The Start: Two Decades In, Matt Pond PA Has Become Collected Lakes

Chris Hansen (with daughter Brynn) and Matt Pond (with dog Willa)

After 20 years, Matt Pond PA (the band) is changing its name to Collected Lakes. Here, Matt Pond (the man) tells you why.

I’ve been repeating my name through a microphone for over 20 years.

I chose to be an independent emperor because of my early musical experiences. Trust was too hard to find on the Khyber Pass stage. Silk City had the darkest corners ever registered in a fickle bar/venue/diner. I didn’t want to make a career of being outvoted in dirty South Philadelphia basements. I wanted to kneel to melody, I wanted to immerse myself in the purifying waters of the Schuylkill River and emerge as a five-and-dime reincarnation of Jeff Lynne. 

Once self-crowned, I ruled with caffeine, fire and frustration. I implemented Joni Mitchell tunings to accompany the horse that lived in my throat. Then, I’d videotape my hands playing those awkward chords. The songs started in my living room, blaring down the stairs, scaring the neighbors, out the door and onto the stage. 

I had strict ideologies—no guitar solos, and the cello was a constant. Then I fell in love with guitar solos and broke up with the cello. (I never passed a single class in the school of ideology.)

We strapped in and circled the country. Nobody in Iowa City grew into a few Austinites at Emo Jr’s. A gaggle in Boise became a hundred at Spaceland in L.A. When we sold out the 9:30 Club, I was certain that my life was a monumental practical joke—who had paid 1,200 people to come out and see me yodeling about New Hampshire?

All along these circulatory systems, my prime directive was to keep myself unbalanced. I thought it was important to stay true to my weaknesses in order to preserve a haphazardly constructed persona. That’s who I thought I had to be in order to exist as a coarse crooner. I drove after drinking, I did pointless drugs, I cheated on the people I loved. (There’s a telex continuously printing in this cranial broom closet, pages of apologies to the relationships I’ve intentionally undermined. I’m sorry.)

I don’t want to think that way any more. I don’t want to see my name as a curse on a Minneapolis marquee, an idea that’s more important than me or anyone around me. Know this: I’m going to be a good person, even if it kills me. 

But I don’t regret the PA. I loved Philly. I loved the terrible accent, an obstreperous nasally child, drunk on stolen malt liquor. I loved playing cards in the middle of Rodman Street. I loved the pitchblack thrill of riding bikes through Franklin Square, the no man’s land between Northern Liberties and Old City. I lived on Spruce Street in a building that was demolished, fossilized memories now buried under the Kimmel Center. I lived in Queen Village on Monroe Street and wrote all the songs on Deer Apartments as a way to reconcile a busted youth. I lived in an illegal Chinatown loft. I had crazy parties where I either hid in my room or got into fistfights. (My last was a MAGNET after-party following one of the greatest shows of all time: My Morning Jacket, the Shins and Guided By Voices. Holy heaven and hell.)

Some moments play out as if they were scenes from a midnight film showing on my lawn right now: Mike Kennedy is playing the drums at Brian McTear’s studio in Manayunk. The recently purchased tape machine belonged to Toto, so in standard recording session protocol, we waste precious time trying to recall the groove from “Rosanna.” We’re sweating so much that we’re down to our underwear, and even that’s too much to bear. The song is called “A List Of Sound.” Mike can barely hold onto to the slippery sticks and yet still manages to get the most frenetic, perfect take—a snare-drum superimposing a 16th-note triplet pattern over the entire resplendent mess.

Philadelphia was my home longer than anywhere else I’ve lived. Twelve years—12 foundational, evolutionary years. The last phone numbers I knew by heart started with a two-one-five. 

I live in Kingston, N.Y., now. I sit at my desk on the edge of my seat, the same way I did on Arch Street. Typing emails that I won’t send to old friends and ex-girlfriends while autumn closes in completely. 

But now, I have a dog who turns one today. Willa. She tugs against the limits of my frustration with holes in the yard and an appetite for sock destruction. I close my eyes, breathe and try to keep my shit together when she refuses to listen to my carefully worded commands.

I want to de-escalate, I want to give credit where credit is due. I want to make something that belongs to a group, a streetwise gang of gentle thugs, harmonizing on the corner over a trash-can fire. The ideology is simple: Be a better person, write better songs. 

I want to make something great that doesn’t feel like it’s always trying to kill me. I don’t have to say my name into a microphone in order to do that. I will say that we are Collected Lakes. Chris Hansen, Kyle Kelly-Yahner and whoever else is ready to join in on our uncharted, egalitarian adventure. This isn’t a shot in the dark anymore; this is a call and response. A snare hit that somehows changes the sentiment of an entire tune.

As far as the songs, there are no regrets about anything I’ve written and released up until now. “New Hampshire,” “Measure 3,” “Halloween,” “Still Summer,” “Fairlee,” “Lily Two,” “Sunlight,” “In Winter,” “Specks,” “The Hollows” and maybe a few handfuls more. I might not have always been the rough-hewn gentleman’s gentleman I currently aspire to be, but I’ll continue to play covers of my past lives until the sun refuses to shine.