
“It’s because Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Tasmania and Adelaide are all on the east coast and Perth is on the west coast.”
Nick has fond memories of his first show in Melbourne, which must have been quite the adventure at the time.
Pond Band Name
The band name was inspired by Krautrock bands that had one-word names.
“In the beginning, I saw it in a very Psilocybeny way, as ponds being lakes in an ocean and us being a very small collective of people flowing and interacting with the rest of the human circus. We are all in an intermingling body.”
This osmosis helps with the creative flow of the music.
All the while, a pond can denote the limits where the band will not try to please the whole ocean but stick to their identity of being focused on their pond where they play music true to themselves.
The 9 Album
The band is also controlling the flow of the current wave of music, especially with the release of their ninth album, titled 9, where Kevin Parker is not the producer.
“We are all so informed by each other; It can be difficult to delineate where one ends and the other begins.”
Such is the relationship between Pond and the mastermind behind Tame Impala, where his contributions seem very natural and organic.
The subject of Czech Locomotive, Emil Zátopek, once said: “Everyone said, ‘Emil, you are a fool!’ But when I first won the European Championship, they said: ‘Emil, you are a genius!’”
It is possible that this departure from the norm of having Parker produce is that moment when the full genius of Nick and the band could now stand on its own merit.
“I’m happy being a fool, as well. There is infinite possibility for the fool!”
Art In The Small Details
Agnes Martin, the subject of Song For Agnes, once said: “Art is the concrete representation of our most subtle feelings.”
Nick got into a routine of daily writing first thing in the morning, “loosely directing it at something I felt personally affected by.”
That is how a deep philosophical deep dive about a pair of slippers inspired the song Gold Cup/Plastic Sole.
A Vietnamese Deli in Perth was where a pair of slippers were regularly purchased, for 12 years, to adorn his feet.
“One day, they just ran out, and that was it. It felt quite profound and moving that this was the same pair of shoes, but very different pairs of shoes, just like I have the same body, but all my cells have been replaced.”
The reflection continued about this “cheap pairs of terrible slippers which were probably made in an awful factory somewhere.”
Down the rabbit hole of contrasting elements of what makes these crappy slippers so deeply profound.
“They thinly separate me from a true earthly experience that can last decades, by a half centimetre.”
Nick touches on a point where many don’t experience things to the fullest, having the protective bubble of fear, anxiety or not wanting to be embarrassed.
Taking off the slippers, feeling the ground under our feet, produces a completely different experience, once we remove that thin barrier.
“At the time I was writing that, I was also emotionally starting to take off the slippers. For a long time, I’ve kept this thin plastic shield between me and other people and kept a lot to myself.”
Once that barrier was lifted, Nick was able to start revealing things to those who had reciprocal love.
Ellsworth Kelly, who inspired the cover of Tasmania once said: “The negative is just as important as the positive.”
Once we start sharing negative feelings, we expose light on them and, in effect, take away their power, or at least make the load a shared effort to carry.
“I can’t speak for everyone, but in my experience, that’s how you can be saved from the deepest pains. As trite as it sounds, I felt that with song and singing about something impossibly hard…you can almost feel it coming out, and the weight being just a little bit less.”
Shining The Light on Current Issues
Nick found himself worn out after Tasmania, talking about climate catastrophe.
What started as an expression of art became the nightly news, like his worst fears realized.
Around the time of the release of Tasmania, Australia saw intense wildfires burn more than 5.8 million hectares and affected the temperature in the lower stratosphere by 3 °C.
“It’s so real…it’s happening right now. It almost didn’t feel right or artistic…there was no poetry to it.”
Yukio Mishima, who also inspired a song, wrote: “True beauty is something that attacks, overpowers, robs and finally destroys.”
“Yukio Mishima was a very disturbed man, but a brilliant person, like a genius who was really dark. He was obsessed with beauty, power, and perfection. He almost hated himself for not being perfect enough.”
Nick will use music like his favourite bands, such as The Clash, Midnight Oil, as a “political, social battering ram for something I really love and respect. Music can ignite something. Look at everyone singing Kendrick Lamar at the (BLM) protests. It’s powerful.”
The Way Forward
Nick shared a recent incident in San Francisco’s Japantown where he was carded while buying a beer.
The reaction was: “Oh, you are from Australia! I’m from Indonesia.”
They were from the same hood, 200 kilometres from each other, so a connection was made.
It was an exercise in finding commonalities rather than differences.
“That just touched me. OMG, that’s the energy we need going forward.”
This positive moment in time made it into the daily writing routine, and who knows what song it will inspire?
First Instagram Post
Watch the full video to see us discuss and see the band’s first Instagram Post.
The photo was taken around the time the band did SXSW, which was a success.
“It actually worked for us, in the way people fantasized that it would.”
They went, got noticed, had a celebrity post about them and got that industry attention.
Fantasy Rock Band
When asked to put together the ultimate rock band, Nick’s choices were:
Lead Singer: “The most effecting singer to me is David Bowie. It just hits so powerfully in the heart.”
Close second was Otis Redding.
Guitar: Manuel Göttsching from Ashra. “Him and Bowie can get their Germanic thing on.”
Nod to left-handed guitarists.
Bass & Keyboards: “Prince should be on something. Let’s put him on bass.” Prince could also help with vocals.
Keyboards/Piano: At first, it was Prince, but finally, Nina Simone was selected.
Drums: “John Bonham on drums because he’s the best.”
The answers give us a hint into Nick’s influences. There is some Soul, mixed with Classic Rock, and the genius of Prince and Bowie.
Taken together, we get a glimpse into the complexities that Pond assembles and layers into their sound. The flow of creativity, exploring the seemingly mundane, can open oneself up to look at our role in the greater ocean of humanity and understand that we are all made up of the same watery compounds of commonalities.
Time to jump into the deep end with Pond.
Live In Montreal
To fully experience Pond is to jump into the live waters of performance, which will be:
December 3, 2022
Le Studio TD
Writer: Randal Wark is a Professional Speaker and MasterMind Facilitator with a passion for live music. You can follow him on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. His Podcast RockStar Today helps musicians quit their day jobs with out-of-the-box advice from Ted Talk Speakers, Best Selling Authors and other interesting Entrepreneurs and Creatives. He created the Rock Star Today Music Business Jam Session for musicians. Randal is a collector of signed vinyl, cassettes and CDs.Share this :