So imagine my surprise when I’m listening to a track from Matt Pond and I hear him sing the word “Athabasca”. Seems to be a running trend, songs that talk about cities I know (I blogged about “Kapuskasing Coffee” yesterday, which is where I was born). And this was even more of a shocker. I mean, Kap’s population is almost 9000, and it was a singer-songwriter from Ontario. I can buy that. But Athabasca? From a New York indie rocker? What the hell?
Maybe there’s another Athabasca near there, I wondered. There’s an Edmonton, Kentucky, after all. But after googling around for a bit and being completely unsuccessful, on a lark I emailed his PR team, and got an email back quickly enough that his distant relative is Peter Pond.
I’ll let that sink in for a bit, because surely if you know the history of this part of Alberta, you’ve heard of Peter Pond. Heck, there’s a mall named after him in Fort McMurray. I hear it’s not a great mall, but so be it, neither Peter or Matt can control that.
Anyways, Peter was born in Connecticut, eventually becoming a fur trader and exploring the northwest region of North America where Fort McMurray and Athabasca now exist. In fact, he was one of the founders of the North West Company, along with such legend explorers as Alexander Henry, Simon McTavish, and Joseph Frobisher. It was in 1783 that he ended up in Athabasca, “a region stretching from Lac Ile-a-la-Crosse to the Peace River”. He was instrumental in drawing maps of the region, but left NWC after a bit of a scandal in 1788.
However, he believed that many tributaries in the region drained into the Northwest Passage, and Alexander Mackenzie, took a strong interest in those assertions, and followed what is now the Mackenzie River to that very Northwest Passage. Peter’s bevy of maps eventually gained him international recognition, and he sold his shares in NWC. He passed away in 1807.
But you can see how instrumental Peter Pond was to this region of Canada. To Canada itself. So hats off to him.
And hats off to Matt. After teaching himself guitar in college (though to be fair he was pretty proficient in brass instruments by that time), his first two gigs were opening for Superchunk, and then Bikini Kill. Who, if you haven’t heard of, well, I’ll give you time to go Google them and see how impressive that is.
Matt quickly formed an exceptionally talented band around him, and the group has had a total of ten full-lengths since the late 1990’s. Ten. That’s pretty impressive nowadays, don’t you think? Including today’s release of “The Lives Inside the Lines In Your Hand” (BMG), which yes, I pre-ordered a copy of for myself. Should arrive pretty damned soon.
Check out the video for “Love To Get Used” above (yep, the one where Athabasca’s in the lyrics, listen for it). A rollicking indie rock tune, melodic and one of the best toe-tappers so far this year. And after everything I’ve read and heard, he just sounds like a really good guy. The kind of guy you could just hang with and listen to some music while sipping a few beers, and he’d be all nonchalant and cool about it.
All the dates for the supporting tour are below as well, of course. Closest date to us here in Alberta is in Seatac on March 5.
PS – sunuvabitch I just realized I’m in Houston on the day he’s there but my flight leaves the city at 6pm. Had I known I would’ve stayed an extra day! Dammit!