Matt Pond appears to be in a constant state of movement, probably because of the various locations he’s called home (New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, New York, and Florida), his relentless touring schedule, and fondness for dancing. Pond is currently headlining a tour lassoing the Midwest in support of his tenth album, The Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hand. After that, he will support Jimmy Eat World on their fall tour.
The point is you should catch him while you can.
Matt Pond (and his talented band) recently played an intimate, sweaty show in Austin, Texas, and we had the privilege of speaking to the intriguing singer-songwriter about his recent LP and unsung accomplishments. As sort of a disclaimer, Pond has been asked countless times about his enlightening injury, cabin adventures, and why he dropped that pesky “PA” from his moniker. Google them, you’ll see. This particular journalist felt it was important to move past those basic questions to try to reach a different depth to this introspective musician.
You will be on tour with Jimmy Eat World this fall. You’re currently headlining your own tour now. Is there less pressure when you’re opening up for another act?
Yeah, it’s almost easier in some ways. There are two sides to it. You’re more rushed. We dictate the kind of night when we’re the headliner, and we’re not very demanding of the situation or anything. But when you tour with other people, they can be. And it’s fine, it’s totally understandable. I like both [scenarios]. I can’t really decide. We’ll be on an opening tour and I’m like, “I wish–.”
It’s always what I’m not doing that I want to be doing.
A few musicians have recently mentioned that music is being consumed differently than it was in the past. Albums seem to be compilations of singles being strung together. The Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hand feels like a complete work and that there is a story being told. Do you strive to produce albums instead of individual hits?
Yeah, I always want to make an album. I believe in albums. I believe in creating an arch and creating a story. It’s not necessarily a literal story, it’s a little free form. But definitely connective and connected. It’s a cyclical thing. And hopefully people will come back to albums, but maybe the Internet will prevent that from happening. Who knows?
What are you most proud of on The Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hands?
I’m always just proud of getting albums done. We finished it here in Austin, and it was hard because we drove here in one shot from upstate New York and drove back. It would have been cheaper for us to fly, so that’s what we realized. I was so angry that I drove both here and back by myself.
Albums are just kind of… you think you’re done, and when you think you’re done, you haven’t even started. You take away everything… (Distracted by the venue’s music) I can’t believe they are playing “The End” by The Doors right now.
Is that a good or bad omen?
I like a sprinkling of death… I always write about mortality. I write about relationships. They’re the tool, the metaphor for death.
You’ve been making wonderful music since the ’90s and I don’t know if it’s always been hip to lock yourself in a cabin, but Bon Iver certainly made it seem that way.
I know, that was funny. I read about that while I was in a cabin. I was like, “Oh! We are all doing this.”
Do you strive to win a Grammy or play the Billboard Music Awards. Do you want to achieve that level of fame?
I don’t change myself to do something, but I wouldn’t turn those things down. I wouldn’t be above getting a Grammy. I don’t think Elliott Smith…Didn’t he get an [Oscar]? Performed? I mean, I’m not comparing myself to him at all, he’s amazing. He’s the best. But I don’t think he ever intended on being in the position that he eventually ended up in. I think that’s the way to do it, at least for me.
You’re not opposed to it.
I’m not opposed to anything, really. If you’re too closed off to things, then it’s just another form of fear.
When do you do your best work?
It’s unfortunate, but it’s when I’m most alone and depressed. The problem right now is finding space. I need space, loneliness and depression. I mean I did the last [album] without those things. I was kind of happy.
It just comes and goes. I wrote a song in my sleep the other morning and played it for everybody. At first they laughed at me and then they realized it was a pretty good song. So I don’t know where these things come from. I just have to get a little more focused on writing. I don’t write enough, of prose.
In your recent video for “Hole In Your Heart” there is a bike accident. Assuming you did not use a stunt double, were you worried about the leg you broke in 2011?
Totally…I was bleeding, that was my favorite shirt and it was destroyed. It was more intense than [the video showed.] It was raining, and we were into it because people will slick down streets in film to make something look better. We got it for free. We didn’t think it would come out that good. We really just did it for nothing, with a bunch of people, and it was a lot of fun. And then all these strange things happened during the night.
With this crew it kind of affirmed why I wanted to keep people from Florida and why I really like them. They are all really different. Nobody gets along all the time, but I’ve never been in a band where people get along this much.
But yeah, that was painful.
You often refer to yourself with some very choice words. You’ve called yourself an “upside-down optimist” and have said that “you’ve lived a lifetime terrified of optimism.” You’ve also mentioned that “you should be paid to tear yourself apart.” It seems like you’re apologizing for yourself or waiting for the bottom to drop out. Do you know why that is?
I don’t know. That’s weird.
I almost don’t pay attention to what I say or write, enough. I do apologize. There’s apologizing that I could do about last night. I jumped on everyone and started wrestling everybody…which is how I broke my leg.
I think being self-effacing is the only thing I really like. I don’t know how to put this. Those things are funny, I didn’t know I said them.
It was just a theme I saw throughout your interviews and I think I’ve read every single one. Are you afraid of your own absolute happiness? I know that’s deep…
Probably. It terrifies me to play in front of people on stage. It’s terrifying. It’s terrifying to put your music out there that’s going to be criticized, critiqued, sold and not sold. You have to believe in yourself so much but you also can’t think you’re better than anyone. It’s a fight.
These days people just want to show how happy they are on the internet. It’s whatever. It’s fine, but it’s really not real and those are the things I want to avoid.
…This is the best part [of The Doors song]. He’s just about to kill his father in this song.
When are you happiest?
I’m happiest doing this, but I also haven’t slept really. I don’t sleep well in hotels. The driving’s intense, but I get to hang out with my friends and play music. I’m the luckiest person in the world.
In a Tumblr post, you mentioned that you’ve only been given one trophy in your life for a beginner’s ski class. If you could be awarded first place in any mythical category, what would you want to be known as being “Best of”?
I always thought I was going to get an award for love, but that’s the opposite award I get. I get anti-love. I get the anti-matter award.
Maybe “World’s Best Driver,” probably? I’ve driven in some of the worst conditions in the world and so far (knocks on the table) kept people alive. Dust storms, blizzards, hail, and really heavy too, like people are lying on the floor almost crying.