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Musical blood family: Polyphonic Spree at Deluxe


The Polyphonic Spree - SUBMITTED PHOTO
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  • The Polyphonic Spree

Tim DeLaughter plans to gather all former members of his symphonic pop group The Polyphonic Spree together for a show celebrating the band's 15th anniversary in 2015. But does he know where the more than 100 former members are now?

"Well, no," he said to us in early June by phone. "But there's a lady that's out there that's photographing every member that's ever been in The Polyphonic Spree, and she's getting ahold of people that I couldn't even find before. So we're going to share information about how to get ahold of these folks. It's been kind of tough, but I'm finding them."

He knows where one is, at least; that's because she's on a tour of her own.

"Some of them [are still in music], some of them aren't. ... Annie Clark [of St. Vincent] is the one that's most well-known after The Spree, I think."

Forget the former members: Piecing together tours for the 20-plus member group that exists now is a huge challenge for DeLaughter. Luckily his blood family is on board with his sprawling musical family.

"[My wife] pretty much runs the show," he said. "She manages the group and sings in the choir occasionally, but mostly produces and helps me out tremendously."

His four kids are in on it too.

"But my son [and my other children], they'll contribute ideas," he said. "We unveil the show by cutting this piece of material that goes across the stage; I was cutting it like a ribbon cutting ceremony to unveil The Polyphonic Spree and that's how we start our show. My son came out and said, 'Dad, you should cut a heart out of that fabric. That'd be a lot cooler!"

And he was right - it was cooler. Now The Spree always cuts a heart into the scrim.

"I think there's a playful side about the Spree's music that kids tend to like. But now they're at a point where they say, 'Dad, we like some of your rockier stuff!' from my earlier days."

Those earlier days included his neo-psych band Tripping Daisy, which toured through the '90s, until lead guitarist Wes Berggren overdosed on a combination of drugs in 1999. After Berggren's father stepped in to record a few tracks on the self-titled album that was released in 2000, the band disbanded.

But members Mark Pirro, Bryan Wakeland and Jeff Bouck, along with DeLaughter, weren't done making music together. So they started working on this idea that came into DeLaughter's head - a pop balm for the pain of losing their friend. Inspired by his love of '60s pop mini-orchestras like The Men, DeLaughter assembled a 12-member group, headed for the road. He picked up more on the way - a trombone here, a cello there, then a french horn, full choir and more.

"This whole thing started as an experiment," DeLaughter said. "I was just thinking, I need to get these sounds in order to create this idea. It wasn't until it went off so well that I thought that it could be a band. Then, it became something way more."

Way more, as in 20-plus singers and instrumentalists in coordinated, psychedelic choir robes touring in a 27-passenger hockey bus - one of two that exist in the United States.

"There's no lounge, just standing in the aisle or laying down in your bunk. We pull a trailer with that."

They're in that bus now, touring the United States now in preparation of the release of Yes, It's True in August. It's the fourth full-length from the band, one that leans on the drum machine and instrumental solos. His musical family unit is breaking out of sectional choruses, and into their own spotlights. But it's still The Spree - one crazed, psychedelic family acting as one.

"[The musicians] are part of making this specific energy happening onstage," DeLaughter said. "This band moves as a big, one unit, especially onstage, especially as we interact."


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