Julie Doyle, of Polyphonic Spree, Jumps Into the Bar Business
Julie Doyle opened Lounge Here on Garland Road with friend and former bandmate Tony Barsotti. They felt the neighborhood in East Dallas was missing an intimate place to hang out.
The newly opened Lounge Here on Garland Road and the boutique under construction next door could be regarded as departures for the woman who owns them, Julie Doyle. She's the co-manager of the choral rock band Polyphonic Spree, but Doyle sees these new outlets as just another medium to reach people. “It's an extension of the work I love to do,” she says.
Doyle opened Lounge Here with longtime friend and onetime bandmate Tony Barsotti. The bar, open since Oct. 1, seems to be a hit with her East Dallas neighbors. "It has been a labor of love,” says Doyle, who's still in the trenches with the project.
Even though the task of opening a restaurant and bar — a first for her — has been daunting, it's just one project among a long list of opportunities that she has jumped on at just the right time throughout her life.
Doyle’s husband Tim DeLaughter is the lead singer of Polyphonic Spree, and although many people recognize him as the founder of the group, insiders say she's equally important. “There wouldn’t be a Polyphonic Spree without Doyle,” says Chris Penn, who co-manages the group with her. “She’s the glue that holds it all together. She comes up with the majority of the ideas, she spearheads a lot of things, and she keeps me and Tim in check.”
Doyle met DeLaughter in high school. She was interested in performing arts and he was in a cover band, so their relationship has always revolved around music. “Our first date was to a Neil Diamond concert,” she remembers. “His parents had extra tickets, and he was embarrassed to ask me. When he finally told me I said, ‘Oh cool! I like Neil Diamond.’”
On the way to the concert he had to stop by rehearsals for his band, Regency. Doyle was impressed. “They were really good,” she says. “It just kind of went from there.”
Doyle attended acting school at Kim Dawson, where she met guitarist Wes Berggren. She encouraged Berggren and DeLaughter to combine musical forces while she went to New York to continue acting as a part of a theater group. They started the neo-psychedelic pop band Tripping Daisy in 1990, and Doyle moved back to Dallas to help manage the band as it grew and went on tour.
Doyle sang on the Tripping Daisy albums and even starred as “The Girl” in the video for the band’s hit song, “I Got a Girl.” Then in 1999 Wes Berggren died, and the group was devastated. “That was a dark time for us,” she says. As a result, the group disbanded.
In 2000, DeLaughter and Doyle created Polyphonic Spree. “Tim had the idea, but I was the one thinking about what people would make sense together and calling people,” she explains. “I was able to help focus it and decide how to get from A to B.”
By this point, they had two kids. “We weren’t planning to play outside of Dallas, for many reasons,” she points out. “Then that whole thing just took off and it changed everything. It wasn’t like band life was new to us, but it was definitely different.”
They had two more children, and raised them partially in Dallas and partially on the road. Polyphonic Spree toured internationally, playing alongside the White Stripes, Jane’s Addiction, Kings of Leon, R.E.M., the Monkees, Radiohead, No Doubt and Donovan, just to name a few.
The band was like an extended family, which impacted the way they raised their four children. “The kids didn’t really get it at the time,” she muses. “They were so young. To them it just felt like there were always people around.” But that taught them to be open to a wide range of people with different backgrounds and beliefs.
“That was how we lived,” she points out. “When they were growing up, we told them, ‘This is our church.’ Even now they have a lot of different kinds of friends, and to me as a parent I think that is possibly the most important thing that has happened.”
Now that their kids are getting older — the youngest is 12 and the oldest is 18 — they’re starting to realize some of the unique advantages they had while growing up on tour. “Now they’re starting to get it,” Doyle says. “They’re like, ‘Wait, we went on tour with the White Stripes?’ Now they want us to do that again.”
Also in 2000, Doyle and DeLaughter decided they wanted to start a local indie label and open a record store, so they teamed up with Penn to launch Good Records.
“We put out Daisy’s last album on the label and then opened the store soon after,” Doyle explains. “In our area we just didn’t have that. We knew if we stayed true to the experience of coming in and discovering music, then we’d always have a base, and that base is why we’re still open.”
In the 16 years since Good Records has opened, they’ve released many other artists as well. Doyle helps with concept and direction, although she says she doesn’t do much of the day to day anymore.
The boutique on Garland, called Good Pagoda, is a collaborative project. Doyle and DeLaughter are opening the store with Penn and his wife, Jennifer, who toured with Polyphonic Spree for many years, although she doesn’t anymore, as well as full-time band member Cassandra Askin. The boutique might remind some fans of Good Records on Greenville, but it’s definitely not the same store.
Good Pagoda will have vinyl albums and other music, but it will also sell art, jewelry, furniture and gift options. The second floor features beautiful wood flooring, so Doyle invited band member Jessica Jordan to revive her yoga studio, Super Yoga Palace, which will be accessible via a staircase in the back of the store.
The Lounge Here has been the biggest challenge. Doyle has been in charge of everything from getting the permits to rezoning to reconstructing the space to adding gas — and executing all on a tight budget. “It was an interesting education,” she says with a laugh.
Luckily, when Here opened on Oct. 1, neighbors flocked to revel in its swanky, '70s vibe, which centers on music, cocktails and comfort. “I just wanted something intimate that makes people feel like they could be anywhere,” she explains. “We were never thinking about being fancy. It’s very comfortable, but I’ve found that people are excited about it and want to put on their best because they want to do something a little different.”
Both of these entrepreneurial ventures come on the heels of a near death in Doyle’s family. “My older brother unexpectedly went into a coma,” she says. “It was a strange three months.” She threw herself into taking care of her brother at Walnut Hill Medical Center. He eventually made a full recovery, much to the shock of his doctors.
“They wrote him off,” she says. “So I was digging and doing my own research and going back up there and saying, ‘No, these numbers are supposed to look like this’ and trying different things. I learned how to read the monitor and I knew everything they were giving him and why. I understood everything.”
Sometimes on her way home from the hospital she’d wish she had a place along Garland Road she could go to relax until the traffic died down. She didn’t realize it at the time, but that's where the inspiration came from to start the lounge. “There’s Goodfriend [Beer Garden & Burger House], which is great, but it’s not that intimate feel I was looking for,” she says. “So that was playing over in my subconscious.”
Taking care of her brother also bolstered her confidence. She figured if she could do that, she could open a lounge — or at least she could try. “I could feel it, that I was supposed to do something that I hadn’t done before,” she says. “After he got out of the hospital, I was driving around aimlessly and I drove right to that spot. I just started seeing it.” Just like that, she started the process to open Here.
“She’s not one to rest on her laurels,” Penn points out. “You get one thing going and she’s ready for the next thing. She’s a visionary, but she’s also a doer and a producer. She makes things happen, regardless of the trials and the hurdles.”
If Doyle has her way, this won’t be her last business venture, but what she really wants right now is to produce another record. “I’m always telling Tim, ‘You need to write,’” she laughs. If that’s the case, we should probably expect to see some new music from Polyphonic Spree in the not-too-distant future.
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