The Polyphonic Spree
The Polyphonic Spree
Polyphonic Spree founder and frontman Tim DeLaughter remembers exactly how and when his love for music sprouted its roots. "I think it started when I was a little kid. I had my first band in third grade, and I've always been drawn to sunny pop music," DeLaughter told Rolling Stone magazine in 2002. As a child DeLaughter grew up listening to the sunny pop music of groups like the 5th Dimension and the Association. "I'm thirty-six years old now, I spent twelve years in a pop band and I'm at a point in my life where I thought I could do my 'be careful what you wish for band,'" added DeLaughter, who had played with the Dallas-based rock group Tripping Daisy since 1991. DeLaughter and the remaining Tripping Daisy members (bassist Mark Pirro and drummer Mitch Marine) joined forces to form the Polyphonic Spree, adding a rotating cast of more than 20 additional members. The happy-go-lucky Dallas, Texas-based symphonic, gospel-like pop group was officially formed in 1999, after Tripping Daisy disbanded following guitarist Wes Berggren's death due to a drug overdose.
DeLaughter experienced a bout of depression following Berggren's death, but with the encouragement of his wife, Julie Doyle-DeLaughter, he soon began to develop the makings of what would become the Polyphonic Spree. With Doyle's support, DeLaughter refined the project. Soon after, DeLaughter's manager booked him a slot in Dallas as the opening act for the groups Bright Eyes and Grandaddy. Two weeks later the Polyphonic Spree had grown to 23 members, with Doyle serving as the group's manager and singing in the choir.
Delaughter told CNN.com that the group, which performs what is typically described as "feel-good" music, "is a big, celebratory, spirit festival." Members of the Spree include a percussionist, bassist, guitarist, flautist, trumpeter, two keyboardists, violinist, French horn player, Theremin player, and an "electronic effects wizard," not to mention the vocal ensemble, which has more than 20 members. The singers originally performed wearing the group's signature floor-length, flowing white robes. DeLaughter has often had to field inquiries about the group's possible true identity as a cult, a claim which he playfully denies. Still, the group's positive music and joyous performances have a mesmerizing and often eerily powerful effect on audiences. The idea for the group's matching robes (which were initially made by DeLaughter's mother-in-law) came from DeLaughter's desire to visually unify the group. As time went on, the color of the robes changed from white to bright, eye-catching colors, to demonstrate the group's vividness. Robes adorned with the Polyphonic Spree logo are often sold at shows.
DeLaughter, who currently holds the title of musical director for the group, had not originally planned on joining the Polyphonic Spree's musical line-up. But after he began orchestrating what he wanted from the group, he couldn't resist joining. "It's not like four people conjuring up energy and feeding off each other. It's 24 people doing it," DeLaughter told CNN.com in May of 2003. He added, "Twenty-four Texans in robes is pretty interesting." The Spree's clan became a traveling musical caravan, requiring more than a dozen vans to carry all of the members to each performance. "The main objective at the beginning was to create a sound that I've been wanting to hear for quite some time. My last band, I was thinking of it back then—'One day I'll attempt this. I've got plenty of time. It will work out.' And there was a space that gave me an opportunity to put it together. It was mainly a selfish and self-indulgent need to hear a sound that wasn't really going on at the time," DeLaughter told CNN.com.
DeLaughter and the Spree released the demo The Beginning Stages of... The Polyphonic Spree in 2000, which they handed out at a holiday concert. The album was recorded and mixed in just three days. To their surprise, the demo sold over 100,000 copies and was subsequently picked up by the Dallas-based label Good Records, who distributed it in 2002. The Polyphonic Spree made their debut in 2002 at the SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas, where they emerged as one of the festival's biggest buzz bands.
In 2003 the band played the Reading Festival, and numerous TV appearances followed, including the NBC comedy Scrubs, Jay Leno's Tonight Show, and Late Night with David Letterman, as well as a stint as performers on MTV's Video Music Awards in 2004. That same year the group toured with David Bowie, who in turn invited the Spree to write a song with him. Two of their singles were picked up for television spots: "Follow the Day" was featured in a Volkswagen commercial and "Light and Day" was featured in an iPod commercial. "Follow the Day" was also included on the soundtrack for the box office hit film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet. In 2004 the group released the album, Together We're Heavy. "It's a broader record," DeLaughter told Rolling Stone. "The whole thing reminds me of Technicolor." Three songs on the album were over eight minutes long, and the majority of the album was composed using a grand piano that DeLaughter was given by a friend, and which became the main inspiration behind the compositions on the record.
For the Record …
Members include Tim DeLaughter (born on November 18, 1965, in Dallas, TX; married Julie Doyle; children: Stella, Oscar, Julius), founder; Mark Pirro , bass; Mitch Marine , drums.
DeLaughter formed rock band Tripping Daisy, 1991, serving as front man, guitarist; formed pop ensemble Polyphonic Spree, 1999; Polyphonic Spree released The Beginning Stages of... The Polyphonic Spree, 2003; released Together We're Heavy, 2004.
Awards: NME, Award for Innovation, 2003.
Addresses: Record company—Hollywood Records/Good Records, 500 S. Buena Vista St., Burbank, CA 91521, website: http://hollywoodrecords.go.com. Website—The Polyphonic Spree Official Website: http://www.thepolyphonicspree.com/.
Prior to the release of a new album, the group released their first DVD, which featured previously unseen band footage, live clips, and videos. For DeLaughter it seemed his musical ambitions had finally come full circle. "The Polyphonic Spree's music fulfills everything that I need: It's very sunny, it's positive, there's a lot of melody all over it and the texture of the different instruments is layered," DeLaughter declared to Rolling Stone. DeLaughter has been contracted to score the upcoming independent film Thumbsucker, directed by Mike Mills. The Spree occasionally welcomes "honorary members" on stage with them at performances; recent guests have included Jarvis Cocker of the band Pulp. The group recently recorded the title track for an album inspired by the musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, called Wig In A Box.
The Beginning Stages of... The Polyphonic Spree, Good Records, 2003.
Together We're Heavy, Hollywood, 2004.
Entertainment Weekly, August 16, 2002; July 16, 2004. Interview, July 1, 2004.
"Embracing the Spirit of The Polyphonic Spree," CNN.com, http://www.cnn.com (September 1, 2004).
"The Polyphonic Spree," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (September 1, 2004).
"The Polyphonic Spree," CNN.com, http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1484933/02102004/polyphonic_spree.html (September 1, 2004).
"The Polyphonic Spree Get Happy," RollingStone.com,http://www.rollingstone.com/ (September 1, 2004).
"Polyphonic Spree In Color," CNN.com, http://www.cnn.com/
(September 1, 2004). Polyphonic Spree Official Website, http://www.thepolyphonicspree.com/main.html (September 1, 2004).
"Tripping Daisy," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (September 1, 2004).
—Kerry L. Smith
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