The Polyphonic Spree
When Tim DeLaughter, Mark Pirro and Brian Wakeland decided to fold the band Tripping Daisy after guitarist and friend Wes Berggren died in 1999 few would have predicted anything other than a few nostalgic gigs for friends and family – indeed DeLaughter temporarily gave up music to run a record shop in Dallas. But such was the pull of making music that within a year they were back beavering away attempting to create a modern symphonic rock band (inspired by outfits like the Electric Light Orchestra). It wasn't all plain sailing though, you don’t just forget old friends, starting again was always going to be hard as DeLaughter tells TM-O's Andy Basire.
"Uh, yeah (in fact) we weren't really sure if we were starting anything, we just fell into it unassumingly. However, there's no mistake... Wes took his life and forced us to think beyond the average. That's the kind of guy he was"
There’s an imporatant early link between you and Grandaddy can you explain that for us?
"Basically I had been thinking about a 'sound', an 'idea' of what to do after Tripping Daisy and my friend Chris Penn booked a 30 minute spot opening for Grandaddy. I had to put something together fast. So I created about 30 minutes of music and asked some people to help me perform it. Julie (Doyle wife, production partner and Spree member) made some calls to friends and around 13 people came to our living room and began to learn parts. The rest is history. Grandaddy was a great supporter which was much needed for my mental state at the time."
The album is very ‘up’, in direct contrast to the evil things that surround us nowadays (war, terrorism, Simon Cowell etc.), is this a deliberate attempt to take peoples minds off the bad stuff?
"No. It's all for us. It helps us sustain in these times as well. We feel there's a nice balance in our album... we capture a variety of emotion. While it's 'up' it's also thought provoking, we feel. But of course, you must visit us in a live setting to fully understand our sonic recordings"
After the white and multi-coloured robes the new para-military look is a bit of a change, firstly why the new, tougher, look and secondly, why still use uniforms at all?
"Polyphonic will always wear uniforms. it's always been about unifying the group, never about the robes or ONE particular piece of garment. But always about making a clear presentation, focused. The new look? Doesn't it seem appropriate? We've always been tough. Nothing new. You try getting 30 something people around to play music and perform whilst living on a bus with so many limitations"
It is notoriously expensive touring with a large group of people, how do you make it pay?
"That's our business, but somehow it works. Yes it's tough but we're having a good time. We believe we have something to say, and we do. That's what matters most. We have lives to change."
What are the difficulties specific to writing, arranging and recording music for such a large group of people and is everyone encouraged to mix it up and offer their own input?
"It's not too difficult. Julie and I are pretty clear on songwriting and what we want, the fun is definitely when the other players bring their parts to life! Mixing? Hhmm.. We're getting better."
Symphonic rock has historically not been a very successful art form, how do you guys make it work?
"It's simple, we just do it. We surround ourselves with talented people who have taste and common sense. But most importantly, passion. There's absolutely no reason these worlds can't work together in a successful fashion."
You provoke extreme reactions - Entertainment Weekly seem to have taken particular exception to you guys – why’s that do you think?
"You tell us. Who knows. Come on, we are original. Anything truly original is going to force people to think outside the box. We are prepared for it. We're not interested in anything that doesn't push the envelope. With all the new technology and fast paced lifestyle consuming us all, who has time to be boring or sub par?"
The Fragile Army is out on Gut Records on 27th August and is preceded by the single 'Running Away' which is out now. More details can be found at www.thepolyphonicspree.com