The Polyphonic Spree – Interview [2004]

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The Polyphonic Spree

With The Polyphonic Spree, simple things have a way of turning grand. Take the happenstance that was the piano on which frontman Tim DeLaughter composed the backbone of the group’s new disc, Together We’re Heavy. “A friend of ours was living in New York, and didn’t have a place for a piano she left back in Dallas,” says Julie Doyle, DeLaughter’s partner in the Spree and in life, “so she asked ‘do you guys want it?’

This is your second time around and our first with bassist Mark Pirro and his second at making it big.

The first time you got signed as a member of Tripping Daisy with Tim [DeLaughter] l it must have been like winning the lottery but the second time around you have to believe there is a reason this is happening–more than luck and is destiny.

There are a lot of committed and talented people involved and that’s what is helped.

I got a kick out of reading the forums on the site and there is this mystery about the band.

It’s important for any bands success—you can’t give it all away.

Do you think that has disappeared in music?

I think you are right. Music has become homogenized. But outside of the mainstream there are a lot of bands that have that mystic and are original and talent. There are bands that are different but you have to find them.

You probably get a ton of questions about whether the band is a cult or something—it’s all over the bands forum.

That is the most asked thing. That is due to the…

Robes.

…yeah. But that is barely scratching the surface of the band—but you still don’t know if we are a cult or not. (Laughs)

It depends on how you define a cult.

The technical definition is malicious or having a hidden agendas but the only agenda this band has is to perform and entertain. (pauses) But maybe not! (Laughs)

Keep us guessing.

Exactly.

From the outside looking in… there are a lot of members and music is still a business.

That is becoming more and more apparent. We’ve had quite a few members that have come and gone. We have to have members who gel personality-wise and are committed. You can have a better vibe with a four piece band, like a family, but with so many members you have to keep it on the business tip. We have been doing this for four years now and have a pretty stable cast of people. Once you solidify that the family closeness can present itself.

Because of the size of the group, without a genre title, is there any genre you can use? Is it a chorus or a show?

The words that usually come up are a choral-symphonic-pop-band. That is true, but there are other elements going on too. We are a rock band. Those players in those positions have a rock ‘n’ roll background. We didn’t pull people out of the stiff and uppity symphonic background. The more classical style instrumentalists even love rock and play rock. There is an air of entertainment with us too. We’d like to turn it into a Broadway style thing.

It reminds me of “Aquarius” and that style from the ‘70s.

You have to see us live to make up your own mind. That is where the real magic happens. The fans make up their own minds and definitions.

Pre-Polyphonic Spree compared to now what is like to play with so many people?

The sound is bigger—the sound is colossal. Personality-wise for me it’s a pleasurable experience. I enjoy most everyone in our band. I don’t see a lot of these people when we aren’t touring and when we do get together it’s like a family reunion. There are factions and clicks in the band so when you tire of one you go and hang with the others.

Going from a four piece to this size, how does the songwriting work?

Make no mistake—this is Tim’s project and vision. He is the songwriter. I feel like we are aiding in that vision. One of the requirements to joining the band was the ability to improvise. We aren’t a jam band, but when you talk about putting parts together Tim isn’t a classical composer. He comes in with an idea. He is a songwriting genius as far as I’m concerned. But he has an idea and it’s our job to make it sound like he sees it.

Has Tim always been into this sunny-style of pop—even when it has a darker side?

It’s something that he has always been attracted to since he discovered music as a kid. There is a vision here and a sound he is looking to create. It goes back to Motown and the Beach Boys. It’s the way that it is presented that makes it different.

The band almost reminds me of a play or an opera.

That would be a fair way to parallel us.

The word that comes to mind is “majestic.”

I like that word.

The climaxing. That is what I enjoy about the records. Most bands do the verse-chorus-verse and there is no real building.

And it is hard to get out of that style of songwriting, but fortunately this band has so many instruments and things to play around with that we can create a more dynamic thing.

What does the future hold for the Polyphonic Spree?

We want to get it to the point where it’s almost like a musical where we plop down in a city for a week or two and perform everything. Maybe we get to a point where there is more than one Polyphonic Spree performing in different cities like one would be in Chicago, Detroit, New York, L.A., Tokyo. It’d be like a Blue Man Group sort of thing. It just becomes a part of pop culture entertainment.

Would you be like “I’m still the best…and original”…

(Laughs) You know all the senior members in the cast would be the music directors where we screen and audition new members. You know what would be interesting would be to have these high profile players or characters who are the Polyphonic Spree for a year. Like actors who do Shakespeare.

Maybe Donny Osmond as Tim.

(Laughs) That would be fun.

+ Charlie Craine

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