Shiny Happy People

The Polyphonic Spree is one Big Moment away from stardom. Right?

"You see 20-plus people uninhibited onstage, it gives you more of an opportunity," says organ player Evan Hisey. "'Well, if that many people can be doing it...' It makes them feel a bit safer."

"It's a powerful moment when that many people are all together," adds choir member Michael Turner. "It's almost like the audience is automatically included, because it's already a crowd. It's immediately inclusive."

It's not just the usual suspects, the indie-rock kids in ironic T-shirts and scuffed Chuck Taylors. They're there, of course, but they're bouncing around next to dads in Cosby sweaters, moms cuddling toddlers, buttoned-up businessmen and all points in between. It makes sense The Polyphonic Spree is on a label backed by Disney, because the band is fun for the whole family. Geoffrey Weiss, who signed the group to Hollywood, concurs. Sort of.

Having a ball: Front man Tim DeLaughter can't see the future, but he and his 23 (or so) Polyphonic Spreemates believe that, if they sing it, success will come. And white-robed happy people will fill the earth.
Mark Graham
Having a ball: Front man Tim DeLaughter can't see the future, but he and his 23 (or so) Polyphonic Spreemates believe that, if they sing it, success will come. And white-robed happy people will fill the earth.
C'mon, people now: It's no secret the band sells itself best with its live show. "We'll go to a place and play two nights," says trombone player James Reimer. "The first night, it might be half-full. But that second night, it's completely packed out."
C'mon, people now: It's no secret the band sells itself best with its live show. "We'll go to a place and play two nights," says trombone player James Reimer. "The first night, it might be half-full. But that second night, it's completely packed out."

"I wouldn't deign to say what's Disney, but certainly, they're a group that the label's very proud to have and, I think, the corporation will be very glad to have, mostly because they do represent this sort of positive, uplifting point of view, which is so nonexistent in contemporary culture," Weiss says. "But I'm a music guy. I didn't sign them up because they fit the corporate culture. I signed them because I think they're musically visionary and brilliant."

That's not always an easy sell. For every band like the White Stripes, a group that succeeded at radio and retail because it was different, there are dozens more that have failed for exactly the same reason. You want to stick out, but not too much. The Polyphonic Spree is two dozen sore thumbs. The band knows this. And they know they can overcome it.

"I understand why people can be skeptical," Turner says. "I mean, when I first heard about the band, I thought it sounded like a mess. 'There's all these people, the songs are about this and they jump around like this.' And I was just like, 'There's nothing about that that sounds like it would work at all.' But I came because they were opening for Grandaddy, and just that first moment when I walked in, that was it. You see it, and you experience it. It's like anything that's real to you."

They also are aware that, for certain people in the audience, The Polyphonic Spree is not real. It's the latest fad, a novelty, something to occupy their time until the next big thing comes along. Here today, gone today. But they couldn't care less. They are a living, breathing Bobby McFerrin song.

"That's the thing about this band: We don't worry," Doyle says. "If we worried, we wouldn't exist. We just do it."

"This band wasn't supposed to make it," DeLaughter says. "This band wasn't supposed to leave Dallas. This band was always gonna be around here--if it lasted that long."

They need more than confidence to stay out there.


The commercial was beautiful. The sleek white lines of the Apple iPod perfectly complementing the soft curves of the Volkswagen Beetle, the height of corporate synergy, the kind of slam dunk that makes ad execs clear space on their shelves for trophies. They'd picked the perfect bow to tie up the package: The Polyphonic Spree's "Light and Day." For 30 seconds, all three products gave each other a piggyback ride until there was no other choice but to own them all.

This could have been the event Hollywood Records was craving, because this was one spot that didn't leave the audience wondering who was behind the song it just heard. The band and the song were clearly listed on the iPod's faceplate, making it a music video you didn't have to turn on MTV to see. Ideally, people would see the commercial, see the name of the band and head straight to Apple's iTunes online music store and buy a copy of the song, maybe the entire album.

There was just one tiny snag in that plan: The Polyphonic Spree was not on iTunes. Not until the commercial had already run its course.

"Literally, right when that commercial stopped was when it was on iTunes," DeLaughter says. "The timing was perfect."

Yet the commercial, titled "Pods Unite," still succeeded in getting the band's name out there, along with its music, which is the main goal for Hollywood right now. A big hit at radio, a gold or even platinum album--these things will come eventually. Everyone at Hollywood believes this. But they realize it's a unique situation, not just another rock band they can plug into the usual formula.

"You know, sometimes it takes awhile for people to be able to comprehend what this is, because it doesn't fit into any, like, specific format," Ferris says. "Which is why I think critics like that, because they're always looking for something that's different and original, something that just maybe isn't for the normal consumer--which is why they've been so supportive, because of its greatness.

"But at the same time, the thing we're perplexed with is that just because it's great, that doesn't mean that people are going to be able to understand it right away."

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