Indie/pop outfit Matt Pond PA
– comprised of Matt Pond (vocals, guitar), Shawn Alpay (cello), and Chris Hansen (guitar) – has been making incredible music for what seems like an eternity. But the reality of it is that they are closing in on twenty years of some of the most inspiring and heartbreaking compositions we have heard, crediting some of their music for saving our sanity in college. (Dark times, man.) And that’s the point, isn’t it? To find art that lifts you up, makes you feel every part of your soul, and brings you back down to reality. Well, Matt Pond PA doesn’t short us of that exhilarating feeling. Never have, never will.
Now, eighteen years after the starting point, they have released a new album titled Winter Lives
. It’s got the charm and sparkle you expect from an album released in the winter months, but it’s also got a fair amount of very introspective writing on its hands. Matt’s voice, of course, makes the entire thing feel like a fairytale, but if you examine it in its entirety, it’s an emotional rollercoaster.
Even if we felt differently, this album deserves all types of praise. While we don’t have any awards to pass around, we did get a chance to ask the Matt Pond some questions. His responses are almost poetic, which makes us beg the timeless question: Is this man real?
What was the first song or album you remember listening to, and who introduced it to you?
50 Ways to Leave Your Lover. Over and over on the jukebox, pissing off all the older pizza parlor patrons. That drumbeat, perfect in its simplicity. It never leaves the circulatory system — a basic component in the periodic table of musical elements.
When did you decide to pursue music as a career? Was there an AHA moment?
It’s in the battle of doubt and determination. That’s where the answers always pop out of the pocket.
I guess, it was right around Philadelphia when I was at my lowest. No driver’s license, no love. Music was more torture than revelation. I was just killing time in my Chinatown loft. Punching holes in the walls. Throwing quarters out the window that would fall too far to see heads or tails. Or to even care.
Then I started to write Emblems
” and “Lily
“. Then I believed.
Winter Lives is such a stunning work of art. Was there anything that specifically inspired the work on this album?
Thank you. That’s the most midnight kindness I’ve been awarded in a while. It sincerely means quite a bit.
As far as inspiration, I wanted to uncover the beauty and pain (beauty in pain) of surviving the winter. The deep drifts, the lengthy introspections, the sing-alongs, sweaters and the leggings.
Our survival is everything. Just to be able to make it until spring.
Do you have any anecdotes from the production process?
I often sing under a poorly constructed moving blanket tent with a whiskey in hand. To control the room sound and invigorate the spirit. From outside, I believe I look like a lonely ghost or an unwanted child with way too much imagination.
(Basically, I’m comfortable anywhere you put me. Claustrophobia doesn’t hold any sway over my dominion.)
Do you find it weird that we’re drawing strong similarities between your incredible song “The Glow” and Bruce Springsteen? (We kind of love it.)
I find it incredibly humbling to read these words.
Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska has traveled with me across the country many, many times. The story and space that he can convey is limitless. And yet, so finite in its line and arc. He knows how to laugh at darkness. I think that’s why he’s so real. (I can only aspire to be that real.)
Do you have a favorite track on the album, by chance?
I’m drawn to the instrumentals. Their story is more open-ended. “Dirty Looks”, though. I can see all the moments. I can still feel the bee sting.
Falling asleep on the stairs is a painful exercise. For many, many reasons. But if you really commit, the memory will last forever.
“Dirty Looks” is melancholy, but still feels light. And we have to know… do you REALLY pour your whiskey on fire? (We wouldn’t waste it.)
When life is strange and all seems lost, I’ve been known to act out. So while I try not to make it a regular ritual, I have thrown whiskey on the fire.
This only happens when I mistake myself for a black and white film star, betrayed by my princess wife. I then tighten my cravat and retire to my chambers.
You’ve been in the music game for a while now, and we’re sure you’ve heard lots of stories about how your work has positively changed people. Is there a fan story that sticks with you at all?
Years ago, before anyone knew my baloney, there was a girl in a wheelchair who came to see us perform in the aisles of Buffalo record store. Her boyfriend played our music while she was comatosed in hospital. The first thing she heard when she woke up was my voice.
These moments are just chance. I don’t believe I have the power to summon much more than a soda water. But these points in time and chances are pretty damn beautiful when they’re woven into this music I’m trying to make and the people that are willing to listen.
(I still proudly display the vellum Libertines poster the store owner gave me that day. And I’m not a poster person.)
I feel like every time I play one of your songs, it instantly uplifts me and brings me into a brighter place. Do you find it difficult at all to keep everything positive and upbeat, or do you even mean to?
You should see me in my Mets hat. When I’m all wound up about the world I cannot control. I want to be uplifting while admitting absolute imperfection. Real imperfection, not curated internet imperfection. The beautiful girl with spinach in her teeth. The snowballs that hit me directly between the eyes.
I want celebrations of conversation. I want spills. I want to lose everything and be able to laugh about it. Right?
In that vein, what’s your favorite beverage?
I will generally consume anything I’m served. I’m always willing and open to the generosity of the host. (This can be both a dangerous and beautiful way of abiding.)
At home, I drink red wine and run around in circles. That’s my preference these days. Low-key wildness and grapes.
What’s the most inspiring thing you’ve heard lately?
I’m responding to this in the middle of the night and at dawn. There are no human voices in my present realm. Just the brush of a heartbeat in my ear. The hair on the pillow. The sound of trains across town. They moan especially loud in the foggy fall nights. And I moan back in my mind. But they never slow down to say, “Hello, is it me you’re looking for?
If you could be any superhero, who would you be and why?
Is there someone called the Timecomptroller? If I may draw outside the lines, I would like to control time. I imagine being able to do this with one other person. We travel in silence and see everything. We drive so fast. We have sex on beaches and sleep and read. The internet freezes but the waves still move.
I would try to slightly alter politics with small practical jokes. Freezing and unfreezing time with the appropriate applied banana peels, lipstick and fake mustaches. You know, the classics.
A question of personal interest more than anything, but do you believe in the power of manifestation? Do you have any views on spirituality you’d like to share with us?
I do believe in being good. How that somehow emanates outward and then comes back around for a soft shoulder tap.
There is a thread between all of us. I’m always pulling on that thread. (This tug of war does not always have positive results. My belief being challenged triggers disbelief that can transform into neurotic self-defense. Wild scenes in the post office. Pobody’s nerfect.)
What’s up next for you, darling?
I’m still in bed. It’s 7:43am. There’s a full day of chaos ahead. I will screw at least three things up along the way.
My friends and bandmates are on their way into town. I have to finish making beds and vacuuming. We will rehearse, yell and hug uncomfortably. There will be gut-wrenching puns while the band plays on.
Maybe you’ve just grabbed my toe at the right time — this is the pinnacle of my small world.
Catch the band on tour, if you get a chance. They’re absolutely phenomenal live.
12/07 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Club Café
12/08 – Boston, MA @ Great Scott
12/09 – Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts
12/10 – Brooklyn, NY @ Knitting Factory
12/11 – Washington DC @ DC9
is out now
. Keep up with the man, the myth, the legend on Facebook