It began at least year's SXSW, when music journalists and pretty much everyone else took to the Polyphonic Spree like a baby to a breast, offering up public displays of affection to rival the then-forthcoming Ben & Jen romance. Same thing happened later in the year at the CMJ New Music Marathon. And again at this year's grip-and-grin in Austin. But the band's status in the U.K., somewhere between Kylie Minogue and Jesus Christ, causes all of that to seem like illegible scribbling in badly photocopied fanzines. British music bible NME rapturously relates the Polyphonic Spree's comings and goings like it's covering a prime-minister election (and recently gave the band the "Fuck Me!" Award for Innovation at its own annual awards show) and is so over-the-top in its praise that it's almost back at the bottom. Death in Vegas and Peter Gabriel have enlisted the group to remix their singles, and Pulp's Jarvis Cocker directed a video for "Hanging Around"--known as "Section 6" on the U.S. version of their debut, The Beginning Stages of.... (Cocker also donned a choir robe and sat in with the band during one of its concerts at London's Shepherd's Bush Empire last year.) They even have a major-label deal: The Beginning Stages of... was released in the U.K. in 2002 on 679 Recordings, a subsidiary of Warner Bros.
Shouldn't be a surprise if their profile on this side of the Atlantic increases in the coming months, since the group is in the middle of its first U.S. tour, and will make its broadcast television debut (over here, at least) on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live on April 30. It is, however, a bit of a shock that the winner for Best Act Overall would also be considered the most experimental band in town, especially when that town is Dallas, a city "full of unimaginative, materialistic yuppies," as someone recently took the time and energy to e-mail us. Makes sense that the band to do it (the first one ever, if memory serves) would be the Polyphonic Spree. The group may employ violin and viola, harp and horns, pedal steel and piccolo, a janitor-worthy amount of keys and a choir. But the 20-something-member band is still playing pop songs with those instruments, sandbox soundtracks with child's-play choruses such as, "Hey!/It's the sun!/And it makes me shine." The real experiment? Figuring out how to keep a couple of dozen choir robes snow-white while on tour. --Z.C.
Bowling for Soup
Winner for: Best Album (2002), Best Song (2002)
Observer readers harbor mad love for Wichita Falls homeboys Bowling for Soup: The majority of you selected as Best Album the band's peppy third CD, Drunk Enough to Dance, and as Best Song its suddenly ubiquitous jock-baiting hit single, "Girl All the Bad Guys Want." But when we reach front man Jaret Reddick, getting drunk enough to dance at a backyard band barbecue at bassist Erik Chandler's place, he still can't believe enough members of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences agreed with you to hand Bowling for Soup its first Grammy nod (for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, if you're taking notes).
"How mind-blowing is it that we would be nominated?" Reddick marvels. "Everyone's been asking, 'Is this something you guys sought after?' And we're like, 'It's not even something we ever thought about!' We figured it had to be a joke--maybe a Mini-Grammy, or a Grammy 2. I mean, you watch the Grammys to see Bono and Don Henley, not us."
This is true: Even the band's baby-blue tuxedos weren't much of a match for all the high-wattage star power motoring Madison Square Garden that night. But Reddick's just pumped that the tuneful, efficient pop-punk he, Chandler, guitarist Chris Burney and drummer Gary Wiseman have been making for nearly a decade is starting to gain some mainstream recognition.
"I listen to Top 40 radio," he explains, "and pop-punk bands are in the top five on every single station right now: Good Charlotte, New Found Glory, Bowling for Soup, Simple Plan. We want to be a band that people like, and we catch a lot of shit for that attitude, but we didn't start this band to break new ground--we started it to write songs that people want to hear."
Despite the newfound glory, Reddick insists the band is keeping it as real as ever. "We're absolutely the same," he says of the group's attempt at big-balling. "It's so exactly the same it's scary; whether we're at band practice or on the tour bus, playing to 100 people or 200,000, it doesn't matter. And musically, the proof is in the albums: If you can find one, buy our record that came out in '94, and you'll see that we're the same band we've always been. We understand that we need to enjoy this while it's here."