Matt Pond on 10-year anniversary tours and the ‘cool’ part of dying | Concert Preview

The quality is a little lofty, certainly hard to measure, both delicate and essential, but sustaining a multi-decade venture into national touring and album releasing has everything to do with connecting with listeners.

With more than a dozen releases to its credit, Matt Pond PA has made a career on accessible, light-footed rock and an earnest, lyrical kind of writing. Frontman and songwriter Matt Pond has tapped into something, in what he calls his discography-long goal to simply “have a conversation” through music. Notable songs, such as “Speck” and “Snow Day,” are illustrative of this reaching out to the person on the other end of the speaker or headphone cord. Matt Pond PA songs are utterly dependable for the feeling that they’re extending a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on or a comforting side-smile. And it’s always backed by consistently palatable pop-rock, even as its dabbled in the wintry, the orchestrated and the modestly danceable.

Now, Matt Pond PA is celebrating the ten-year anniversary of one of its core albums, Several Arrows Later, a record that helped cement the Philadelphia-born band’s taste for sentimentality, melancholy and melodic sweetness. The national tour hits Omaha next week, May 7, for a show at Reverb Lounge with Young Buffalo and See Through Dresses. RSVP here. The band is also slated to release its ninth full-length, State of Gold, in the near future.

We called Pond on Monday in the early evening for what ended up being a contemplative chat.

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Hear Nebraska: Now still an alright time to chat?

Matt Pond: It is, it is. It’s actually a great time.

HN: What’s going on?

MP: I’m on a deck in San Francisco drinking red wine. I didn’t afford this through any rock ‘n’ roll whatever.

HN: That’s nice. I worry I can only bring the experience down for you.

MP: Why? What are you gonna tell me? Something terrible? [Laughs.]

HN: I’m not gonna tell you anything. Only things to ask you that probably aren’t as enjoyable as drinking wine on a porch.

MP: I don’t mind!

HN: Well, the last time I recall you being in Nebraska was for Radio Happy Hour with Eugene Mirman about four years ago. [Note: Pond actually played The Waiting Room in May 2014.] How’d you get linked in with that show? 

MP: Oh, in Lincoln! So, I moved to Kingston, New York and lived a few blocks from Sam Osterhout, who was the host of that. And we’ve remained friends. I had no idea what it was before the show. Our booking agent didn’t tell us any of the details. And it was pretty cool in the end. It was a lot of work, singing songs and then running over and do some radio play. And then do it all again. I’m glad I didn’t know because worrying about something before you do it doesn’t really do anything for you in this world.

HN: And Eugene has a — however you can or can’t equate comedy and music — such a different sensibility than you. So absurd.

MP: Yeah, I’d never met him before. We hung out after. He’s really funny. I might not even have known he was part of the show.

HN: So when you’re through next week, you’re doing the ten-year anniversary tour for Several Arrows Later. Was there any part of doing the ten-year tour for Emblems last year that spurred you into this one?

MP: After every show, people were like, “Oh it’s cool that you’re doing this. But I wish it was Several Arrows Later.” [Laughs.] Which was cool.

HN: Like they actually seemed a little disappointed?

MP: Some! But satisfied enough. No, we had a great time doing that … It means something to us. It seemed like the right idea and the right time, but of course we’re moving to another record right after this, so … I’m blowing my own mind a little right now. It’s overwhelming. But I really like the opening bands on this tour, as well. In your neck of the woods, See Through Dresses! I’m psyched about that.

HN: Because of the internet I can go back and kind of cherry pick interviews with you from any given year you’ve been tour. One of the things that remains consistent is the way you talk about album-crafting and songwriting, it seems like you like the mystery in that process. So if that’s true, what’s it like for you go back and revisit 10-year-old work?

MP: It’s cool. It’s weird. There are some parts I’m excited about. And there are parts where I wish would have had my present-day editing self. But it’s almost like a personal joke I have with myself. There are word choices, movements, notes where it’s a little weird. I try not to think about it too much. But if I could have just grappled myself and wrestled myself to the ground and shown myself the truth, I could have had a couple better moves. But I don’t think the songs are necessarily done once they’re recorded … until the internet says they’re done. [Laughs.]

HN: Can you take comfort in looking at things you would have done differently and see that people also really wanted a ten-year tour? And say, “Maybe they’re latching onto something I can’t understand”?

MP: I’m just so critical of myself. It’s funny — I’ll play a show and listen to all the things I could have done a little better and log them down. But then I’ll realize people were having a really good time … All I want to do is communicate. I may be good over email sometimes, but I stumble a lot when I talk. And so I like talking to people through songs.

HN: So when you talk about your reason for writing songs as being “communicating,” people have asked a lot of different ways over the last ten years, basically, “Why do this?” Has your answer for that fluctuated at all the last five or ten years?

MP: Not really. Sometimes maybe I get frustrated with the internet … I use social [media] lightly. You have to find a voice for all these things evolving around us. I’ve kinda been wrestled into it. I want to talk and have conversations, but some people may not want to talk to me. So I play songs, and people can listen if they want.

HN: What do you want back from this “conversation”?

MP: I just want recognition that there’s frailty and to stop pretending everyone’s having an awesome time. We are not all having an awesome time all the time. And we’re all gonna die. I don’t mean that in a bad way. I think it’s kind of cool. It gives us a finite amount of time to make something good, not just for a picture or post. But let’s actually have a good time and connect. If that’s possible … but I think that’s all there is.

HN: Are you the sort of person who enjoys the work of the whole process, Matt? It strikes me you don’t make ten records without actually enjoying the work.

MP: I love the process. When the songs are coming out, that’s my favorite part. Dialects. All the different ways of finding a way to relate.  I love working. My favorite job ever was moving funititure. The problem is people don’t respect manual labor. I like building things. I like playing shows. I love loading in.

HN: You love loading in?

MP: Yeah! That’s the part where it’s real! I don’t mean to sound like a hippie. Because I might be the worst hugger in the world. But I’m trying to be a better hugger.