As drummer-come-keyboardist for Tame Impala, Jay Watson’s 2012 would have been a raging success even if Lonerism only did as well as the band’s debut.
Instead, it went on to become a world-conquering sophomore LP, topping countless best-of-2012 lists and spawning numerous sell-out tours of the US, Europe, and Australia.
All this in itself would be reason enough to rest on your laurels. But instead, during Watson’s Tame Impala-downtime he criss-crossed the globe with sister band Pond, earning numerous accolades and impressing audiences across both sides of the Atlantic, as well as at home.
In other words, there would be few musicians on the planet with a busier 2012 than Watson.
“We’re all just recording stuff, Pond records, we’ve done one and we’re doing another one, and solo records and stuff. We’ve got nothing else to do; thanks to Tame Impala I don’t have to have a job, but I don’t want to waste my time.” Or maybe not.
While Tame Impala have been an international success for over two years; it’s only over the past nine months that Pond have been turning heads outside of Australia.
“When we did South By Southwest (last year), that’s when it got crazy” says Watson. “It’s not even like a festival, it’s just if an entire city was consumed by stages or whatever. Bands play all day; we played seven shows in four days. Some of the crowds were into it, and some of them were more industry people, but you can still blow their tits off.”
The band followed their SXSW appearance with a string of 20-odd shows across America, before embarking on an equally gruelling tour of the UK and Europe. By the end of June, NME were already declaring Pond ‘The Hottest Band on the Planet’.
Watson’s very affable, easy-going, and down to earth. There are plenty of people for whom being in two of the world’s hippest bands would mean an inflated ego, but he is far from one of them.
He seems completely baffled when discussing NME referring to Pond as the “…best band of all time, ever. That’s nice, it’s totally unfounded. I don’t think it had anything to do with the songs, maybe some songs… I think it was just because of the energy we had going on those tours,” reasons Watson.
“Especially in England when the NME were at those shows. I mean, we were having a good time, and I think they thought that was refreshing, as opposed to just being moody… indie… rockers,” he deliberates.
Anybody who’s heard Pond’s music or seen them live will attest to their energy and disregard for earnestness. Even compared to Tame Impala, Pond can seem ‘pretty far out, man’. It’s this picture of the group that they’ve already captured for their upcoming album, the hilariously titled Hobo Rocket.
“The new album is the full-on crazy fiend rock and roll album. We were going to do a really nice, beautiful orchestrated album, but we figured we might as well capture the live band as we’ve been touring and then do that one. So that’s what Hobo Rocket is, the full on, manic acid rock one.”
So with a new Pond album almost set for release, and its follow up already under way, you’d think that would be all Watson would be able to fit on his plate.
You’d be wrong. “I just finished my solo album yesterday.” Watson clearly carries a relentless work ethic which betrays his jovial demeanour.
Having first revealed his solo project last September under the moniker of Gum, with the Back To The Future referencing single ‘DeLorean Highway’, Watson now says he may be up for another name change. ”I might call my [solo] album Jay Watson, just my name, because there’s a band in England called Gum,” he declares. “We went through all the stuff with Pond and that band from Portland called Pond, and I can’t really be bothered with that.”
As for what to expect sonically, the Tame Impala/Pond member gives some detail. “I tried to make it different, I did one album, and it was kind of 60s psychedelic stuff, and I didn’t just want to do that again and have it sound kind of like Pond and kind of like Tame Impala,” he explains. “So I tried to do a new kind of thing, and some of it sounds weirdly 80s. Not hi-fi 80s, lo-fi 80’s.”
The digital revolution at the start of the 21st century has helped countless artists become far more independent, and has spawned an entire generation of bedroom musicians. Watson, along with Kevin Parker, Nick Allbrook, and their slew of space-rock sympathisers have become their own kind of bedroom recording pioneers.
For the recent Nuggets: Antipodean Interpolations of the First Psychedelic Era, Watson and Allbrook spent “like an hour or something” recording their version of The Leaves’ ‘Hey Joe’. “We got a list, but all my favourite songs had been taken by other bands, there were about five left when they asked us.” (King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard stole Jay’s favourite track, if you were wondering.)
So does Watson fancy himself a seasoned veteran of home recording?
“I have enough to do it; a mic, a lead, some pedals and an interface, and I borrowed a mic off Kev. My plan this year, I’m saving up most of my money and spending it on studio gear. Hopefully by the end of the year I might have a lot of the stuff that [Kevin] has. But he’s definitely the granddaddy; he spent all the advances on it, y’know?”
But before Watson can blow all this year’s earnings on studio equipment, there’s still this solo album, as well as a new Pond record to release. “Both [Hobo Rocket and Jay’s solo album] will be out March or April hopefully, mid-year.”
“Joe, the dude with the afro in Pond, me and him have decided we’re going to drop our albums at the same time on the same day, which should be fun. And Allbrook/Avery, Nick and Cam’s band, it’s a three way competition,” he reveals, before humorously adding: “We’re going to have an online poll, me and Joe, ‘who’s album’s better and who’s more handsome?’”
While album names like Frond, Beards Wives Denim and Hobo Rocket seem in sync with Watson as a carefree character; his restlessness to create, and his desire to make his own work stand apart from his other two bands may lend more seriousness to his solo album.
“There’s a Phil Collins cover on there; Phil Collins on acid, that’s what that sounds like.” Oh wait, nevermind.