Bella Union are thrilled to introduce The Natural Lines whose debut First Five EP will be released 14th October ahead of a new album due out in early 2023. To coincide with the announcement the band have shared a video for infectious lead track “The Problem Is Me” shot around Manhattan and Coney Island.
“Maybe the problem is me,” the artist formerly known as Matt Pond PA sings on the inviting opening track from First Five. At once clearly Pond’s work, yet a huge leap forward in its measured songcraft, melodic immediacy, collaborative detail and wryly questioning lyrics, the result is a gorgeous collection of intimate reflections and personal accountability from a relocated, renamed, revivified talent. Here, The Natural Lines paint a picture of the internal conflict, comedy and ultimate acceptance inside all of us.
Pond-watchers might wonder why the name change. Recorded with close collaborators and friends over a period that saw Pond make vital adjustments to his life, The Natural Lines’ stealth emergence reflects his desire to set a fresh pace for himself and come from somewhere new, somewhere more open. “I quit lying,” he adds. “I checked my harsher tones. I cut my drinking down. I went to therapy and stopped shouting at cars.”
Now, the name change honours his collaborators. Among a revolving cast, one constant presence in his work has been Chris Hansen, who plays guitar, bass, keys, saxophone and sings. Singer-songwriter Anya Marina, shines on “In The Dark” and Simon Raymonde (Cocteau Twins / Bella Union) lays down a lush bass on this tale of hide and seek with true connection. Other band members number 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, also on vocals, 17-year-old MJ Murphy, for whom Matt brims with praise: “She can do anything she wants to musically.”
A genuine rebirth for Pond and his friends, the result also pays warming and witty testimony to the value of reconfiguring one’s outlook. “I thought I might lose the realness in songwriting,” says Matt of his decision to steady his pitch. “I thought I’d have to surrender my edge and my shield. But if your best enemy is yourself, it’s hard to be in a band with the same name.
Matt has been anything but quiet since Still Summer (2017). A re-sequenced reissue of 2015’s The State Of Gold emerged in 2021, an EP of Covid-era originals and covers including The Thermals’ ‘Pillar of Salt’ appeared on the Songs of Disquiet EP in 2020, and soundtracks kept Pond busy. But The Natural Lines was not a project to be rushed, and First Five gives a window into what is surely Pond’s best work yet.
A further departure from the past for Matt is ‘It’s a Trap’, where he sets out to surpass his own sarcasm, hunting and holding onto hope within his hands. “Morning comes an hour late” gently opens ‘Spontaneous Skylights 2’ and before we know it the roof blows off the building. When ‘The End of the World’ arrives, The Natural Lines appear to have survived and surrendered to love.
“Once I took control of my mind, I could see what I wanted to say more clearly. Instead of random floods of mania and panic, I felt like I was composed and composing. It has become as simple as reading the words of a sentence in the right order. As small as the pause before I hit ‘send’.” A development, you might say, conducted along the most natural of lines.
Pre-order “First Five EP” HERE.