Into the Light

Texas' Polyphonic Spree put the 'fun' back in fundamental.

Sex, Drugs, And rock 'n' roll? None for the Polyphonic Spree, thanksunless the sex you're talking is the kind that makes babies (at one point, three group members were pregnant), the drug is Prozac, and the rock is Of Ages. So how did the self-described "choral symphonic pop band" from Dallaswith its white stage robes, sweeping harmonies, and songs about double-decker buses and "the wonder"come to be sharing bills with the likes of ber-hipsters Interpol and the Thrills? It might just be because NME, among others in the British music press, recently anointed them the best thing since figgy pudding. Or maybe it's the fact that their buoyant Flaming-Lips-meets-Jesus-Christ-Superstar lyricism and achingly sincere demeanor provides a much-needed palate cleansera sweet spiritual sorbet amid the groaning buffet table of irony-laced retro rock. Either way, the group's 37-year-old leader, Tim DeLaughter, is having a great time. The former Tripping Daisy frontman and father of three now heads up his own Texas militia, in which the only weapons are 10-part harmonies and the daily rations are as many sunbeams as one person can catch on their tongue. Seattle Weekly: So, with two dozen members, how many people could call in sick before you'd call off a performance? Tim DeLaughter: Well, actually, it'd be one, cuz we've never done a show without everybody. We've been a band for almost three years, and I haven't called off a show yet. How did you know when you finally had enough people? Was there some critical-mass number? When I got the classical harp player, he was kind of the last one I was really struggling to findit was difficult to find a harp player who can improvise thoroughly and be really awesome at what he's doing. And once I got that, sonically we were complete. It really came down to the instrumentationonce I had what I was looking for, it was done. There's a method to the madness. Are all members created equal? Or are there maybe levels of commitment? In order for us to all rehearse at least one time, we have to rehearse over three days, because some days certain people can't make it. I don't even notice the size anymore, though. There are a lot of people who kind of help this thing function, and I think the size actually helps it operate because everyone feels the weight of it. No one wants to be that person that causes it to fall behind. No one wants to be the person standing there with 23 other people staring back at them going, "Why weren't you there!?" The only thing that's difficult is that it's quite expensive to operate the groupthat's the biggest challenge. So what do your kids think of the band? Do you think the Spree qualify as family entertainment? Most definitely. They're some of the biggest fans of our music. My kids go on tour with us, and my son's a drummer. He's 3 years old, and when we were in the U.K., and we did the NME tour with the Datsuns and Interpol, my son did sound check every day with Sam, the drummer of Interpol. How do you feel about having some Christian fans? It doesn't bother me. I'm all about everybody coming aboard, as long as they can appreciate the music and they want to be embraced by the spirit of the Polyphonic Spree. I think the Spree is definitely one of the most spirited bands happening right now. Spirited and being religious are kinda two different things, in my opinion, and I think it can be religious at timesbut that's not saying that we are a religious band, that we all adopt the same thing, because we come from 24 completely different backgrounds, and as far as religion goes, we're all over the map. We're the melting pot of America, so to speak. How is it to be so embraced by the European press? Oh my god, it was fantastic. They were basically responsible for pulling us out of Texas. We had never played outside of Texas before we went to play David Bowie's Meltdown Festival in London, and a lot of people in the group had actually never been outside the state, a lot of them had never flown beforeit was a really big deal. And that whole stir over there has created a lot of wonderful opportunities for touring all over the world this year, doing tons of festivals, because of how the British have latched on to the Polyphonic Spree. So I owe them a lot, man. What do you think your old [Tripping Daisy] bandmate Wes Berggren, [who died of an overdose in 1999] would think of the Spree? I think he loves it! I think that he's probably one of the reasons this thing is going so smoothly and well. I think about Wes every day. There's so many times in my life when he kind of pops in, you know. I mean, something happened just today where . . . [sighs] I don't know. But yeah, I think he loves it. That's awesome. Thanks for talking with us. No, thank you for supporting us.

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