Indie rock mainstay Matt Pond opens up about his new band The Natural Lines and their eponymous debut album, a boldly breathtaking reverie filled with soul-stirring serenades, intimate connection, and inner reckoning. A bona fide rebirth, ‘The Natural Lines’ is without a doubt the start of something special.
for fans of Matt Pond PA, Death Cab for Cutie, The National
Stream: “Mahwah” – The Natural Lines
I keep thinking I’m going to quit music and move onto another career. The problem is that I can’t stop writing songs.
The way he talks about it, you would think Matt Pond has a music problem: He just can’t seem to quit!
For the past five-plus years that I’ve been covering his music, Pond has been insistent that this next thing is his last. One more, and that’s it. 2017’s Still Summer was supposed to be his band Matt Pond PA’s twelfth and final album; it was followed by at least four more records, the most recent of which, State of Gold, came out in late 2021 (Atwood Magazine praised that record for its “passionate, charming indie rock energy and intense vulnerability”). Finally, after teasing it and hinting at it for nearly a half-decade, Pond closed the curtains on his namesake band. Formed in the late nineties, Matt Pond PA gave the world a quarter-century’s worth of music, having recorded and released over 200 songs spread over 15+ studio albums, a litany of EPs, singles, and more. A staple of noughties indie rock that remained mainstays of the scene well after their contemporaries had folded, Matt Pond PA were a singular force and a beloved favorite of many an indie rock fan in the early part of the 21st Century.
No sooner did Matt Pond PA fold, than a new entity by the name of The Natural Lines arose in 2022 with an eerily similar-sounding vocalist and overall vibe; maybe all Pond really needed, in the end, was a name change. The Natural Lines’ debut EP First Five was released in October 2022, followed less than six months later by their self-titled debut album: A sonically and emotionally charged indie rock reverie, the eponymous The Natural Lines (released March 24 via Bella Union) is an uplifting and enchanting record full of life, love, passion, and potential. It’s a spirited wellspring of hope and inspiration, intimate connection and inner reckoning; a bona fide rebirth for Matt Pond, who’s found his voice all over again.
“I keep thinking I’m going to quit music and move onto another career. The problem is that I can’t stop writing songs,” the singer/songwriter tells Atwood Magazine. “When the pandemic hit, we suddenly had tons of time to make one more album. (One More Time!) I wanted to write about my life as an expansive kingdom that only included a handful of people and was limited to the walls in my home, the sidewalk outside my door. Because during the shutdown, that’s exactly what it was. Even after, I’m living in a small kingdom with a small dog and a small, beautiful woman.”
With a new name comes a fresh lease on life. The Natural Lines is a communal effort, with the familiar duo of Matt Pond and Chris Hansen at its core and a revolving cast of longtime friends and family members contributing bit roles and outsized parts. Included in the greater linear family are Pond’s partner Anya Marina (vocals), Hilary James (cello/vocals), Kyle Kelly-Yahner (drums), Louie Lino (keys), Sarah Hansen (horns), Sean Hansen (drums/bass), Andy Dixon (drums), Kat Murphy (vocals) and 17-year-old MJ Murphy (vocals).
“I can’t tell what other people see or hear, but I wish that people would see that we have no pretense except for our belief in music,” Pond says of The Natural Lines. “I am who I am, I am who my music shows me to be. Eccentric bearded man, seeking listeners who may share some of the same sensibilities. This is how I search, this is how I hope.”
For Pond, this endeavor is something exciting and fresh, bold and new, inescapable and inevitable.
“I think I’m leaning on real life more than metaphor,” he says, reflecting on the similarities and differences between The Natural Lines and Matt Pond PA. “Everything here has happened, everything here has a story. I still think about the past, but I want to be more honest about who I was, who I am, and what I think. Mostly, I enjoy laughing at myself. I want the court to recognize my motion to ridicule myself and at the same time, be able to let go of some of my mandatory self-doubt. What I love about this most is that it’s an egalitarian project — Chris Hansen, Hilary James, John Courage, Dan Ford — they are in this, they are natural lines, too.”
The Natural Lines feels free. I feel like I know who I am. Crazy, right?
