Matt Pond may have a Brooklyn phone number, live in Kingston, N.Y., and focus on his New Hampshire roots throughout his new chamber pop album, Winter Lives, but his soul and spirit - even his band's name, Matt Pond PA - will forever be in Philadelphia.
And he'll return to the city he called home between 1996 and 2003 when he plays at Underground Arts on Friday.
"Kingston is a little like Philly," Pond says. "It is good and great and gritty, a place where you can't be soft-pawed."
Growing up in New Hampshire, "I listened to Neil Young, learned to play guitar by copying Joni Mitchell tunings, and got turned on to classical music," he says. "Still, punk rock worked with the sloppiness of my songwriting."
Moving to Philly and getting a job as a bartender at Khyber Pass when that Old City space still had brand-name alternative rock stars was what made Pond take stock of his own aesthetic.
"Philly was always about weird conglomerations where everything was open and rules didn't exist," he said of the Khyber audiences at shows with Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. "The New England I grew up in didn't have those places; . . . in Philly, I exploded into a person."
Becoming Matt Pond PA at first meant sounding like the Cure with a string section and recording albums such as Measure, The Green Fury, and Emblems before leaving Philly for Brooklyn. "It may be a stupid band name we have, but I always wanted to honor this place. It created me," Pond says.
Even though his onetime record label, RCA, made him remove the PA for his sole solo album, 2013's The Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hand, Pond changed it back when he left the company.
Though turmoil is a common theme in his lyrics, the strife of the album-tour grind nearly prompted him to give it up in 2015.
"Pleasing everyone became harder and harder until I decided to do it all myself," he says about recording, releasing, and marketing Winter Lives. "I'm finishing things the way I started them - independent . . .. I'm liking it mostly."
Winter Lives, produced with his "guru, guitarist, fixer," Chris Hansen, evokes the messiness of old relationships. Pond says he wanted it to be tactile ("I wanted you to be able to feel the trees and the whoosh of wind"). Infectious songs such as "Whoa!" and "Dirty Looks" achieve that.
With "Whoa!," Pond recalled a girl, "Terry, who I knew growing up in New Hampshire, and kept going down this icy slope over and over again. I didn't know if it was fun, what with those chafed faces of ours and being sweaty and cold at the same time, but there was this mindless joy that I wanted to put forth in a song."