Whether you felt the buzz of their first attention-grabbing performance at the 2002 South by Southwest music conference, read any of the praise the press has heaped on them or have seen a Volkswagen commercial lately, chances are you’ve heard from the Polyphonic Spree in one way or
The 29-member, robe-wearing musical collective (robes because street clothes are too distracting) surfaced in nearly every medium with its debut album, The Beginning Stages Of …, except the one most usually associated with music: radio. Apparently, transcendental psychedelic choir rock doesn’t fit any commercial radio format
TV commercials, however, are something else altogether. Of the often-aired Volkswagen/ iPod TV spots in which the band’s music appears, bandleader Tim DeLaughter said, “We thought it would be some little commercial that would appear every now and then, and not a big deal. Then, all of
a sudden, I’m getting calls from friends and family all over the country. What’s strange is that it happened when radio is in such a weird time. It’s almost cooler to be on TV than on the radio.”
It’s hard to imagine “Light & Day/ Reach for the Sun” or any of the 14 tracks on The Beginning Stages Of … achieving radio success. Which may explain why the troupe hopes to nurture its growing fanbase with an appearance on the NBC sitcom “Scrubs.”
Among those most surprised by the album’s success is DeLaughter himself, who released it independently in 2002 after recording it in 36 hours as a demo, because that’s all the former Tripping Daisy frontman could afford (see “Polyphonic Spree: From Voices In a Singer’s Head To
Voices On The Stage” ).
“To be honest, I never expected a demo to go this far,” he said, “or even to be a record. I never expected to tour all over the world with this band. It just happened. I’ve grown accustomed to being surprised and extremely grateful for what this band does.
“I just wonder when it’s all going to end. When are they gonna go, ’That’s enough of the Polyphonic Spree!’ ”
Let’s hope not before March 29, when the Polyphonic Spree, whose lineup exceeds that of a Major League baseball team (excluding September call-ups), hits the road for a month to open for David Bowie.
Until then, DeLaughter and the gang, who surprisingly retain about 90 percent of their original touring troupe, will put the finishing touches on their second album, appropriately titled Together We’re Heavy, which is expected to drop later this year depending on whether or not its predecessor’s momentum flags.
Fans who’ve seen the band perform, quite a sight to behold, may recognize at least one song, “Two Thousand Places,” on the new LP, which is also expected to include the tunes “Diamonds,” “When the Fool Becomes a King” and “This Day This Time.”
Compared with the three days DeLaughter spent in the studio on the Spree’s debut, the seven weeks it’s taken to nearly complete Together We’re Heavy have felt like an eternity, and hardly a blissful one at that. While not much was riding on The Beginning Stages Of …, DeLaughter feels immense pressure for its follow-up to exceed the former’s success.
“I’m used to mixing experimental rock and pop records,” he said, referring to his four-album tenure with Tripping Daisy. “So I’m in awe of what it takes to make this record happen. It’s extremely taxing, both mentally and physically.”
Before he finished rattling off the multitude of tracks that comprise a single song (touching upon frequencies and modulation along the way), he cut himself off and spared the technical details. Instead, he uttered a proverb befitting a man in a robe with 28 disciples in tow.
“The pain of toil bringeth gain,” he asserted. “The results will be amazing.”
Polyphonic Spree tour dates, with David Bowie, according to management:
- 3/29 – Philadelphia, PA @ Wachovia Center
- 3/30 – Boston, MA @ FleetCenter
- 4/1 – Toronto, ON @ Air Canada Centre
- 4/2 – Ottawa, ON @ Corel Centre
- 4/4 – Quebec City, QC @ Colisee Pepsi
- 4/7 – Winnipeg, MB @ Winnipeg Arena
- 4/9 – Edmonton, AB @ Rexall Place
- 4/11 – Kelowna, BC @ Skyreach Place
- 4/13 – Portland, OR @ Rose Garden Arena
- 4/14 – Seattle, WA @ KeyArena at Seattle Center
- 4/16 – Berkeley, CA @ Berkeley Comm. Theatre
- 4/25 – Loveland, CO @ Budweiser Events Center
- 4/27 – Austin, TX @ The Backyard
- 4/29 – The Woodlands, TX @ C.W. Mitchell Pavilion
- 4/30 – New Orleans, LA @ Saenger Theatre