The band actually takes its name from a record Pond released about ten years ago. “The Natural Lines was the name of an EP we released in our previous band,” he says. “I like the way it draws between the past and present. It was a pain living life in a band named after myself. So it seemed natural to change it to something referential and totally new – and it seems sonically sound.”
“My vision,” he continues, “was to be less pretentious. Yet it is hard to share so much uncertainty and still believe in myself enough to finish an album. We changed course constantly. I threw songs away and then brought them back to life at different speeds with different lyrics. I barely recognize some of the original demos. They might have been written in another ancient language. By Martians.”
I want the court to recognize my motion to ridicule myself and at the same time, be able to let go of some of my mandatory self-doubt.
Highlights abound on this sweetly stunning album: From the radiant and dazzling opener “Monotony” to the brooding, heartfelt, and delicate finale “Mahwah,” The Natural Lines immerses listeners in its heartfelt, expansive world. Each song is a warm little wonder unto itself; on “Help,” Pond is raw and exposed. On “No More Tragedies,” he re-centers and soars full of feverish energy and tender compassion. On “Spontaneous Skylights 2,” he is an experimental indie folk balladeer; and on the captivating, charismatic “A Scene That Will Never Die,” he is the fearless leader of a Tom Petty-esque rock n’ roll band. A sweeping statement of intimate intent, this record is as much a cathartic, invigorating exploration of identity as it is one of purpose, place, relationships, and existence.
Pond cites a lyric from the song “Artificial Moonlight” as one of his personal favorite lines: “Maybe I was never here, fingerprints in chimney dust, I’ll be digging in my backyard tonight. Even if no one ever hears my tree falling in the woods, it was a thrill all the way to the end,” he beams.
“Honestly, I believe in this album as an album,” he says on the topic of favorites, “but I am drawn to ‘Mahwah.’ I was once stupid enough to shotgun beers. And I still carry that person inside me. Except now, I know to tell that person to stop cutting holes in sixteen ounce cans full of alcohol. On the news and everywhere, we all hear about the new “places to be.” It was once Brooklyn, then Portland, then Austin, then who-knows-where. I think I’ve finally found what makes me happy and where I need to be. Even if, at times, it all drives me batshit crazy.”
A life for some is not a flash distraction
To lapse and stall on midwest stages
Pressed up against a screen, to see and not be seen
Did they say Jersey is the place to be now?
I must’ve missed my stop in Mahwah
My arms won’t let me turn again
In cruise control I left dreams swimming
I count the stones and find a new home
I write in bed cause thoughts are truer
A partner bow down to the range
That’s all there is, all there is to forever
The silver lining of my flimsy winter quilt
– “Mahwah,” The Natural Lines
Wherever the needle drops on The Natural Lines, listeners are sure to find lilting words of inspiration and soul-stirring serenades for days on end.
Intimate, impassioned, and charmingly human through and through, The Natural Lines does feel like the natural evolution of Matt Pond’s artistry. It should further be noted that as of this point of writing in March 2023, Pond is no longer threatening to quit music entirely. Here’s to The Natural Lines not being some one-off foray, and to the continuance of this exciting new(-ish) band!
Really though, this is something fresh and new. Ever the prolific songwriter, Matt Pond has never before been quite as confessional, as unapologetic, or as brutally honest as he is throughout The Natural Lines‘ eleven breathtaking songs.
“I’m trying to let go of the self-doubt that’s always held me back,” he shares. “What’s the point, anyway? We have a limited ride on this planet. We should do some real living and improving before we move along to the next world. Still, it’s hard to release music. I’m excited, but it feels like I’m losing a part of myself. That’s why I’m onto the next album.”
Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside The Natural Lines’ The Natural Lines with Atwood Magazine as Matt Pond goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of this dazzling debut album!
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‘The Natural Lines’ – The Natural Lines
:: Inside The Natural Lines ::
I wanted to start the album from the place where I evaluate my life daily, right before I fall asleep when I face the monolith of self-reflection. When I start unraveling my life in music, it feels like an endless album skipping over the same emotional overture. I once broke my leg on tour with the current drummer of The Natural Lines, Dan Ford. Going through something as traumatic as that created a connection between us, right near my ankle where the tibia and fibula split in two.
