Pop Star: Matt Pond

Photo: James Kendi

Brooklyn band Matt Pond PA has carefully built a catalogue of pleasantly jangling, classically crafted guitar- and cello-driven tunes. With a new album, Several Arrows Later, and three songs on The O.C. soundtrack, the band may soon shake off two persistent labels: “chamber pop,” and “under the radar.” Singer-songwriter Matt Pond took a moment to discuss his juvenile delinquency, his dalliance with the French horn, and how he narrowly escaped his mom’s dream of a family band. He spoke with Rebecca Milzoff.

One thing that’s striking about your music is the careful layering of the parts. How do you put a song together?
I don’t want to think of it as an orgy—more like a well-working machine. I work the songs out myself. At first, I don’t like to play my guitar in front of everybody, like, “Here, I wrote this little song!” But every part has importance, so nothing takes precedence.

Speaking of different parts, guitar isn’t the only instrument you’ve played.
I played piano, trumpet, and French horn. But I was forced to do those things. I hated music—it was one of those things my mother made me do. I think she always wanted to start a family band.

And did she?
No, but I think she would have—she’s a great singer and piano player. She can just roll out the show tunes.

What was it like growing up in New Hampshire?
My father was a minister, but he was more of a humanitarian. He got people out of Cambodian refugee camps. He was this larger-than-life guy—although, in fact, he was really short. Other than that, there was occasional breaking into people’s houses, occasionally getting arrested for drinking, occasionally flipping cars.

Now that you’re in New York, did this city affect your new record?
This record is somewhat about seeing how people react to tragedy and seeing how much greater it makes them. I want to be somewhere where people could give a shit, where people are altruistic.

Does the “chamber pop” label bother you?
The ease of calling it that both dumbs us down and makes us sound pretentious. People think we’re assholes because we use a cello sometimes, and I think that’s funny.

Tell me about working with The O.C. soundtrack.
[Creator] Josh Schwartz is the greatest; he’s doing more for music than anybody these days. Hey, do I get e-mails from kids screaming at me about being a sellout? Yes. But I believe in this guy’s vision.

You did a cover of “Champagne Supernova” for the show. Did Oasis ask you to do it, or The O.C.?
The O.C. If Oasis ever finds out, they’ll curse at us.

You might find an angry Gallagher brother at your door.
I would love to get into a fistfight with those guys. I mean, I love their music, but I hardly think either one of them could knock me out.

Several Arrows Later
Altitude, October 11

Pop Star: Matt Pond