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Live & Direct: Matt Pond PA and Alexa Rose

Indie rock band Matt Pond PA stopped by the WYEP studios for a members-only Live & Direct session on Thursday, Feb. 15 before playing at Club Cafe that evening in support of their new album Call and Response.

Kyle Smith: We are here with Matt Pond PA and Alexa Rose, the new EP is called “Call and Response.” Just heard a couple of songs from it recently, including that one. They're called “Side Eye Rolls,” which Matt, you open up that song with, “I'm going to make amends with everyone that I've left out in the cold case.” Can you elaborate a little bit on that?

Matt Pond: You know, I mean, you make a couple of mistakes in life, and now that's my apology. You put it in a song and it covers everything.

Smith: It's great to hear. Matt has been making music for a long time. Melodic indie rock. We've played him here at the station. It's great to have you in after so many shows here in Pittsburgh. We were chatting earlier this morning about how you played Pittsburgh. One of your top-played cities, I guess.

Pond: Years we've played here so many times. I mean, between here in Chicago and New York and Philly. I feel like I live here sometimes.

Smith: Well welcome back.

Pond: Thank you very much for having us. And thank you all for being here.

Smith: The show is happening at Club Cafe here tonight, and I was actually there for a show a couple of Saturdays ago, and a member and a listener from a long time mentioned that it was his son's first show that he took him to. And now his son is going into graduate school, but he was very excited that you're playing tonight and remembers some shows, early on. You know, I ran a while ago, and I think it was a couple of years ago, the two you're going to see, performing and recording as Matt Pond PA. And after using that moniker for a long stretch, I was surprised to hear that this new release was coming out at the start of the year.

Pond: Yeah, I changed my mind a lot. I think I keep running for myself in my life, where I have up until this last year, and then I just realized I really like making music, and I like doing what I'm doing, and I like — I actually, I mean, this may sound like bragging — but I like the albums that I've made, and I think I want to do this. I want to be myself.

Smith: Well, it's got to be difficult to go through band changes and collaborative efforts and things and then have a new idea. And it's probably pretty tough to just start over with a new name. It's hard to transfer.

Pond: It definitely is. There's probably nothing harder. No, I'm not myself. I'm someone else now. I mean, I feel that way, but it's hard to tell people that introduce yourself as that. It doesn't create a continuous line. This is just this is just kind of who I am, and I just have to get used to it, you know?

Smith: Well, we're glad you're back, and we're glad Matt Pond PA is here in the studios and playing Pittsburgh tonight. I do want to ask a little bit about your songwriting and not only just in general, but I know that you lived in New York City for a while. But now you live kind of in rural New York state or upstate New York, how does that affect your songwriting? Because a lot of stuff that I've understood you have to paint some pictures of nature and whatnot, but that's while you were living in New York City. Do you write better, in an urban setting and write songs about nature?

Pond: It’s like writing my way out of a box. I grew up in New Hampshire. Whenever I live in a city, I write about nature. And when I live in nature, I write about cities. And it's just kind of like, it's just this constant, opposite way of living. But I love both ways of living. I love living in the city. I love New York.

Smith: Well, fantastic. I read some interview the other day about your songwriting. But it's great to hear that you're back with a new release, and I know we're going to do a couple of songs here, and Alexa Rose is going to do the second one in our back to back. Maybe when we come back, we can talk about how you guys connected and how you guys have met. But the new release is called “Call and Response.” Matt Pond PA and Alexa Rose, we're Live & Direct here on WYEP.

“Halloween Two”

“Wild Peppermint”

Smith: There you have Alexa Rose, that song called “Wild Peppermint.” We're doing a Live & Direct session. Matt Pond PA and Alexa Rose, the new EP is called “Call and Response,” and boy, you both have powerful voices and in different ways. And, it's interesting how I heard there's a story behind how you became connected. It's always interesting to hear how musicians from different areas connect and start working together. How did you both start to collaborate together?

