The Polyphonic Spree
If you didn't know better, you'd be tempted to believe that the Polyphonic Spree dropped out of the heavens -- a 23-piece fallen angels choir, clothed in pristine oversized white choir robes, redefining the term "wall of sound" with their glee club psychedelia and unobtrusive religiosity. The seeds of this visually flamboyant band's immaculate conception were already sown when Tim DeLaughter was still a member of the Dallas, Texas, alternative pop outfit Tripping Daisy. In fact, the band's slightly cultish spirituality and artistic bombast can be traced to the Daisy's third album, Jesus Hits Like the Atom Bomb, recorded before founding guitarist Wes Berggren died of an overdose, consequently taking the heart of the band with him. The remaining members --DeLaughter, Bryan Wakeland, Mark Pirro and Brian Teasely -- decided not to continue on, although they did release their fourth album posthumously. But the love of feel-good music and musical pomposity stayed with DeLaughter, and he went on to form the Polyphonic Spree with a vision of a symphonic pop melodies and the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds in his head. Now all he had left to do was to convince his remaining band members to join him, then recruit a couple of dozen friends to make his vision a reality. By July 2000, the mission was accomplished. DeLaughter dubbed himself musical director and handled all the lead vocals on the band's demo, The Beginning Stages of Polyphonic Spree, which they gave out to fans at one of their early shows. The demo got into the hands of the Dallas-based indie label Good Records, which put out the sprawling yet unadulterated 14-song demo in 2001 as the band's first release. (Hollywood Records reissued it in 2003.) Part Pink Floyd, Edwin Hawkins Singers and Flaming Lips, the band toured relentlessly, but really came to the public's notice with marathon appearances at the 2002 South By Southwest music conference, where they racked up new converts and fans. One of those new fans was David Bowie, who was so impressed by their cover of his "Five Years" that he asked them to perform at the U.K.'s 2002 Meltdown Festival, which he was chairing. He also requested that the band not only tour with him in America, but also join him on stage nightly for his set closer. The Polyphonic Spree has put the "P" back in party by holding impromptu choir practices while riding the London tube, or by threatening our national security -- like the time percussionist Brian Teasely attempted to take a nefarious-looking microphone on a plane (a zany-looking invention created by bassist Mark Pirro), causing five gates of the Dallas/Ft.Worth airport to be shut down. But one thing you can say for sure is that the Polyphonic Spree have helped the U.S. economy in untold ways. They have single-handedly helped to stabilize gas prices by traveling with 12 equipment vans and the largest bus one can find in North America -- a massive monolith normally used by NHL hockey teams -- not to mention the boost to the dry cleaning industry (those white robes are just dirt magnets!). The band's single "Follow The Day" was featured in a Volkswagen commercial, which brought their playful, ethereal sounds into living rooms across America, and was also featured on the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind soundtrack. They released their first "proper" album, Together We're Heavy in July 2004, and continue to spread their message of euphoria and otherworldly gospel like it was preordained.