IT TURNS OUT my preconceived notions of Pontiak—for better or worse—were completely off. Here's what I did know: Pontiak makes some serious, black-light-inspired rock and roll. They hole themselves up in a studio buried in the mountains west of Washington, DC. And there's the band's guilty-by-association ties to the otherworldly Thrill Jockey label.
I thought (I hoped) these three Virginia-raised brothers were some weirdo musical hermits with a laundry list of unsavory vices. Turns out they're the complete opposite. In fact, you may not find a louder, more ferocious band with such Zen-like members (they have an album titled Kale, for chrissakes).
Mad scientists might be a more accurate description of the members of Pontiak—guitarist/vocalist Van Carney, bassist Jennings Carney, and drummer Lain Carney. The band's latest, Echo Ono, is probably their most accessible, although that's not to say it's a watered-down version of what came before.
"The early stuff was more improv, and sort of giving in to the process," explains Van. "It's a weird brain space, always going for the unexpected."
He says this time around the band wanted to form a cohesive album rather than make boundless noise. And you can feel the record's natural progression throughout. Opener "Lions of Least" begins with guitar from Lemmy's book of riffs, while "Left with Lights" builds slowly before the chorus leaps from the cliff. Only the mid-section offers a slight reprieve before "Panoptica" signals the end of the album (and, quite possibly, the end of the world).
Growing up in the sticks in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, the brothers were raised on country music, and it's amazing to discover that Van knows only one Black Sabbath song off the top of his head. It sounds as if they're still giving in to the process.
"We like to build a sonic portrait," Van says, adding that Pontiak is more a product of non-musical influences, like travel and their not-so-secret foodie ways. "It comes from nowhere, except for the fact that everything influences us."
Perhaps the brothers Carney are odd birds after all.