Matt Pond always seems on the verge of stardom. In the almost 10 years he's helmed his band, Matt Pond PA, the praise has gotten bigger and louder with every album. It could be viewed as a natural progression-the more you do it, the better you get, the more people notice.
Really, though, there haven't been any drastic changes in the band's sound or approach. And after a decade of perpetual buzz, critical accolades and "next big thing" predictions, he seems no closer than the day he started.
"I'm happy with everything that's happened and where we're at," he asserts. "People are coming out to see us. I wanna do this, but I don't wanna force it. I wouldn't get disappointed if I had to do it like this forever."
Matt Pond PA's career trek is strikingly similar to their music: marred with struggle and consistently on the brink of an epiphany. Over the course of six albums, the band has gone through multiple lineup changes and has relocated to New York from their native Philadelphia (hence the "PA" in the name). The music-while varied in instrumentation and structure-has reflected Pond's unfailingly glum approach to lyrics and his love for good pop.
He readily admits his songs are based around his "own involvement in every single thing that goes wrong in my own life. Pure songs about relationships and self-pity irritate me, but I don't know how to write about other people. Every album is autobiographical."
Pond's newest audio memoir, Several Arrows Later, straddles the thin line between heartfelt and hateful. His voice resembles both Matthew Sweet and a young Peter Gabriel, which works superbly on songs like "Halloween" and "From Debris," both of which count the ways love sucks.
But Arrow also takes a broader, heavier approach to instrumentation. On previous efforts, his band was rarely more than accompaniment, with guitar and voice front and center. The new material gets all of the parts more involved, resulting in an aggressive brand of melancholy. In common parlance: it rocks a bit.
"It's less obtuse," he suggests. "I realized you don't have to put up as many lines between you and what you're getting at."
Of all their recent songs, it was a cover of Oasis' "Champagne Supernova" that got them noticed. Featured on an episode of The O.C. (that story getting old or what?), Pond says it's "fuckin' cool" that it expanded their audience. Yet he refuses to play it live, perhaps for fear of being lumped with Alien Ant Farm and The Sundays-bands that got famous for other people's music, but couldn't sustain it with their own.
Not surprisingly, fans request "Supernova" at every show. And at every show, Pond's reaction is the same, whether in his head or aloud: ""We're not gonna play that fuckin' song,'" he says. "We just don't do covers live. The covers are only meant to honor what was done best a long time ago. We just want to show the thing we love. Not to show up something."
Whatever may come-perpetual obscurity or some form of latent fame-Pond seems ready for it. While few are going to accuse his band of being particularly adventurous, they've come to be known as reliable. You can count on them for records full of good songs that are so close to being truly great. So don't expect that token "happy record" anytime soon.
"To get stuck in an indie-rock ideology is death," he says. "Whatever. I like doing this, but I don't think I'll ever be totally comfortable and I'm OK with that. I'm comfortable with being uncomfortable."Matt Pond PA plays with Youth Group at The Epicentre on March 7. Doors open at 8 p.m. $10. 858-271-4000.