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Matt Pond PA: What's in a Name?

story by tim mcmahan



Lazy-i: April 16, 2003

Matt Pond PA
w/ Bitter Bitter Weeks, Lefty's Deceiver
April 23
9 p.m.
Sokol Underground

13th & Martha


"I really trust everyone in this band. A lot."

Indie rocker Matt Pond of band Matt Pond PA does what he can to deflect the spotlight, to refract its bright, blinding rays and scatter them to the other five people that make up the band that grudgingly bares his name.

One assumes the "PA" in his moniker has something to do with his Pennsylvania roots. "There's also the whole Magnum PI thing," Pond said April 4 from his Philadelphia home where he was busy preparing for a tour that kicked off the following night in Harrisonburg, Virginia, at the Mid-Atlantic Music Conference.

"I didn't want to be in a band where someone would tell me what to do, but that everyone could go and do what they want," he explained. "Now I hate the name. The sound you hear on the CD and on stage is the band, not just me."

Since forming in 1998, the band's only two constants have been Pond himself and that ever-present cello. Pond's interest in classical instrumentation probably began when he played French horn and trumpet in his high school band. "I enjoyed the instruments, but didn't know how to apply them," he said. "Horns ruined most of the music that I was listening to at the time. I loved French horn, but it's hard to incorporate in rock music. Only the Beatles used instruments like that well."




He dropped the horn and taught himself how play guitar in college, forming a band with cellist and core member Jim Hostetter. Since then, Matt Pond and Co. (now there's a better name) has recorded a handful of CDs including two full-lengths on indie label Polyvinyl Records, and solidified a permanent line-up that includes Hostetter, Drummer Mike Kennedy (Lefty's Deceiver, Audible), bassist Matt Raisch and guitarist Jim Kehoe (both from the band Rhode Island) and cellist Eve Miller (ex-The Rachel's).

"I'm not the brains, I just write the songs," Pond said. "I mostly oversee things, but kind of leave it to everyone else to come up with their parts. I hum certain things and they come up with things and we argue through parts and figure out where we're at. That's the best part of the whole thing -- I can come up with something and then everyone else can elaborate on it."

On The Nature of Maps, the band's most recent full-length released last October on Polyvinyl, Pond and his band harness the eclectic instrumentation to weave a subtle tapestry around his warm, throaty vocals. Their music has been compared to chamber pop outfit Koufax and label mates American Football, but as a whole their sound is more reminiscent of laid-back Girls Can Tell-era Spoon or tuneful Karate. Pond's summer-day melodies resonate like a carefree skip through a park at night, the cicadas replaced with tinkling keyboards and bouncing vibraphone.

Even when they try to rock, like on the CD opener "Fairlee," short burner "New Kehoe, NJ," and Cars-like New Wave ditty "A Million Middle Fingers," they can't help but sweeten the power with a kicky tambourine, surf guitar or that ever-present, kite-soaring cello. This is feel-good music that comes back to you when you close your eyes after the CD stops.

Since The Nature of Maps' release, the band has been on the road doing "a lot of ineffectual touring."

"We've toured during spring break, during bad seasons and bad weather," Pond said. "We'll play to 300 people one night and only a handful the next. Selling records is harder these days because of the Internet. Touring is really the only thing left anymore. You can tell that half the people that see us play don't own our records but have gotten them somehow, probably off the Internet, which is fine I guess. People come out to the shows, but we want to at least survive doing this."

Six people in a van driving cross country would drive most people to the verge of homicide. Not Pond. "I love it," he said. "I don't think I've ever gotten along or fought with so many people. We don't even mind the long drives."

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Published in The Omaha Weekly-Reader April 16, 2003. Copyright 2003 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


"I hate the name. The sound you hear on the CD and on stage is the band, not just me."