By Jaime Lees
By Roy Kasten
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By Daniel Hill
By Chris Kornelis
By Gina Tron
The "PA" in Matt Pond PA doesn't stand for "prolific artist," but it should. Since forming in 1998, the Brooklyn-via-Philadelphia act has released a steady stream of albums, singles and EPs, including the full-length The Dark Leaves, which is out this week. Recorded in a cabin in the woods in Bearsville, New York, Leaves has a rustic, indie-pop feel, buoyed by Pond's golden-coated vocals, jaunty piano and strings, and rakish acoustic guitars.
B-Sides and a gravelly voiced Pond had a meandering conversation that touched on his distaste of being labeled as "chamber-pop." ("If I read a band sounded like chamber-pop, I probably wouldn't buy their album.") to the band Cursive emphasizing the saxophone instead of the cello. ("They went from using the instrument people used to the instrument that no one except for Bruce Springsteen wants to use.") More of that chatter at www.rftmusic.com.
B-Sides: After I found out where you recorded the record — a cabin in the woods — its sound made total sense to me. Elaborate on the atmosphere there.
Matt Pond: It's just a dark cabin in the woods in Bearsville. It's not absolutely isolated — you can see another house from it, a couple other houses. You feel isolated. You're surrounded by wild turkeys and deer and bears, they're coming out soon — or waking up soon. And coyotes. It's like an altered states thing, your senses slowly become deprived. It really pulls out a lot of music, at least for me. I'm not describing it well enough, I don't think. I even think that cabins now are kind of a "thing" that people do. We were working on this record and then the Bon Iver record came out, which is amazing. But I was like, "Should we say we made this in a high-priced studio?" Just to get away from the kind of... [thinking] that once something is done, it becomes a little less interesting, I guess.
Thing is, though — listening to this record and the Bon Iver record, it's like night and day, even though both were recorded in a cabin. When I found out you were touring with Ben Folds, I'm like, "OK, with [the style of] this record, that totally makes sense to me. I can totally see that." But Bon Iver? Not so much.
Well, yeah. What do you mean?
Well, [I can't see] Bon Iver [ever] opening for Ben Folds. This record [Leaves] — it was just richer. I grew up in Cleveland, with just the coldest, darkest winters. And that is what this reminded me of. The bare day in January where it's snowed, and it's freezing, and you're like, "I'm not going to see the sun for months." That's what [Leaves] reminded me of. In a good way.
[Laughs] That's good. There's a cycle in the album that it follows, but it's not necessarily a specific seasonal thing. The strings on this were recorded with the door open in the middle of summer. There's a lot of it that not only goes over the seasons but refers to the seasons in general. I always prefer albums to be interpreted as summer albums, because then they seem easier. I grew up in what like I'd to think is the coldest, darkest place, which is northern New Hampshire. I'm always trying to get away from that. When we were recording in the middle of the winter, it's so drafty that you're wearing a full coat and recording and shivering, and you have your hands on a space heater. We were just trying to do whatever we could to make it work.
How does that affect the music, in general?
I like being put in adverse situations in order to make something happen. I like survival instincts. I think that I am kind of useless in the city, I'd be much better in a shark attack or a bear attack or a fire or something. We did [2007 album] Last Light in Bearsville in the nice studio. I cringed when there were croissants and bagels and fruit left out for us and coffee being made before I asked for it. I'm much better when my fingers have changed color and my teeth are chattering.