October 01, 2001

An Interview With Tim DeLaughter, continued

Last week, Tim talked about Tripping Daisy and the origins of The Polyphonic Spree.This week, Tim reflects upon the nature of the
Polyphonic Spree, and what lies ahead.

Looking to the future of the Polyphonic Spree, it's obvious that something of this size and nature, it's not going to be a conventional band, and it wouldn't seem possible to go out and do your thirty day tour like you could with Tripping Daisy.

You know what? I've had people come up to me, and they tell me, "well, you know, you're not gonna be able to play out, let alone be able to rehearse with that thing." Well, we've played out nine times now, we've made it to Austin, thanks to Grandaddy, because they liked us from when we opened for them the first time. We sent them the record, and Jason [Lytle] loved the record, and then he asked us to play the Austin shows with them, which gave us that opportunity to go to Austin. I don't think we would have been able to make it to Austin if it weren't for Grandaddy-- we wouldn't have gotten there that soon. It took us a lot to get down there, because they already had the club booked, they can pull a crowd. It cost us nearly one thousand dollars to go down there, because we had to charter a bus togo down there.

But ya know what? I'm not ruling anything out. I always talk to everybody. I tell them "you know, we're all gonna take a little ride here, some people may be on for the ride, some may not, but it looks like this is going to continue to go on, so just put that in the back of your head, and let's see what we can make happen, feasibly make happen." So I don't really know, but as for now I'm just going along with it, and it continues to go.

So who knows? I think that everyone loves playing this music together. We click as a band--believe it or not, twenty-four people actually click as a band. I think we have a really good shot of continuing this.

Even though at times you're running around in there like a chicken with its head cut off? I was watching you in there, interacting with the band. Is it like parenting? You know, even though you're intervening when the child does wrong, you love every minute of it?

Well, I am a father, a boy and a girl, Stella and Oscar, and I have another one on the way. I kinda always played the daddy, even in Tripping Daisy. It's just some kind of a role I've always taken. I feel really comfortable in that position. I feel at ease in that position and I feel I'm competent in that position. It tends to work, especially with this group of people. I mean, you saw what it was like to try to do a sound check, if there's not some sort of organized procedure to go through, you'll have total nonsense chaos.

Yeah, it's not like Tripping Daisy, where you go to a club two or three hours before a show, you run through a sound check for thirty minutes, and then go have a beer before the set. And I can tell that you actually enjoy it, panic inducing though it may be.

Right. I love it, I do! It gets kinda tense there, but I really like that side of it.

Gives you a chance to be more creative?
Yeah, and it just gives me a chance to see something become more organized, you know, and to see the fruits of your labor when everyone gets on that same page. That's exciting for me.

So are you working on kicking it up a notch with this record, to try and get a bigger deal?
Um, we have had some people that have called us, it's just now starting to get out there. In fact, the senior editor of Magnet just called us at the store two days ago, asking "I've been hearing nothing about The Polyphonic Spree except for good things, and as a senior editor it is my job to find out what exactly is going on down there! Can you send me a record and some stuff?" (Laughs) There are some also people at V2 Records that have expressed some interest, as well as some big management company called Atlas/Third Rail, like, they might be coming down here.

I don't know, though. To tell you the truth, I've had my experience with larger labels, and at the time, when I was going through it…well, I've been through the best of times and I've seen the worst of times. I've had my heart broken by them, and I've also loved being with a major label. At the end of the day, I'd love for Good Records....we've got our own little in-house label that we started on our own with Polyphonic Spree, and we released a couple of Tripping Daisy records under the name Good Records, and I'd love for this to take hold, but like I was telling you earlier, we don't have the manpower and the organization and the finances to take it to that next level. So I'll definitely entertain anything if people come up with money, you know. I make no bones about it, it's all about the money on that particular end. The music part, I know how to keep it separate, but if you're gonna want that, I have no qualms about saying, yeah let's talk about money to do this.

Oh, I agree, you have to have money to live, and you’ve got kids to feed.

Exactly! I'm 35 and now, it's no longer "It's not about the money, it's about the art, man." I'm always gonna do that, and I've always done it.

Others have done it, like the Flaming Lips.

Yeah, exactly, they've done a beautiful job. They've had people who have believed in them, and they note that the executive turntable has turned and yet have been able to stay there, and I applaud how that whole situation has worked out, because I don't know of any other band that has been able to do that, to be able to stay as creative as they want, and not have the dilemma of "oh, you're gonna have to sell this number of units, and you're gonna have to do this and this and this." They've completely left them alone, and I thought Tripping Daisy was in that position when I had Chris Blackwell signing the band, and the owner of Island Records was telling me, "Don't worry Tim, it's gonna be alright." And that's why we went with them, because we thought, "Golly, everything's great," but then it turns out to be a freaking nightmare!

At least you got three or four years out of it. You didn't get a situation like Spoon, where you release a record that everybody loves, and then boom! You find yourself dropped immediately.

With Jesus Hits Like The Atom Bomb, a lot of people liked that record, and then, my god, as soon as it came out, they dropped it. I mean, no one really knows about Atom Bomb. For a couple of weeks, it was out, then it was dropped, and that was a real sour note, because I think as a band, that was one of our best records You know, for a band that can get to that point where they can call it But, hell, I don't know, I really liked our last record, and I loved The Tops Off Our Heads, and that one was just an improv record.

