Good news – Monday’s over and we have an exclusive interview AND video premiere in store for you here at KALTBLUT! We sat down with fast rising alternative indie rockers Polyenso, ahead of their huge US tour with PVRIS kicking off this week. Building off of 2013’s cult-acclaimed One Big Particular Loop, the band – Alex Schultz, Brennan Taulbee, and Denny Agosto — have spent the past three years working extensively with producer Jason Pennock. Evolving their particular flavor of indie-rock to include elements of hip-hop, neo-soul, and experimental electronics, they pull influences from acts such as Flying Lotus, The Roots, Bright Eyes, and Bjork, half-jokingly referring to their medley as “urban indie progressive.” Possessing an unrestricted vision for the musical quality in all things, the band operates like sound designers. Pairing synthesizers, pianos, and guitars with organic noise and everyday objects like spatulas, wooden bowls and packing peanuts is not far from the norm. With a new album ready for a 2016 release, Polyenso serves as a challenge to music as a whole, proving that there is room left for originality in the popular. Carrying forward their intrinsically spiritualistic character, from start to finish, their music captures listeners in a moment of transcendence, feeling as much a part of the future as it does the present. They told us the story behind their new album, Pure In The Plastic, and the inspiration behind the first video for track ‘Not My Real Life’, taken from the album, that they have exclusively shared with us today!
KALTBLUT: What brought you all together as Polyenso? Polyenso: We live in St Petersburg, Florida, which is kind of an odd place for a band to blossom from. Denny, Brennan and I (Alex), we’ve been together for almost ten years now making music. We were in another band when we were younger, signed to an indie label, and toured the US for like…five years straight. We put out a couple of albums under that, when we were 16 or 18, and then disbanded, got back together, and decided we wanted to make a new type of music. Thus spawned Polyenso.
KALTBLUT: What were some of your early influences when you started out? Polyenso: Back in the day when we did make our other type of music, we had always listened to bands like Wilco, and artists like Bjork and Bright Eyes – I’ve been listening to Bright Eyes since I was thirteen, twelve? And it’s just now coming out in the music I make myself. So we had all these repressed influences, that couldn’t really come out in our older style of music, because it was a more aggressive kind of style, heavier. And so when Polyenso started we let all that loose, and started writing songs that really reflected what we were listening to. I mean definitely the urban influence comes in. Our drummer Denny, he was born in Puerto Rico, and came over here when he was about ten – I think he’s the only one that comes from a seriously musical family. But his uncles are in a quite popular merengue band out of Puerto Rico – he was raised on the drumset. So he’s got this thing in his blood, and that’s kind of where our rhythm section comes from.
KALTBLUT:How did these early influences translate into the music that you create now? Polyenso: We all listen to stuff like Fela Kuti, but you get that worldly flair from Denny, and like I said, we obsess over old school hip hop, Tribe Called Quest – The Low End Theory is one of the best albums of all time. Stuff like The Roots, J Dilla, Flying Lotus, all of that heavily influences us, that’s what we listen to on a daily basis. And then you mix that with the other stuff that we obsess over, like Sufjan Stevens and Paul Simon, and then you kind of get this aggressive, behind the beat urban thing, meets songwriting. None of us know how to read music. None of us are the most technically talented musicians I’ve ever met, so we rely on feeling. That’s where our music comes from, it’s feeling. I think that translates in the music as well. Do I wish we were a little bit more technically talented? Probably. But it’s working out right now, so we’ll keep practicing and we’ll keep making music, so we’ll see what happens!
KALTBLUT: Tell us a little bit more about the creative approach you’ve developed as a band? Polyenso: We came into a real unique situation, in between our last album, and writing for this one, where we were introduced by some friends to a producer, (Jason Pennock). We were brought to his studio, almost four years ago, and we played him some of our old album, and he was like “Oh my God, REM, Radiohead, I’m loving this, what are you guys writing now?’, so we showed him some new starts, and one thing led to another, and we were in his studio almost everyday for two years straight. Which is a dream for any musician, I think. That’s our place. We love playing live, but God the studio – that is where we feel most alive. So we got to go in everyday, and when writing our old album, it would be traditional – the four or five of us in a room, we’d show each other; ‘Oh here’s this chord progression, here’s this guitar riff, here’s this vocal melody’, and then we’d build on it all together. Or one person writes a song on an acoustic guitar and then we’d build a song around it.