Here at the fracture of day and night, where everything begins and ends — everything meaningful and thrilling and completely boring — seemed like a cool place to commence.
No More Tragedies
This song is the compass of the album. This is where I learned right from wrong late in the game. About three years ago I was standing in my driveway holding a brick, blocked in by a BMW from Massachusetts. Instead of letting it fly, I dropped the brick in the grass and wrote “No More Tragedies.” I used to think that my frustration and anger were powerful tools, maybe even superpowers, that could pull me through any conflict. Through the song and entire album, I realized that I’ve been doing it all wrong. Everyone has a story, everyone is worth the attempt at understanding.
On my own, my kingdom was once a palace of joy. I would listen to the stereo cranked, drunk on San Greltzers (my own creation of Montepulciano wine, seltzer and vodka). I loved Daft Punk, Broadcast and Blur in these moments. I loved speaking to myself with wild gesticulations. (Some kind of parody of my father, I guess.)
I would wake up in my trousers on the wrong end of the bed, embarrassed by the bender I had spent alone. I wanted to spell out HELP in splintered crystal on the roof and hope that the pilot from Le Petit Prince would see my sign and save my life. It was almost like I needed an escape from my escape.
I was in a relationship where the best parts were the broken pieces. The slivers of shattered wine glass became a regular thing. So I thought of them as gems, the royal jewels. Right here is where I found out that I could live a completely separate life inside a phone. And yet, I was even lonelier when the only person I really knew was Alex Bell. So this is my song to the creator of our new world, Alexander Bell. I’m calling out to him like a prayer to give me some answers about my existence. Allegedly, Alex Bell was a terrible person, and if it weren’t for our addiction to his devices, we would have canceled the technology ages ago.
I don’t always want to let go of the stupidity of my younger years. There was an energy to the way we used to run headlong into rivers and parties. My Answer is about keeping that door open to dirty deeds done dirt cheap — a “maybe” to the trouble tapping at the window.
Spontaneous Skylights 2
At the end of the first side is the lowest I can sink. This is where I imagine the roof has blown off the house and I’m watching the sky and seeds spin.
A Scene That Will Never Die
Here’s where optimism enters the picture.
In late summer, I sent a text message to the love of my life — before she was the love of my life — to see if she’d like to sleep under the stars. She was performing on the opposite coast and stopped mid-show to respond. We did not go camping. But every ensuing message brought us closer and closer until we became an inseparable team.
Until recent years, it was out of character for me to be openly grateful. And further, to appreciate the virtues of modern technology. I was better at destroying phones than using them as a proper tool. But I believe people — including me — are capable of change. We are capable of being better people. And we are even capable of love.
Person of Interest
I went to college in Arizona for two weeks when I was 18. I remember staring out at the desert and wondering how a person could survive in the middle of nowhere, out among the saguaro in the sand. Years later, I would find the movie Paris, Texas. (Brilliant beyond belief.)
I identified with Harry Dean Stanton as Travis who wanted to fix his mistakes and beautifully disappear from the world. I don’t understand why everyone wants to be famous. I just want to be good at what I do. I don’t mind if I disappear. I just want to write songs that hopefully make sense to people.
Don’t Come Down
In order to change my perspective, I started this song by lying down on the sidewalk. (It’s such a strange view from down on the ground. And conversely, passersby definitely look at you like you’re nuts.) At this point in my life, I believe I can fix myself. It’s an anthem to true self-help.
My dog would not stop digging in the yard. Then I imagined myself at night under the streetlight, digging and digging. I don’t know if it’s for treasure or if it’s meant to be a grave. But I won’t stop digging.
I got my first proper touring van in Mahwah. I’d had other vans. But this one was a new 15 passenger Ford with a glimmering trailer hitch. I spent a decade in that van. I lived there longer than I’ve lived anywhere else. Then I left Brooklyn and wandered for years until I found my home in Kingston, NY. This table in my living room where I’m typing these words rules so much more than the bench seat in the back of that van.
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