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Tuesday, 08 May 2012 13:42

'Put on your boogie shoes' An interview with Tim DeLaughter of the Polyphonic Spree

'Put on your boogie shoes' An interview with Tim DeLaughter of the Polyphonic Spree
Written by Rob Levy
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There is nothing conventional about the Polyphonic Spree. Sonically they throw down with as many as 22 members simultaneously jamming, dancing and prancing about while creating layered grooves that are part gospel choir, part indie rock show and part cultish love-fest.

What appears initially to be completely chaotic is actually a well-organized machine that brings together a diverse blend of musical elements, including a choir and dense instrumentation. Since their inception, the Spree has carved a niche for themselves by bringing their musical carousel of mayhem and insanity to smaller and intimate venues.

Tim DeLaughter, who formed the band in 2000 from the ashes of his previous band Tripping Daisy embraces the chaos. Besides being a working and touring musician, DeLaughter runs his own and record store, Good Records, in Dallas.

Although they are in the midst of a spring tour, the Polyphonic Spree is not promoting a new album in the traditional sense. Instead they are again eschewing convention by releasing new songs as a series of singles first before going the traditional route of releasing a proper full album. This current tour, their first in four years, incorporates this new material into their set list.

In addition to making three albums they also have judicially placed their songs in various televisions shows and movies to maximize exposure. They have just released a new single called "What Would You Do?" and a new album is promised down the road.

I caught up with DeLaughter by email, and he shared his thoughts on the band, its live shows, a possible new record and creative process.

Rob Levy: How did the band come about?

Tim DeLaughter: I called some friends and family over. I had been writing on the piano because I was bored with guitar. We were storing the piano for a friend. I wanted a symphonic approach, and after a few improv sessions in my living room we played a 30 minute set.

How has this tour been going?

Really great. This is phase three. Tours have progressed naturally, getting better and better each show.

How do the songs on your records transfer over to a live show?

There is definitely a certain excitement and tone when playing live that can be difficult to capture in the studio. We build in many segues and space within our live set when possible. [They are] two different animals.

You are doing a Halloween show in the UK with all the songs from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." How did that come about?

We have been wanting to change it up a bit and do different things. Our agent in the UK came up with the idea. So we said yes.

What is the music scene like in Dallas right now?

There is always plenty going on. Something new, something different, eclectic.

It has been four years since the last tour. How has the band changed in that time?

We actually toured Australia a couple of years ago and have played several one off shows so it's been a gradual evolution which is different than just being off for four years. If anything I believe we are more precise and have reached a place of full satisfaction delivery with our music live and with more purpose. Recording wise we are really exploring.

Are there really 21 people on stage at once? How does that work for smaller venues?

Yes, but we fluctuate from time to time. The truth is we had 28 people for a long time. The average though is around 22. We just let it flow. It works. Everyone is very tuned in so the challenges for us can usually be handled with some ease. Smaller venues are fine. We enjoy them. They give us more reason to be creative with the space. Small stages or venues have never been in our way.

What experiences with Tripping Daisy did you learn from and take with you to this band?

Vision, perseverance, push through and enjoy. It's not an easy task. (There are) many levels, but I have help. It is not just me.

What is your process for making songs?

It's all over the place. I used to only write and create melodies, sometimes improvising lyrics… Other times I write the lyrics right then and then create the rest. Melody is important to me, but these days I'm writing off of beats. Sometimes I play bass to create or I play the drums. It just depends.

Is there a new album in the works?

Yes, going back in right after the tour to continue.

What is next for you and the band?

In August we are recording a Christmas album. We are going to Uganda in September on a special project. Then the UK for Halloween with a regional tour in England. For Christmas in December we'll be taking our Holiday Extravaganza on the road for the first time. It's our 11th year, but we've always done it locally in Dallas. It's a busy time for the Spree.

Citizens, put on your boogie shoes, grab your white robes and prepare to testify. The Polyphonic Spree is coming to St. Louis.

The Polyphonic Spree bring their You+Me Tour - Phase Three to the Duck Room on Friday, May 11.

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