The hamlet of Wallkill is known more for its sports than its music. But for all its concentration on varsity letters, the two national breakouts from the area were not in the realms of football, baseball, or basketball, but rather in rock 'n' roll. The most famous one, of course, is former Skid Row drummer and 1981 graduate Rob Affuso.
The other man might not have been on MTV beyond his short stint working in their video library after college but is equally prolific, and has international exposure. Chris Hansen, who recently celebrated his 20-year high school reunion with Wallkill's class of 1995, is a key member of Philadelphia-born indie rock institution Matt Pond PA, who are playing the BSP Lounge in Kingston on November 20 (with opening act Laura Stevenson, whose excellent new album Cocksure was just released). Hansen has been with the group since 2006, first appearing on 2010's The Dark Leaves, and remains an important architect of Pond's tried-and-true blend of indie rock grit and chamber pop grace, a sound they take to new heights on their latest LP, The State of Gold, while remaining faithful to the distinctive sound Pond and company established back in 1998.
"We tried to push it electronically with this new one, with more pulsing, gyrating sort of rhythms and building up from that," Hansen says about the direction of Gold. "Matt's always gonna write songs the way he's gonna write songs, but we are trying to push around the edges of that any way we can. But I guess it always does sound like us. Some people are always trying to reinvent themselves, but someone like Matt is going to write about what he wants to write about. His songs can be oblique, but knowing him as well as I know him, everything he's singing about is a true story. He can't make up a fake emotional backstory to a song. Every song is about something in his life. These songs are essentially the story of his life, which attests to the familiarity of the sound."
Pond initially met Hansen when Matt Pond PA were recording their 2007 LP Last Light at Bearsville Studio, where Hansen had been working as an in-house studio guitarist and engineering assistant. He's played on albums by such legends as Steely Dan, Branford Marsalis, Cheap Trick, and Phish, to name a small selection. The timing couldn't have been more perfect, according to Hansen, as he joined the band just as the facilitating squeeze of the digital world was putting full-time studio musicians like him out of work.
"In the middle of the last decade, the recording studio world kind of imploded," he explains. "People weren't buying records, and then there were new, inexpensive ways to make records. When I started working at Bearsville in 2000, we had a staff of 25, three studios, and the rate was $3,000 a day. And that was just for the room. By the time we closed the studio in late 2006—the Matt Pond album was the last one we did in the studio—I was the only person working there and the studio was like 400 bucks a day."
Turns out this BSP show coming up in November will be Matt Pond PA's penultimate concert—Hansen explains that the following night at Webster Hall in Manhattan will be the group's last gig indefinitely—as he and Pond, who recently moved to Kingston himself and is in the exploratory stages of opening a bar in one of the town's burgeoning neighborhoods, plan to focus their concentration on producing other artists from the mobile studio setup they've staged in houses and cabins from St. Augustine, Florida, to Calais, Maine, and is compact enough to fit in a Toyota Corolla.
"We're gonna keep recording and stuff," Hansen assures. "But we're a little burnt on the grind and cycle of recording an album and touring. I haven't had a day off in two years, almost. It's one of those things where you feel like a jerk complaining about it, but it would be nice to see my wife for more than a day or two."
Matt Pond PA plays BSP Kingston on November 20. Laura Stevenson opens. (845) 481-5158; Bspkingston.com.