LAKE PERRIS, CA- With the psych scene so strong on the Australian continent, Desert Daze is as much of a premier festival as it is a family reunion for so many of the artists. Tame Impala might’ve led the charge at the top of the bill, but it was another band of brothers, Pond, who unofficially closed out the festival by sweeping the audience off their feet.

Pond is, in fact, closely tied to Tame Impala: Pond frontman Nick Allbrook used to be a touring member, Jay Watson plays full-time in Pond and also tours with Tame, and the whole lot are longtime friends and collaborators from their shared home of Perth. Although fans of one are likely fans of the other, Pond stands on its own.

Their hooks are bright and their performance energy infectious: Allbrook is endlessly watchable as a frontman, grooving around the stage and summoning some Jagger flair. They were an easy choice for a Desert Daze must-see. Far less easy? Not just calling everyone J. There’s “Shiny Joe” Ryan, Jamie Terry, James Ireland, Jay Watson, and — the odd man out — Nick Allbrook.

“Even our sound guy is called Jay!” Allbrook said with a laugh. “It’s pretty funny playing a show in Mexico or something, and it’s like, ‘So what’s everyone’s names?’ And it’s like, “Jay, Jay, Joe, James, Jamie…and I’m Nick.” Nick and an array of J names sat down with us at the festival to talk about the more improvisational approach to their most recent album, “9” — everyone had more time to jam in 2020, for some reason — the ability to juxtapose serious art with serious fun, and the bands they were most excited to see at Desert Daze.


You guys are back at [Desert Daze]! It’s a great festival. The consensus we’re hearing from the groups is that this is one of the premiere psych and alternative festivals around.

Jamie: Absolutely. The lineup is amazing. And it seems to have grown a lot since the last time we were here, but it’s still easy to navigate, and we’re really enjoying it.

James: It’s been like a big hang. We’ve got so many mates’ bands on the lineup.

Jamie: So many Aussies.

Yeah, at other festivals you have a range of bands and genres up and down the bill, but here it seems like there’s such a concentration of friends and collaborators.

Jamie: Yeah! Absolutely.

Nick: It’s been fun. And there’s lots of space, and it’s grassy, and there’s water, so you can walk around.

Jamie: Ah, the water is so good.

James: I think my first gig with Pond was Desert Daze.

Jamie: Yeah, I remember that. While it was still in Joshua Tree. 

How does this compare to festivals in Australia, where this scene is really big?

Nick: Oh, you’ve got similar stuff, but everything’s a bit bigger here because there’s a shit ton of people.

Jamie: There’s a nice, peaceful energy, as well, I think because everyone’s smoking weed instead of drinking ten thousand lagers, which is the other Aussie festival mentality.

Nick: The vibe here is so lovely. There are a couple like that in Australia, but it’s often really small ones anyway. And people get real knackered anyway.

On your most recent album, “9,” you guys wanted to take a different approach. Tell us about that.

Nick: We had a lot of time on our hands, as everyone did. We wanted to play together and muck around in the studio and improvise, because we hadn’t done that for so long. You get bogged down in efficiency and almost finishing things before showing them to anyone else in the band, because you’re like, “I really want this to hit home.” And [this] time we were fucking around together from the beginning of the idea till the end — actually improvising. Having less pressure. Usually, we’ve got like two months in between Tame [Impala] tour and Pond tour, and it’s like — smash out an album. But for this one, we had like…years. [laughter]

How do these songs feel different on stage, then, considering the different, more improvisational approach while making them?

Nick: I feel like it all gets shoehorned into the same outcome in the end, learning songs to do live. But I think some of them that we haven’t played that have more of a jammy style to them, like “Czech Locomotive,” would feel quite different if we played it live. We just haven’t gotten there yet.

James: That’d be quite a cool one to play.

It seems like there was a missed connection between artists and audiences even last year, which was still a cluster of cancellations. For bands really getting back on the road this year, it seems like there’s finally more connection this time around.

Nick: Yeah! And it felt so weird. I feel like a lot of musicians started getting into this weird zone where you almost forget about the pandemic and just start thinking your career’s over. It was like, “Man, what the fuck’s going on? Something feels missing.” And occasionally reminding myself and each other there’s actually been something quite significant going on. But not having interaction with the audience made me feel like, what’s going on? Why does this feel so empty? It’s fucking good to be back. I really felt like something had finished.

Never has a packed tour schedule felt so good.

Nick: Yeah, exactly. It’s exciting again.

And some of the work to come out of that time takes on darker things, as we understand it would. But it’s always refreshing to see your music videos — you guys don’t take yourselves too seriously. “Take Me Avalon I’m Young” — love that one.

Nick: Oh, me playing sports!

Jamie: That was a great one.

After what everyone’s been through, it’s important to not take things too seriously.

Nick: Absolutely. The great big, cavernous divide between making valid art and being light and having fun doesn’t have to exist. You can just fuck about and still make something that’s worthwhile. 

So we know Iggy Pop had to withdraw because his band is stuck in France with visa issues, but we kind of think that’s a cover. We think someone peed on the Louvre or something. What do you guys think the answer is? 

Nick: For why they got banned from America? [laughter]

James: Too legendary!

Aside from getting to see friends here this weekend, what bands were you most excited to see?

Nick: Honestly, [King] Gizzard was absolutely mind-blowing. That was just astonishing. I couldn’t believe it. I’ve seen them so many times, and I was dumbstruck. It was so good!

Jamie: There’s been some amazing ‘70s acts that haven’t been around for ages — I saw W.I.T.C.H. yesterday, Cortex. Really interesting stuff, and I couldn’t imagine any of those guys making it over to Australia. Otherwise, watching the Aussie bands like Gizz and Tame and Mildlife has been amazing.

Which bands would you love to see move higher up the bill? Bands you love that you’d have more people hear?

Jamie: I reckon Mildlife. They’ll blow up when they can get another record out and get on the road some more.

Nick: Great, great people, too. Absolutely top-tier humans.

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POND at Desert Daze 10/2/22. Photo by Sonya Singh (@Sonyacansingh) for
POND at Desert Daze 10/2/22. Photo by Sonya Singh (@Sonyacansingh) for