Alexa Rose: So that last song I played called “Wild Peppermint,” it's a song I wrote about, growing up in Virginia, in western Virginia, where we are still in the Appalachian Mountains, but we're on the other side of the mountains in West Virginia and up here where you guys get a good amount more snow. I grew up wishing for snow all the time. And it was such a rare, beautiful thing. When I was in high school, my next door neighbor slipped me a mix CD, and it had a song on it called “Snow Day” by an artist named Matt Pond PA and it's a beautiful song. It could just be a poem by itself. It encapsulates everything I love about snow days and how the world just kind of becomes quiet and shuts down, and people are free to live in this space that wouldn't otherwise exist. Well, I don't know, maybe not up here, but down further down south. I mean, we're all just totally shut down

Smith: When we get a couple of inches of snow here in Pittsburgh, things shut down.

Rose: That's great. That's what I love. So in that song, there's a lyric about that mix CD that mentions Matt and I guess when I released that song, he heard that, he heard it somehow. There was, there was like a piece that got written about it, and it mentioned to you, they noticed that that lyric had your name in it.

Pond: That was probably one of the coolest things that ever happened in music for me, because anyone can write about you and anyone can say anything and love you. But if another musician likes your music and if they're like Alexa and insanely talented, it's kind of like, it's mind blowing. I mean, I can't hear that lyric. I can't hear that song without just being blown away. So yeah. I heard that and I reached out just a little bit. I said thanks. And then it dawned on me at a certain point, like, maybe she'd like to sing on a song or something and then phone calls and she came up to where we live, and we recorded an EP and now we're here. It's very strange how things happen. But it's amazing. I mean, for me, it's such an honor that she's standing here and not laughing at me right now.

Rose: Oh my God, no thank you. That means so much to me. And of course, I was immediately like, of course. Yes, I remember exactly where I was. I was in Toronto eating a salad and I got a message on Instagram and my jaw just dropped and lettuce just came pouring out of my mouth. So, very grateful that we're all here together at this moment.

Smith: It's amazing how connections happened. I've heard so many different stories over the years where a lot of it happens through Instagram. I've heard like two or three other stories about that where people message each other and end up working together. We had a gentleman by the name of Cautious Clay, who worked with John Mayer on a song just because they connected that way. It's really great to hear. So, “Call and Response,” does the title bear any significance?

Pond: Well, it was basically hearing her say my name in a song and then realizing what an amazing musician she was. And then I got up the nerve to write back. And then we just kept calling back and forth and it's just such an honor and a cool collaboration in my mind. I hope you all love it. And, that's the point. But, as long as we love it, that's important, too. And I love it.

Smith: And before the holidays, you sent me a little advance of it, and I got to listen to it. And you also did a cover of one of my favorite songs from The Verve, which is a “Bittersweet Symphony.” Did that come about because you both love the song, or you just thought your voices would work together on it or what?

Pond: I think I wrote to her and I was like, “Do you want to sing on a song?” And then I sent like 100 songs because that's how I work. She actually pulled songs I would never have thought of. What I would have thought of throwing away, like, “Halloween Two.” But we just were chatting about music and we thought we'd try it. And her harmonies on that just blew me away. It reminds me of Angel Olsen — if you've heard of this artist, she's amazing. That's where I'm just very lucky.

Rose: Thank you. I really love how that one turned out. And I do think that we both have very unique voices. And when you have kind of a unique voice and you're a solo artist, which we both are like, it's you never really know how you're going to mesh with someone. I think we just kind of were messing around, like with guitars and started playing that song and we were like, that actually doesn't maybe sound terrible, so let's try it. Yeah, I think that's how it kind of happened.

Set list:
Side Eye Rolls ft. Alexa Rose
Halloween Two ft. Alexa Rose
Wild Peppermint (Alexa Rose)
Love to Get Used

Interviewer: Kyle Smith
Engineers: Tom Hurley, Thomas Cipollone