We’ve seen the future. There’s 24 of them. And they wear white robes. So are THE POLYPHONIC SPREE for real? Words: Doug Johnstone
umours circle around the
Polyphonic Spree like mUSIC
industry vultures around the rotting carcass of an indie-rock phenomenon gazelle. Erin. or something. They're a cult. right? Just check out those born again robes. the preponderance of hippy hair and that exultant. epiphanic look in their eyes.
Or maybe they're some kind of joke: a prank at the expense of miserable. pasty-faced Badlohead fans everywhere. Surely they’re just too damn happy to be a proper band?
Or maybe they're 7ft tall. shape- shifting. alien li/ard people. come to take over our planet? OK. that last one was David Icke talking ab0ut the royal family. but there is definitely something unnerving about the Polyphonic Spree. from the tops of their sun-soaked halos
to the bottom of their funky God-gowns.
The Dallas-bach collective. Currently numbering 24 disciples among its ranks. is unique. In a music world fit to bursting point with whining. faux- angsty kids. the Spree are a celebration of life. love and havrng a good time. Except — and this is the crucial bit — for some reason they're not even corny.
And as cult. erm. I mean band. leader Tim DeLaughter (y0u gotta love the name) explains. it was all easy as pie to put together. 'i've l‘)een hearing this sound for years in my head and I wanted to if I cOuld pull it off and make it happen.‘ he says in a charming Texan drawl down the phone from his heavily-fortified Cult-compound headquarters. Probably. ‘So I started calling friends and family members and asking them to help me out. I had the songs written and brought them in and we just started collaborating — the only
j_)r(-2requisne was that everybody had to be able to imprOVIse. I put this band together in three weeks.’
And after an initial gig with a meagre 13-strong line-up. things just grew and grew. 'Everybody started approaching the band saying: "Hey. I play this." or "Do you need that?" and l was like: "Yeah. of course." And so it just formed guite naturally.‘
Amazingly. until a trip to Britain earlier this year. the Spree hadn't even performed outside of Texas, let alone abroad. On their arrival to these shores. DeLaughter and his legIOn were somewhat taken aback by the amount of fervour that accompanied their UK shows. 'We were used to playing in front of the same crowds around Dallas.‘ he says. 'but then once it got over there it really busted wide open. and it was really quite a shock.‘
Anyone who saw their euphoric gig at the Queen's Hall in Edinburgh a few months back will testify to what an awesome prospect the Spree are live. With a vibe a bit like an early Manchester rave crossed with a mid- BOs love-in. DeLaughter orchestrates his band through a SOund that‘s part Flaming Lips. part Beach Boys, part gospel choir, part Phil Spector but ultimately all-embracing psychedelic poppy-rock mUSIC.
With the band's debut album being called The Beginning Stages of. . ., it's clear DeLaughter has a long-term plan for future world domination. but it‘s probably not what you might expect. ‘I definitely wanna keep spreading the vibe over there in the UK.‘ he says. 'And then later on down the line I can see the Polyphonic Spree becoming a musical.’ You what? 'Yeah. it's totally playing itself out that way. from its inception to how it is right now. I think it's kinda evolving in front of everybody. And I'd love to be able to take it on as a musical — that's the only thing I can really see if I put my future vision helmet on.‘
The Polyphonic Spree star on the NME Awards Tour, Barrowland, Glasgow, on Sun 26 Jan.
’I’ve been hearing this sound for years in my head and I wanted to see if I could make it happen’
2-16 Jan 2003 THE LIST 21