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Sticks and Stones 

Matt Pond and Rocky Votolato are bound by their love for songwriting. But sometimes that’s not enough.

click to enlarge Matt Pond and Rocky Votolato
  • Matt Pond and Rocky Votolato

Three minutes before I’m set to interview singer-songwriters Matt Pond and Rocky Votolato, I receive an email saying that they won’t be doing the interview together, after all. They’re traveling to their next tour stop separately.

That seems odd: The point of talking to them was to explore their musical friendship. After all, the two are on their second tour together this year.

I talk to Pond first, and it’s clear what’s on his mind: his broken leg. While loading out gear after the fourth show of the tour in Pontiac, Mich., Pond suffered a spiral fracture that completely severed both his tibia and fibula.

“It wasn’t some gloriously drunken or exciting adventure,” he says. “It was simple. I tripped and someone, I pulled them down onto me, and basically their knee went right through my leg. It was gross. I had a surgery. I have a lot of rods and pins now.”

He seems like he’s trying to push the pain from his mind, though. His comments drift to the astounding number of dragonflies in the fields they’re driving through.

But on the next call, Votolato is more open about why they’re going solo today.

“Did he tell you that’s pretty much why we’re in separate cars today?” Votolato asks. Yeah, he had.

Turns out, it had been a tense morning. “We’re both very passionate people. I guess I’ll just put it that way,” says Votolato. “When shit gets heavy, we can definitely blow up.”

“But I love Matt to death,” he continues. “I just don’t want him to have a long-term medical problem from just trying to finish the tour. I’m really proud of him that he’s been able to play the shows and keep getting on-stage.”

These musicians are kindred spirits. They share the same birthday (March 8) and speak in equally admiring terms about the other’s music. They’re simpatico, both personally and audibly.

“I think our music really compliments each other,” adds Votolato. “We’re sharing a band on this tour, and each night, it feels like it works. We’re different enough that, sonically, it’s not too similar to where it’s boring or you can’t feel a difference, but we’re enough alike where it’s not jarring.”

Both speak glowingly of the other’s music and the aspects they wish they could lift to become more complete songwriters. Pond gushes about the focus and simplicity of Votolato’s work.

“Music is now a lot of triumph of beauty and triumph of the perfect night or something like that,” says Pond. “I like the songs that will probably come out of breaking my leg and the triumph of what makes us all similar — nothing above anyone else, nothing below them, just what we all are. And there’s a lot of that in Rocky’s music. It’s not the golden moments; it’s the struggle to get to the golden moments. I think struggle is the best thing you can do.”

“I have a lot of respect for Matt’s ability to communicate an idea and the imagery in his lyrics,” says Votolato. “The way he can turn a phrase — that’s really intriguing for me.”

It’s clear that these two songwriters are too compatible to stay upset at each other for long. By the time my conversation with Matt wraps up, he’s already mellowed. In fact, he even begins joking about his injury.

“The show that we had played [on the night of the accident] was really awesome, so we were really excited,” says Pond. “So in a sort of ‘Mazel tov!’ way, I sort of shattered my leg. Don’t Greek people throw plates? A lot of people like to break things in a celebratory manner. It’s like with championships — you win a championship and then what do you do? Go and burn everything to the ground. So that’s what I did. We won that championship and I had to break my leg.”

“But the season wasn’t over yet!” I interject. “Yeah I know, I know,” says a laughing Pond.

“We won our home opener and then we just went, “F--- it! We’re champions!”

Rocky Votolato and Matt Pond PA play with Kevin Long • Sun, Oct. 16, at 8 pm • A Club • $12-$15 • 21 • • 624-3629 • Mon, Oct. 17, at 7 pm • The Belltower • $11-$14 • All-ages •


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