Pond Have Been Busy Bees

Harry is a musician, producer, and visual artist, making psych pop and glitch art under the name Elder Children.

Fremantle is home to one of Australia's most thriving hives of music and creativity. At the heart of this community is the aptly named POND, a wellspring band from which dozens of projects have sprung.

Their latest record, 'Stung!', is set to be released to the public later this month (21 June). Off the back of psych rock singles '(I'm) Stung' and 'Neon River', POND have thrown diehard theorists for a loop with the freak-funk groove of 'So Lo'.

Producer and multi-instrumentalist James 'Gin' Ireland took a moment out of the band's busy touring schedule in the USA to clear the air on the balancing act of POND members' projects, the recording process, and the album's diverse inspirations.

"It's hard now to remember who played what (on 'So Lo'). I know GUM [Jay Watson] played some guitars, and Joe [Shiny Joe Ryan] played a few guitars. . . I mean, the only thing we know for sure is that Nick [Allbrook] is singing.

"The recording process is very collaborative. Everyone's jumping in and doing parts, writing sections. Me and GUM did a lot more of the production-y stuff. That song's got a lot more of the production-y stuff than 'Neon River' and '(I'm) Stung', I suppose. But you nailed the vibe, the references – it's a weird, Prince/ Bowie sort of thing. And yeah, it's very different from the first two singles."

Though ‘Stung!’ is yet to drop in its entirety, the record's track listing has been shared. Among them, several of its 14 songs appear to allude to previous POND tunes, such as 'Edge Of The World Pt. 3', 'Last Elvis', and 'Fell From Grace With The Sea' (the latter of which evidently referencing the novel by Yukio Mishima).

"Yeah, that's all Nick. Musically, I don't think we did that on purpose. It's always going to sound like a POND record, no matter what we choose to reference – and we always have a reference in mind.

"On '9', we kept referencing Trent Reznor for some reason. Every time we did something we'd be like 'oh man, that's full Reznor!' (laughs) and that just became a little saying. . . this quote that we kept going back to. Even though none of it ended up sounding like Trent Reznor or Nine Inch Nails!

"It was just something that we grabbed onto, and for this one, every time we wrote something that was kind of folky-sounding for POND – if it was like, an acoustic guitar – we'd be like, 'oh, that's full LARPing!'. Like, Live Action Role-Playing (laughs). The soundtrack to some medieval folk fair. . . people dressed up in chainmail, jamming on their lutes or something.

"For some reason, I don't know, that was one of the ones that came up for this album, which is kind of evident in the verses for 'Neon River'. But yeah, on 'So Lo' I'm not sure. Those LARPing references didn't make it in there.

"But the freaky, Bowie/ Prince references are definitely there. Bootsy Collins too. . . it's a pretty fun song. It's definitely one I'm excited about, because it's got more of that weird disco vibe."

'Neon River' features a prominent lead vocal from GUM in the verses, and his voice is very prominent in the 'So Lo' backing. Will there be a return to the shared lead duties on 'Stung!', as occurred on some earlier records like 'Beards, Wives, Denim' and 'Man It Feels Like Space Again'.

"Yeah totally, we haven't done that for a while. Yes, there are. There are a few actually. Some of my favourite moments are when they split the role and do the two vocals. . . Bring back 'Medicine Hat'! That's always been one of my favourite songs. Joe's a great singer."

POND most recently graced Aussie shores in early 2024, travelling around the country in support of hard rock royalty, Queens Of The Stone Age.

"That was a really fun tour. . . It was so chill. There was basically a travel day in between each gig, so the scheduling was so nice. And you know, support tours. . . it's a very stress-free environment for us.

"You just rock up, make sure you're onstage on time, get off stage on time, and that's it. There's no stress about doing your own fancy show. And it was lots of fun hanging out with them, the Queens Of The Stone Age guys are lovely. It was a luxury!"

Diehard fans of POND will remember the days when members, often Jay Watson, would jump around and hop between instruments mid-set, or from one tour to the next. On the latest tour, the band have brought this back, with Jay, Jamie and James swapping drums, keys, and bass duties.

