This is the story of Nicholas Allbrook. A kid from Derby who moved to Perth then travelled the world with POND and Tame Impala. An individual who will probably play music until he drops. A poet, illustrator of children’s books, and occasional essayist. Someone that for all of his cultured achievement still gets yelled at from passing cars when he returns home to walk the streets of Fremantle.
Music Feeds: Let’s start with your new album Tasmania. A big talking point and something that a lot of people are excited about is that Kevin Parker was once again involved. What was it like having Kevin working with POND this time around?
Nick Allbrook: The same as every other time I suppose! It’s just like he’s a really old friend. Not to take anything away from the old bastard but to us he is not the sort of idol – deity – that he is to a lot of other people. So it’s hard to say what it was like. It was just great, it’s always great.
MF: Tell me a little more about Tasmania. It’s definitely a POND record though while I wouldn’t exactly say that it’s song-based, I feel that it is more compact relative to some of your looser jam-based material. How do you see it as relating to what’s come before?
NA: I guess it feels like it carried on a natural trajectory from the last couple you know? It’s been moving slowly toward being more precise and more concise and more honest. I guess we’ve gotten better at mixing all of our disparate influences into something that we actually like. It’s a very wide pallet, I guess it’s taken a long time to hone that.
MF: Over the past year you have made a couple of interesting guest appearances on other artists’ records too. One was Rabbit Island’s Deep In The Big but another I’d really like to talk about is Melody’s Echo Chamber’s Bon Voyage. Can you tell me about working with Melody Prochet as well as some of the guys from Dungen in Stockholm? It sounded like a very emotionally loaded and interesting recording process…
NA: Oh, that was great! Dungen are like heroes of ours from way, way back when me and Jay [Watson] and [Shiny] Joe [Ryan] and Kev were all in a share house together and when discovering new music meant coming across it in the CD shop. So that was pretty cool! I just felt a little bit giddy, they’ve got a real, real great studio. Melody is like a really good old friend of mine, I never get to see here much. Let alone being able to catch up and actually record.
I didn’t do a whole lot. She just made me scream into an auto-tune peddle and let me have a little primal exorcism. Then she said, “Can you just do some words?” So I just kind of rustled around in my notebook, pulled out some whimsy and mumbled it in there. It was really awesome watching them do their thing. It was a vibrant, energetic creative space.
MF: A word a lot of people use to connect bands like Dungen, Melody’s Echo Chamber, and POND is ‘psychedelic’. POND’s first album was actually called Psychedelic Mango.
MF: I know Kevin has some interesting views on psychedelic experiences and whether or not Tame Impala’s music is psychedelic. But I’m wondering how you feel about the term when it’s used generally or applied to your own work?
NA: Well either way I like to think of it as a lot more, um…, a lot more broad-sweeping than some. Like it can get lumped into a media category in the same way that any other genre like shoegaze or grunge or something can and be sort of restricted to the point where it kills whatever it’s referencing. I guess stuff that’s based on peripheral things like clothes, hair and things like that often completely overlooks what the sound of the music is or what the subject of the music is. There are groups that manage to make music that isn’t wilfully psychedelic and yet will be called psychedelic.
MF: Do you have a good example? I know I read an interview somewhere once where Kevin described listening to The Bee Gees’ ‘Stayin’ Alive’ while he tripped out as being this really psychedelic experience. I think he was pretty spot on to how a lot of other people seem to feel about it too, that it’s more of a feeling – is there something that struck you as psychedelic in your own life at some point that’s reeled you into this whole train of thought that you have now? Sorry if that’s a big question!
NA: No, it’s not, it’s not at all. And I really subscribe to that idea. It’s an individual experience. It’s not about what something gets labelled as, although it often is. It’s totally subjective. You can have a completely transcendental moment to Joni Mitchell. And you know if you’re looking through a CD shop, you’re not going to find Joni Mitchell under like the ‘psych’ category.
MF: That’s right. She would probably be pegged as a singer-songwriter.
