Interview composed by Jason Nicholas and Carissa Ropponen - April 2003
When I had found out that The Polyphonic Spree where coming to Vancouver, I almost fucking creamed my pants. I had been waiting 2 years for this event! But when I asked if I could do an interview with them, I did fucking cream my pants. And this, amidst the mess, is the turn-out of our interview. Kudos to Mark, Ryan, Tim, Roy and Chris for allowing us to do this...
This interview was conducted between me and my girlfriend Carissa backstage at The Polyphonic Spree show on April 26th.
Carissa: State your name and position in the band.
Jason: Very Cool! Alright, first question. How did the Concept of the Polyphonic Spree come about?
Ryan: Ryan Fitzgerald. I play Guitar.
Mark: Mark Pirro, and I play the Bass.
Jason: During Tripping Daisy Right?
Mark: That goes to the singer Tim Delaughter. He had the idea of Polyphonic Spree; he actually had the name before he had the idea of the band, ummm...
Jason: Isn't at like, 27 people now?
Mark: Yah! Actually me and Tim and Brian were in Tripping Daisy, and then that disbanded and Tim decided to put together the spree. He had the name and I think the name kind of perpetuated of what the sound was going to be, Polyphonic meaning lots of sound, I don't really know what Spree means, I'm sure you can look it up in the dictionary, but in context you kind of know what it means, and uh, that was really the inception of the band, when it came into his mind like that, and then he just started calling friends and people started coming together, and then you know, friends of friends and family and pretty soon we've got 22-23 members.
Carissa: Really? We read somewhere that it was 27, but I guess they were wrong, I guess you would know better...
Ryan: No, we're at 23 right now
Mark: It's fluctuated you know...
Ryan: We've been up to 26 before!
Ryan: I think that's the highest so far...
Jason: My friend asked me to ask you this question. How are the ROBE sales going?
Ryan: We tour with about that many people.
Mark: Like a road crew and things like that.
Ryan: But they're not actually in the band...
Carissa: There's is one guy out there with a red robe.
Mark: Hahaha, slowly but surely. It takes a lot of courage for people to wear those in public, you know when we wear them it doesn't really matter cause we are up there with 23 other people, but you know, if there is someone in the crowd who wants to wear one, my hat's off to them.
Jason: Okay! How do the Democratic dealings of the band work? Do you know what I mean? Like who makes all the decisions?
Ryan: Yah! I saw him! I'm stoked on that guy.
Mark: More and more I start to see people doing that, you know uh, but I think it'll be awhile before I start seeing the whole crowd wearing robes. Actually, we played a TV show in England, where the audience all wore robes! The TV show passed them all out. We had no idea that this was going to happen, the curtain opened and it was like WOW! We weren't expecting that.
Carissa: So you do feel as though it is your band as well?
Mark: It's just the band, full of visions, and the decisions come from that place on downward, um, you know I think if someone has a legitimate cry, you know, if they are not comfortable with something, and it's brought up, you know, the best I can say is that... (Phone begins to ring right in front of us, and we all stop talking...) We can wait... But uh, they are Tim's songs, but we are really encouraged to improvise our parts.
Ryan: One thing about that is, yah it is Tim's vision, but we all get to put our own hearts into it you know. It's kind of like, we are a band, but it's not like Tim dictating everything, we get to have our own thing going. It's pretty cool.
Carissa: Do any of you have any other side projects or bands?
Jason: So what are some of the music you listen to on the Tour Bus?
Ryan: Not us personally, but there are a lot of sub-bands within the band, a lot of Dallas groups that play around in Dallas...
(phone begins to ring again)
Jason: From Good Records?
Mark: Well, we've been listening to the new Granddaddy album a lot; we actually have a few advance copies.
Jason: Cool! Who is the youngest member in the band? I read somewhere that it was like 14 or something?
Mark: No, I don't know what label they are on, but we are actually good friends with them, and we have been lucky to have granted us a few copies. We've also been listening to a lot of Wilco, but everyone is a little sick of that.
Ryan: Well, we have all sorts of different tastes in music, so it all varies. That's what is so great about this band, cause everyone comes from a different direction, you know? We have like, jazz musicians in the band, self-taught musicians, you know, like people who have never been musical before the band, so we all come from different directions with different tastes.
