What makes a band interesting? Some may point to their style, and how it cuts a different path from the norm. Performance may also come into play, maybe the message behind their music is irresistibly moving, or perhaps it boils down to something as minute as ‘hey, these guys are just really cool’. At any rate, the variables that draw us into the work of virtually any and every artist we subscribe to tend to play off of each other and mend together to manifest into something we find ourselves coming back to over and over, no matter how hard it may be to completely define what it means to us. As such, the artists I tend to lean toward in covering for these Weekly Featured Artist contributions I do typically revolve around a sort of artistic weirdness, so to speak; This is only one of many reasons I am here today writing about none other than NYC’s Pons – and doing it from a plane!
Despite the challenges and slight strains on progress endured by the band, the band found their formation as a duo in 2018 as a duo between singer and guitarist Sam Cameron and drummer Jack Parker. These aforementioned challenges were seen more so over the 2019-2020 span, as the duo had just graduated high school upon forming, and Jack attending college at the University of Vermont. While Pons would contend with this distance in terms of keeping the fires alive for the band, their momentum was none the smaller. Even as Jack would work with the brief but popular band Boys Cruise, they would both see traction from their 5-track EP, They Look Like People, as well as a mini-tour in early 2019.
In the summer of that same year, they’d find themselves performing the largest tour they’d done yet in tandem of releasing their second EP, Dread. This embarkment would take them from North Carolina all the way up to Canada and back, and over the course of this tour, would only put them more in the eyes and ears of many, increasing that traction by significant proportions. As the fall approached, Sam would move up to Vermont, the band would incorporate auxiliary percussionist Sebastian Cornet, 2 quickly became 3, and their live show became all the more unhinged and overall quite memorable, featuring various wild antics and explosive energy that only heightened the bar on bringing fans out for the experience.
In 2020, the band released their debut full-length, Intellect. By this point, they were moving out to NYC, where they currently reside, beloved by crowds everywhere, heroes of the underground in Vermont, and playing shows all over the country. Fast-forward to today, and we see Pons in only more of an upward swing. Having just released their most recent album, The Liquid Self, via Dedstrange Records, and having just played Spain and Portugal just before this article will see publishing, not to mention their recent confirmation on SXSW 2024, the band has a lot to look forward to. Similarly, you have plenty of reasons to be paying attention.
So what about the music, you ask? Well, it has it all. From gritty, grungy, garage rocky riffs and sparkly guitar work, all the way to upbeat, sporadic, blazing drums and noisy bits, to the intense vocalizations and overall atmosphere that presents a mix of psychedelic rock, ambience, shoegazey sections, math rock, and punk style music – this band is a cyclone of soundwaves. ‘Experimental music’ narrowly sandboxes, but hardly even defines it. Pons are an experience, both recorded and especially live. A band that makes you feel just as much a part of the music as they are, the energy in their work on and off stage is beyond palpable. It’s no wonder they’ve caught on, with such a strong DIY-esque work ethic and an ambitious drive powerful enough to make your local electric company want to overcharge you just a little more for playing one of their records.
My personal first experience and discovery of Pons was catching them live while on tour, performing at a house venue right here in Richmond, VA alongside Lobby Boy. Not sure what I was in store for, given I saw a guitarist and two drummers setting up (although their second acts more like a percussionist/noisist), I was instantly impressed with how powerful a sound this band projects from start to finish of their set. You truly will not have any idea what comes next. From gazey, catchy, almost-pop-tier songs that feel like pleasant, dreamy singalongs, to extremely sporadic and mathy noise bops that go exponentially hard, Pons is a band that does it right and can go from 0 to 300 real fast.
That is, of course, until the cops show up, none too thrilled with the noise (boo!) and ask the house owner to turn it down. Yes, that did actually happen and presented only a brief halt, as the band fired right back up after the officer pulled away, because it wasn’t even noise ordinance hour yet and that was more or less a ‘warning’. Finishing out the set like a fireworks finale, the band won us all over by the end of their set. Not bad for a Wednesday night in January, not at all! From that night up to now, I’ve been proudly following the band and watching them only grow and grow with each show they play, both overseas and domestically.
The Liquid Self is the first release I’ve gotten to be around for after discovering the band. Songs like “Flounder”, “Coral King”, and “Doctor Octopus” embody a lot about the unhinged nature of the band that I recognized when seeing them live. While their prior releases showed plenty of power in sporadic songwriting about the band, in particular “NO SQUID” from 2020’s Intellect was a favorite upon checking out the band after seeing them live, The Liquid Self as a whole seems much like a pivotal, enhanced point of the band at their peak. The organized chaos, if you will, tends to hit on nautical themes, which doesn’t seem too foreign for the band given the aforementioned track “NO SQUID” (whether metaphorical or literal) talks of being lost at sea. But at any rate, the album features tracks directly titled after sea-abiding terminology.
Even the Bandcamp description of the album speaks about the concept following the tragedy and subsequent comeback of a fellow seagoer: ‘After a tragic shipwreck, a sailor is lost at sea for an unknown amount of time. They are rescued by pure chance and return home. And so our story begins…’ Describing themselves as art rock, this sort of thematic writing seems fitting to their style as well, as the band has a real way of painting by way of waveform. The whole album has a sort of surfy atmosphere, too, with the almost psychobilly, slap-back reverb effect on the vocals in select songs aiding to this vibe.
So what more to say about Pons? I could probably talk forever about what makes this band great. But the biggest factors I believe help to make them so magnetic are their energy, driving force and work ethic, and just how crowd-oriented and involved with those who come to their shows they authentically seem to be. In fact, I could almost summarize it as just that – Pons are authentic. The ‘real deal’ if you will. Nothing feels dressed up or disingenuous, every part of the band is spawned from sincerity and congruent with putting passion on the forefront. While I’ve mentioned before that these tend to be the type of artists I like covering for WFAs, Pons are further proof that whatever you truly wish to accomplish in life can be done, no matter how weird it sounds or wild it gets – it’s all about just making that sincere push and believing in yourself, as this band clearly seems to have!
So if you want to know what a real party is all about, deprive yourself no longer to the powerfully produced, audible frenzy that is Pons! Slide on over to their Bandcamp to stream and purchase their music! Follow them on Facebook and Instagram! Be sure to keep a good eye on this band, because you really never know what their next move will be. But even with their unpredictable nature, one thing can always be expected – you will find yourself impressed and invested each and every step of the way! Pons – A Trio of Troubadours on their way to world domination! (As a disclaimer, this band probably isn’t actually intent on any invasions, attacks, or other incriminating behavior, spoken in this article or elsewhere, that may subject them to any suspicion or investigation. Pons are simply a good-time band meant for good-time people!)
Sam Cameron – vocals, guitar, noise
Jack Parker – drums
Sebastian Cornet – auxiliary percussion