NA: Yeah, or like folk or something like that. But it’s all completely relative. And like techno stuff! Some techno things are the most far out sh*t! And like, Kylie [Minogue] and Madonna had some truly far out tunes that I think really go into the stratosphere.
MF: I read a great interview with Jodie Regan from POND and Tame Impala’s label Spinning Top where she was talking about the history of the bands. What really stuck with me was that she said – and I think she was saying this in the sense that she views all of the bands she works with as having this same immense talent – that POND hasn’t yet seen its moment in the sun.
MF: Where do you see it all as being at?
NA: Man, it’s hard to see. It’s hard to see where I’ve been standing you know? I mean I’m pretty happy with whatever as long as I want to be doing it I think. But I’m not sure. I wouldn’t have a clue if there’s a ‘moment in the sun’ around the corner. I don’t think I or any of us have ever expected that even from the beginning of Tame Impala there’s never been an expectation that fame, fortune and better things are across the river.
I feel like that can kind of be a destructive way to operate. [It’s one that] can start causing you to think about what can be done to bring about this great imagined utopia of a lifestyle. So I think I’ll just keep plodding along until I can’t be bothered anymore.
MF: Could you see yourself making music when you’re 50, when you’re 60, or when you’re 70? Because you do get these old timers like Bob Dylan who will just go until they can’t. Is that something you’ve ever thought about?
NA: Oh yeah, man. Of course! [Laughs] I think that’s everyone’s goal, whether they are musicians or [not]. Everyone has thought, “How long until I lose it” or something like that. But yeah, I think that even if I’m not like, a touring band guy I will always be tinkering away, selling cassettes out the front of my house to unsuspecting passers-by from my rocking chair or something like that.
NA: You wrote a great essay which I will take no shame in plugging called ‘Creative Darwinism: Pretty Flowers Grow in Shit’. In it you say, “Growing up in the Kimberley and then Fremantle, the true machinery of the music business evaded me. It was about as real as the Power Rangers and twice as awesome.” How do you feel about the industry now?
NA: The industry doesn’t have the same glow. But I think the thing that was alluring as a really young kid is still alluring. And that’s like, all the awesome and all the rad stuff in music like playing live, being creative with your friends, and making something that you can share with people. It’s all still really good. I think keeping it as just that really fun magical thing is essential.
Otherwise – I was talking about it before. If I got too concerned with knowing that ‘next step’ [or got to thinking], “If we just managed to get the cover of this magazine or if we manage to get Top 20 in The Hottest 100,” or, “All we got to do is [this] and then we can headline this festival and then we will have made it I tell ya! We will have made it lads!” That sort of mind frame would just start to infiltrate what you are making.
MF: I think that a lot of bands do think that way.
NA: A fuckload do! Surely.
MF: Another thing you talk about in your essay is isolation. Perth and Western Australia are often described as being very isolated. But after travelling a lot of the world with these bands it’s always somewhere you keep coming back to. Why?
NA: I don’t know. I suppose that as much as when you’re young, when you’re really young – well this is how I felt, and I think it’s pretty ubiquitous among people like me — is that in Perth you start getting really frustrated because it’s the place where you will get yelled at by a guy in a car. A passing car! It never ceases to amaze me the consistency of that happening.
I’ve only been back in Perth for a little bit and I haven’t gone for many walks along busy roads, but I did last night and sure enough it fucking happened! Not only once, it happened twice! It was just like, man, I can’t believe how much.
It’s this that makes people think, “I’m far too culturally advanced and open minded. I’m too big for this place. I’m going to go to Europe, I’m going to move to Berlin. I’m going to move to Melbourne.” But I’d probably really embarrass my 19-year-old self by saying now that it’s completely my home and I just feel comfortable here.
I love my friends here. I love being able to move my body every day to the beach and into the water. I love how laid back it is, how many accidental days off happen.
MF: Is there anything else you would like to throw out there to the POND fans and Nick Allbrook fans before we round it all off? Anything about Tasmania?
NA: Ummmmm… nah! I hope you enjoy it.
POND’s Tasmania is out this Friday, 1st March and they kick off their album tour Sunday 3rd March. Find their national tour dates here.