The Polyphonic Spree
The Polyphonic Spree is free! Now officially let off the major label leash, this live institution is once again gracing our shores to spread chaotic merriment.
Having witnessed the band at the height of their powers at Glastonbury in 2003 and also crammed onto the tiny stage at Byron’s Great Northern Hotel, it is with much anticipation that I receive a call direct from Dallas, Texas from the P.T Barnum of symphonic rock, Tim DeLaughter. I take this opportunity to quiz him on the upcoming SoCoCarnivale Tour, but pretty soon we’re down to the brass tax of weather control and hanging with the Thin White Duke.
“I think it’s gonna be a goulash of spirit,” DeLaughter says of the upcoming shows. “We’re not really sure what we’re gonna be giving you, as we’ve all been on a musical exploration process in recent times – but the spirit will be there. It has always been there. We’re kind of like that Toni Collette show [ The United States of Tara ]; I’m never really sure what you’re gonna get.
“There’ll be 18 of us,” he elaborates. “Even though unfortunately Toby [the crazy Theremin player] can’t be here this time, there are plenty of other crazies in the group that’ll do just fine. I’m borderline part of that group myself. I can assure you it’ll be a blast.”
Long compared to a musical cult – due to their numbers and the uniform of white robes that later became military outfits – it seems we are in for another costume change-up from the collective (who give The Hives a run for their money in the sartorial stakes). “We’re in the process of figuring out what we’re gonna look like at the moment. I’m not 100% sure about the aesthetics just yet but we’ll be giving you guys a fantastic show; it’ll be a good one.”
Having seen the group’s debut album The Beginning Stages Of... appear in a few – “Best Of The Decade’ lists, I enquire if Tim was surprised at the extent to which the album resonated.
“I wasn’t surprised that it did,” the man muses. “I had faith in the record and everything, but if you’d told me that the name – “The Polyphonic Spree’ would ten years later become an adjective for a specific sound, I’d have never in a million years thought that would happen. I’m just flattered that we were able to contribute. You know...if you’re not making a contribution then you have no business doing this. That makes me feel good.”
And how about the role one Mr David Bowie played in bringing early attention to the group? “The deal with Bowie – that came out of nowhere. We played SXSW and he got a hold of the record and invited us to the UK to play at the Meltdown Festival he was curating. Max from Meltdown had a lot to do with it as well too. Then we went on tour in North America with Bowie for a month, and that was amazing. I love that guy – I love him as a fan, I love him as a friend and I love him as a supporter of our group.”
All rock royalty worship aside, the Spree has ascended to a cult status due to their unbelievable live performances over the last decade – the last in this country being a euphoric highlight of Splendour in the Grass 2008. I ask Tim what some of his favourite magical happenings of shows gone-by are.
“Well we were playing in Ireland at the Witness Festival and it had been cloudy and rainy all day, miserable for everyone out there,” he recalls. “When we came out the clouds parted and the sun shone down on the crowd, then when we finished the clouds came back and there was no more sun for the rest of the day.
“Something similar also happened in Central Park in New York. It was real cloudy like in Ireland and we got out there and I said into the mic: – “You know what? We’re gonna bring the sun out today. It’s gonna happen, I’ve got this crazy-ass feeling’, and then all of a sudden, the clouds parted and people went nuts. I’m not saying I have this connection with the weather or Mother Nature you know [laughs], but that was pretty special.”
And so with the conference call lady politely informing us of one minute remaining, I take the opportunity to see where the band is at with new recordings. It’s a question DeLaughter answers in typically contemplative yet tangential style.
“I have no idea. I have two albums written right now and don’t know what the hell I’m gonna do yet. Three different projects...in kind of a musical conundrum, so to speak. It has been great to not have the pressures of the label beating us for another record.”
Come February, we’ll be getting the group in an amazing head-space, free from the shackles of the corporate beast and ready to party. And that enthusiasm is most evident in Mr DeLaughter’s parting words.
“You guys have always been very supportive, it’s so difficult to get over there and you always make it happen. We really appreciate it. For some reason you guys really – “get’ our group, which is so flattering. I wish you were all over here all the time!”
The Polyphonic Spree head up the SoCo Carnivale Parade at the following venues in February.
Friday 19 February – Brisbane Powerhouse, Brisbane
Saturday 20 February – Playground Weekender, Sydney
Wednesday 24 February – Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide
Friday 26 February – Fremantle Arts Centre, Fremantle
Saturday 27 February – The Forum Theatre, Melbourne