That record brings me back around to the layout of The Beginning Stages of The Polyphonic Spree. Was it from that idea [of The Tops Off Our Heads] where you didn't give your songs titles, you just let them flow into another to create a whole composition. Was that something you were meaning to do?

Man, you know what? I don't know what you'd call it, but they all get really frustrated, and to maybe, it's a little bit like, there's something that's kept me from giving titles to them. The only reasons we have "titles" on the set list is so that these people can know what the hell we're gonna play. For some reason, I haven't chosen a reason to title these things, and I ask myself, if it's laziness, but for some reason, I really don't have a good honest answer for ya.

One of the issues I would have been concerned with would have been people thinking, "Oh, are these songs left over from Tripping Daisy." Like, here's a fresh start, you don't need to know the names, you let the songs speak for themselves.

Yeah, but these songs are definitely all new, none of them were ever inspired by Tripping Daisy or were ever even a part of Tripping Daisy. I just kinda went way off on the other side. Actually, most of the songs on the record were written in about a week, believe it or not. I had a couple of ideas, but I had to put it together quickly because I had that show.

It's this band that basically makes it happen. I'm just kind of the force that makes it possible for all of us to get together and play. These guys, I'm playing with some of the best talent that I've ever been around in my life, and I've been doing this for a long time. Since the third grade I've been playing music. I'm playing with some of the best musicians who improvise and also have theory that I've ever been a part of. They have taken stuff that I've come in with, in its simple little arrangements or chord changes on guitar, they've added their parts to it, and they make it what it is. It's simply them writing their own parts, by improvising their parts with me, and going "Yeah! That's cool!" or "God, that's awesome!" or "My God, that's great!" and then we get off on what we are doing and then we do it.

That record was really put together kind of quick, and we recorded it in three days, and I was used to spending two months on a record from being on a major label. It's like, "we did that in three days, and it sounds fantastic!"

Does it make you wonder, "Gee, wonder what we could have done back then?"

I was talking to my wife Julie about this, yeah, we were spending crazy amounts of money on a record!

But it was a different time.

Yeah, it was different times, and you're kinda young and its all new.

And as you've got the money there to play around with, you might as well use it.

Yeah, and they're encouraging you to do this. They don't tell you, “You don't need to do this," they want you to spend this amount of money on hiring this person, or they want you to be in this studio for some weird reason. It makes perfect sense to them, but, (Emphatically) My God! I'll never do that again, especially when I went down here to Dallas Sound Lab and in three days, we make this record, and when I put it up to the rest of my records, it sounds great!

So would you work with the other guys of Tripping Daisy again, or involve them with the Polyphonic Spree?

I've thought about it, hell, there are four of them in this band! (Laugh) Jeff was the first drummer of Tripping Daisy who plays percussion. Brian was the second drummer, is playing drums, and Mark plays bass, and myself. The only two who aren't in it are Ben and Phil, from the latter part of Tripping Daisy, who came in for Atom Bomb, and, of course, Wes, but I believe he's here with us. (Pauses) As far as people, I miss those guys, I miss the musical exchange, I miss playing together. I miss it, and I'll always miss it. (Reflective) I miss Tripping Daisy, man. It was a great band. I loved it. (pauses)

But this is something new, the world is wide open now at this point with Polyphonic. I love how it looks, man. I love the people in the band, I love how we've just stumbled on each other! (Laughs) It's hard to put four people together, to get that chemistry for a band, much less twenty-four. It happened, and it's going great.

It sounds like it's been accidental up to this point.

(Laughs) Yeah, exactly! Many of these people are volunteers. I didn't know any of these people beforehand, that's what's also kind of weird, and I still don't know them, they don't know me, and they don't really know each other, either. It's not like a band of four where you spend a lot of time together; we don't really get that luxury because everyone has different time schedules and all that. But it's pretty amazing how musically we've all hit on the same page.

It's definitely a very beautiful record.

Oh, thank you very much! I feel the same way. When we were doing it, man, I was like bawling when we would rehearse. Just to have something, when you're playing with people you've never played with before, and then right off the bat they start playing these beautiful melodies to what you're putting out there, and they take something that you have created in stick figure form, and then they put all these beautiful clothes on it. It is just an amazing kind of feeling that I've never ever experienced. I never felt the experience I've gotten with this band with Tripping Daisy. Tripping Daisy was sort of more excited and high energy, but this is more of a deep emotional kind of feeling with these people. I think it does translate on this record. I think something really cool happened here.

So when should we expect The Middle Stages of the Polyphonic Spree?

The Middle Stages? (Laugh) We've got enough right now to probably go into a Middle Stages. We probably need three or four more sections that are on the back burner, that we haven't really started yet, but I think we'll be ready pretty soon! No one really knows about this record; I'd like to get it out to a few more people, so that by the time they get it, I'd like to have this next one ready. Right now, it's just people who have been hip with it, and word spread around town, and things like that, but as far as the rest of the nation, and the rest of the world, no one's heard of the Polyphonic Spree. I'd love for them to check it out.

It would be a shame if they didn't.

(Quietly) It sure would. I think they would be missing out. I love it, man. It's a good feeling, and I think something like that is missing out there.

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