For a year and a half after Tim DeLaughter, formerly of the psychedelic hard rock group Tripping Daisy, assembled The Polyphonic Spree in 2000, the band only played isolated gigs around their hometown of Dallas, Texas. Then they went to Austin to play the South By Southwest Festival, where they caught the attention of David Bowie, who invited the group to play in England at the Meltdown Festival. Most of the band had never been out of Texas before.
The Polyphonic Spree’s lack of touring experience shouldn’t be blamed on laziness or even a general lack of interest in their music. It can be blamed solely on economics. The Polyphonic Spree has 24 members who play everything from standard rock instruments to French horns and Theremin, and who, until a few months ago, had no record company to help defray costs. Their self-released album, “The Beginning Stages of . . . ,” recorded in 2000, eventually became an underground hit in Britain, where they spent most of last year. They finally toured the States this spring and lost a lot of money in the process, despite the fact that everyone slept on the bus.
Faith drives them, and though the white robes they wear on stage and the gospel choral patterns incorporated into the arrangements would seem to peg them as a Christian revival group, a closer listen to their songs reveals a religious devotion to something more secular — 1960s progressive pop. DeLaughter professes admiration for the artier side of Brian Wilson, but the end result is something that’s both more innocent and more symphonic than The Beach Boys. It’s as if a Broadway company had decided to perform the Daniel Johnston songbook.
The Spree will follow up their Japan debut at Summer Sonic with a show in Tokyo. Opening for them will be the legendary New York art-punk band whose name probably describes the Spree’s stage behavior better than their own: The Rapture.
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