INTERVIEW: The Polyphonic Spree | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Celebrating fifteen years of service as one of music’s most original creations, choral symphonic rock outfit The Polyphonic Spree play Newcastle’s O2 Academy on Saturday 12th September. Since their inception by front man Tim Delaughter there have been line-up changes (as you’d expect with a band that is currently 21 members strong) and genre-bending aplenty, with their sound running the gamut from pop to classical, with a healthy smattering of other genres in between, but Delaughter admits that fifteen years ago even he was sceptical about the brightness of the band’s future simply because of its innovative concept.

“I wasn’t even dreaming of anything like where I’m at right now. At the time that first record was created simply to explain the concept of the band to people who couldn’t wrap their head around it or didn’t like the idea of having that many people on stage, it seemed like a nightmare to them. They couldn’t see the beauty of the music that could happen in the room that night, which was really frustrating, so the record was a necessity just for us to try and get shows. Looking back at it all now, I’m just completely floored. The fact that we’re still doing it today is amazing.”

As the band’s front man Delaughter is almost now a recognisable figurehead for the Spree, but in the band’s infancy this was far from his intentions. “Originally it was intended as an experiment, to see how I could make it happen just for me. It was really a very self-indulgent idea and initially I wasn’t even going to be in the band. I just wanted them to perform the songs I had written, so that I could experience it for myself, but it didn’t quite work out and in the end I realised that the only way for me to express these songs the way I wanted to was for me to be a part of it.”

Despite The Polyphonic Spree requiring frequent line-up changes – with ex-members including such musical luminaries as Annie Clark, aka St Vincent – Delaughter revealed that this didn’t change the writing process. “The writing process never really changed, it was always just me writing about what I wanted to write about. The band was always – in my eyes – capable of doing anything musically, they could go in any direction. I was happy to have anybody to play the role and to play the show and that mentality gave me the realisation that I was able to have people come and leave their own stamp, which made all the records completely original in themselves.”

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“I’d like people to see us and think that anything’s possible musically”

Given the band’s uniform-like flowing robes and sheer size, the less open-minded press outlets had a difficult time getting their head around the concept. “Some people got the concept, but others didn’t and I remember a time when a lot of people thought we were like a cult, which was initially funny but then they sensationalised it and it became easy journalism for people trying to get a laugh. That was annoying because it stuck with us and it bugged us out at the shows and put us off the music.”

As you might expect with such a monstrous endeavour, making money and being able to tour the world, has provided its own difficulties. “The toughest thing about this band is always financing it and that’s always a huge issue, just keeping it going. There’s an obvious reality that it’s easier to fund a four piece band than a 21-piece band. That’s a reality that we can’t get away from. But we got used to that really quickly and there’s never been a point where I thought that I couldn’t do this anymore. We’ve made a lot of compromises in order to make it happen, I’ve put second mortgages on my house twice. But we’ve been doing that so long now, it’s just part of doing business as a band.”

While the musical landscape around The Polyphonic Spree has changed significantly in the last 15 years, the band’s approach to making music remains deceptively simple; Delaughter’s proud of their effect on modern music and on the musicians of tomorrow. “I guess I’d like people to see us and think that anything’s possible musically. I’ve watched a lot of kids come into this band and it made me notice the significance of a band like The Polyphonic Spree, a band that’s not just guitar, bass and drums. There are a lot of kids out there who play an enormous amount of instruments. They all like bands, they love rock bands, they go to shows and would love to be a part of something like that, but their instruments just aren’t showcased in typical rock bands. I would see these people coming to our shows when we first started performing and I would see the enthusiasm coming from them and it was as if they’d been doing air French horn, air trombone or air violin in their bedrooms and wanted to rock out, but there was no medium for them to do that. Now the landscape has changed and it’s common to see up to 15 people in a band and I don’t want to say whether or not we pioneered that, but who knows?”

The Polyphonic Spree will be performing their debut album The Beginnings Of in its entirety at Newcastle’s O2 Academy on Saturday 12th September.

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