Jason: Well, speaking of choirs, how did it feel to have Jarvis Cocker of Pulp sing with you as an honorary member?
Mark: Yeah, Kelly I think was 13 when she joined the band, and now she is 16. She is actually Tim's Niece and she is in the choir.
Jason: How did that come about?
Mark: Hahaha! I think it was a very flattering moment for the band.
Jason: Well, what inspires you to create and write such positive music?
Mark: He was actually directing our video and uh, the powers that be just kind of worked out!
Ryan: I would just like to say for the record, that I actually saw him smile! I've never seen him smile before, he just seemed happy!
Jason: So then are you all really just happy people then?
Ryan: Well, the biggest thing that ever attracted me to be in the band was the fact that it is really positive music and you don't really find... I haven't heard too many bands that are like really positive and that throw a really good message across and that also play really cool music and, that's what really turned me at first.
Jason: Just a quick question about Tripping Daisy if you don't mind...
Mark: Fuck No! Hahaha! It's just an emotion that's caught on stage, you know, everyone has their ups and downs, but at that moment when we are playing, it just tends to be a very uplifting moment for us and the audience alike, so it tends to be a very fond experience for a lot of people. Even people in the band there are times when I'll be playing and I will be overwhelmed by what's actually happening, and we always just get caught in the moment.
Jason: Okay, Wes, do you think he is just stoked on you guys, you know looking down on you from heaven...
Mark: Go Ahead!
Jason: Yeah? Cause I was just saddened me when I found out that Wes died (former guitarist of Tripping Daisy who passed away in December of 1999 which also lead to the disbanding of Tripping Daisy). But I think that, at least I believe that this is what Wes wanted to happen considering the direction that Tripping Daisy was taking after the I am an Elastic Firecracker album.
Mark: Yeah I do! I really feel that way, and I know Tim feels that way too.
Jason: Yeah. So, how do you all get along when on tour? Like are you all like 'Hey Chum'.
Mark: You know, someone once told me that when one door is closing, another one is opening, and this wouldn't be happening if the experience with Wes hadn't happened, so it all makes sense at the end, you know?
Ryan: We get along alright, I mean, everyone has their moments when they are in a pissy mood and it's like, stay away from that person, but you know, if someone is being a dick, you can always just go hang out with any other of the 22 members.
Mark: Although the condition we are touring in, we have one tour bus, and to have one is a luxury, but the WHOLE band is on the tour bus and there is only two modes of being. It's either standing, or laying down in your bunk bed, there's really no in between. I mean, there's a few places to sit down, but you know, the whole band can't relax.
(Another band member walks in)
Jason: Sure! Canadian beer, how do you like it?
Chris: Hi! Is this an Interview? Can you ask me a question?
Jason: What's your favorite part about this country so far?
Chris: It's alright, I've only had two of them so far, but I drink a lot of Molson anyways, so...
Jason: Okay, that's cool...
Chris: I think the best thing about this place is the...
Mark: The Weed!
Chris: No, ahhh, I think it's the junkies! I mean, there are so many great junkies around, you know, give 'em a few quarters here and there, stuff like that...
(Laughter all around!!!)
Jason: Okay, another question for the Harpist. How long have you been playing the harp for, and why did you decide to play the harp?
Chris: Yah, I like 'em.
Carissa: How did you get into it?
Chris: I've been playing for 10 years now!
Chris: Well, I just saw a harp, and I started playing it. And then I got my degree in harp playing.
Jason: Hahaha! Well I think that's the end of our Interview! Thanks.....
Chris: Yep! Went to School and everything.
Mark: He secretly wears the pants in the band.
Chris: My wallet says 'Bad Ass Mother-Fucker' on it too.
Carissa: Say hello into the recorder!
( Another Member walks in)
Ryan: Oh hey! It's Roy!
Carissa: I'm Carissa.
Roy: Hello, I'm Roy.
Mark: He's our Choir Man at the top of the risers!
Roy: Who are your friends Mark?
Jason: I'm Jason.
Carissa: Cause we were just doing an interview.
Roy: Why do you have a tape recorder, Carissa?
And after that, we just continued to talk about general stuff and then they had to go on stage and play!
Roy: Aw Shit! How come I wasn't invited for it?
Mark: Cause you weren't around when they asked!
Roy: Oh yeah...