"That's actually made our set a lot more exciting, to be onstage and performing. I was a bit worried – you have to get in your zone, and once you're in your zone you have to get off the drum kit and onto another instrument. . . you have to reset yourself.

"I was worried that'd be a bit hard, but it's been quite fun. Jay's obviously an incredible drummer, so the set is kind of this tale of two halves.

"I don't know what prompted it. . . oh, yeah. Both of us have back injuries. My neck stuffed up maybe a year ago, and it happened on tour – I had to come home from the States. We've both got like, bulging discs and herniations in our spine!

"So, we're splitting the duties because obviously drums are the most physically intense job. That's what started it at least – but now we're just having more fun onstage."

Since joining POND in 2016, James has become one of the band's two primary engineers and producers, alongside longstanding member Watson.

James spoke on the ease of the joining process, and how it all came together. "Just hanging out in Perth, we were always sort of mates. The four other members of POND had been looking to get a new drummer, and I'd already been working with Nick [Allbrook].

"I sort of knew Nick first, we'd make a lot of music together. Me and him actually did a few tours, his solo tours – we did a Laneway together as a duo before I was in POND.

"Then it all sort of came together pretty naturally. I came in, played a few gigs. Still playing a few gigs (laughs). It was a very natural-feeling thing, and basically, Perth is so small that you know everyone – Freo especially. So we all sort of knew each other."

James has been very busy in, around, and outside of POND. In the past year he's had soundtrack credits and a hand in no fewer than four albums (probably more), including mixing, engineering, and production work on San Cisco's fifth studio album, 'Under The Light'.

The record features Watson on the title track and Allbrook on 'Summer Days'. Speaking of GUM, James also played synth on his 2023 single 'Would It Pain You To See?'.

Elsewhere, the recently released title track on GUM's forthcoming record with King Gizzard/ Murlocs member Ambrose Kenny Smith, 'Ill Times', was also mixed by Ireland.

As a production duo, Jay and James team up as Gum & Ginoli, putting out electro remixes of tracks like San Cisco's 'Skin' and 'Skyscraper' by Spinning Top label mates, Automatic.

It's perhaps this diversity of collaboration that allowed the pair to confidently take the reigns from the band's previous producer, Kevin Parker of Tame Impala.

"Yeah, when we did 'Tasmania' and 'The Weather' with Kev, we did them at his studio. So, we were using all his gear. But since then, GUM's got a great studio. . . we went down south and did a bunch of recording at a mate's studio. That would definitely make a difference sonically, being out of Kev's studio I suppose.

"But yeah, the process, for this album anyway – we caught up every Wednesday. Wednesday was like, 'our day' to record POND stuff. We'd all meet up and go to GUM's studio and try to get as much work done as possible. It was a pretty good method."

\With POND and innumerable other projects, the pair have crafted a production style as unique and identifiable as Parker's, with a sound warranting major demand. Diving into his influences, I asked James' number one living, and number one deceased artist, he'd work with if he had the chance.

"Oh wow. . . umm. . . Prince would be a great one, I'd love to do that, that'd be amazing. Living? I don't know. . . probably. . . sh.t!"

As James considered his answer, Jay interjected from across the room with a laugh. "GUM has suggested that I collaborate with DJ Khaled. DJ Khaled and Prince. What a collab!"

As we spoke, James and POND were in the middle of their US run of shows. "Yeah, it's been good! We just got to Austin, and we've got the night off, so we're going to chill.

"I've actually got some mates on tour as well from the band Royel Otis – we're staying at the exact same hotel. So we're going to have a few beers tonight, and play the show tomorrow!"

Australian fans will be able to catch POND's electric live show in support of 'Stung!' across a string of shows in June and July.

'Stung!' is released 21 June. Pre-order it.

POND 2024 Tour Dates

Fri 14 Jun - VIVID Sydney @ Carriageworks
Sat 15 Jun - Altar (Hobart)
Thu 27 Jun - Lion Arts Factory (Adelaide)
Fri 28 Jun - Northcote Theatre (Melbourne)
Sat 29 Jun - The Princess Theatre (Brisbane)
Sat 6 Jul - Freo.Social (Fremantle)

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