KALTBLUT: How did this evolve into your latest album, Pure In The Plastic? Polyenso: But what we were doing with this record, because of this unique situation, we were like ‘Let’s try something new. Let’s see what happens.’ We were rarely all there at the recording studio at the same time. So somebody would come in, for instance, let’s say Denny has a groove, so he brings in a percussion section, and he tweaks it, and he gets it sounding the way he wants. So I come in, and I’m like ‘This is incredible!’ So I put bass, and I put synthesizers to it, and now we have this song that’s kind of just evolving, and we’re just layering things on top of one another, and then Brennan would come in and write vocals, and do his thing to it. And that’s where Pure In The Plastic came from, just going in and just producing, pretty much. Just being with Jason, and we were using things around the studio, like raiding the kitchen cabinets for cool glasses that clinked the way we liked, and spatulas and wooden spoons, just anything that we could get. And then of course we would all get together and craft the song the way that we wanted structurally. And figure it out that way, and then it turned out that we got to the end of the recording process and we hadn’t played any of it live in a room together. So now with this tour coming up we’ve kind of had to take the album and learn how to play it live.
KALTBLUT: How has Pure In The Plastic grown out of and departed from One Big Particular Loop, and how did you experiment and explore what you were creating already, pushing new boundaries? Polyenso: Like I said, before the writing process was different, so the songs came out different. But with this new one, I think we’ve grown in a way where things that we thought weren’t possible, because we didn’t have the knowledge, or we didn’t have somebody like Jason there, to be like ‘Oh you want it to sound like this? Boom boom boom – click three buttons, or play it this way, and maybe put this chord in there’. Somebody like that – he’s the middle man between what’s in our minds, and what is actually happening – so that in itself opens so many doors. So now when we’re creating in a room, anything is possible. What we can physically do is limited to that, but in our minds what we can hear, we know can be a reality when we get to the recording process, that’s a really empowering thing. So I think that has opened a lot of doors with Pure in The Plastic and with what comes next.
KALTBLUT: With learning to perform and play this album and seeing people’s response – how are you feeling about your upcoming tour and supporting Prvis – what can we expect? Polyenso: It’s been incredible, we have a couple of musicians playing with us, we have an auxilliary percussion player, his name is Chris (Trull). He’s triggering a lot of samples from the record, so you’re gonna get the feeling of it, but with a whole new live aspect. We’ve reworked parts of the songs with added heavier percussion, stuff like that. So you’re gonna get the same emotion, and even the same samples from the record, but with a new energy. Because like I said, we’ve never played it before live, so when we did it was kind of like ‘Oh man that sounds kind of good…it’s not like the record but…let’s roll with that!’ So it’ll be a new breath of life into the record, so I hope people enjoy it.
KALTBLUT: How did touring with PVRIS come about? Polyenso: It’s funny actually, all of the pre-production that we did for One Big Particular Loop, was done with one of our best friends, his name’s Connor Hawkins. He then helped us with live sound throughout that whole thing, and actually was present for some of the recording of Pure In The Plastic as well. And he toured with us – we played in Brooklyn, and Pvris’s manager saw us, and was like ‘ Wow, that sounded really good, can I meet your front of house engineer?’ And it was Connor. So they were introduced, and for the past three or so years, Connor has been Pvris’s front of house engineer, and has toured the world with them. So he showed them our music, and I guess they liked it, and invited us to come and do this little tour with them! So we already feel kind of connected with the Pvris people, because Connor’s telling us stories – like we talked to him the other day and he said ‘Lynn said that we’d better play ‘Let It Go’ or she’s gonna kick us off the tour’! As one of four bands that’s playing, as somebody that’s just getting up there and playing for 25 minutes, that feels good! He also called yesterday and said Alex from Pvris is going to be doing our lights, which is just like …’What!?’ The amount of support is ridiculous.
KALTBLUT: How are you feeling in anticipation of your biggest tour yet? Polyenso: I just hope we can get out with them for a longer run, because it’s gonna be way too short! I’m really excited about that, that and the fact that we’re going to be able to hear these songs in a venue that really lets them shine, you know? We’re a small band, we’re doing headline shows out to meet them at smaller venues. And I’m sure that’s gonna be fun, but once we link up with that tour and we’re playing places like House of Blues, and Webster Hall, and Royale and stuff like that – I just cannot wait, to feel that energy and hear the record live that way. So I’m excited for people that are gonna come that have heard the record, and also people that haven’t, and see the reaction.
KALTBLUT: What was the inspiration for ‘Not My Real Life’, the video we’re premiering today? Polyenso: Well ‘Not My Real Life’ is kind of about gluttony and self control – or lack thereof. So when James and I sat down to create that video…god, it probably took us two months, to just pull really jarring visuals that gave you that feeling of gluttony, of craziness, of absurdity. It’s kind of like a werewolf scenario, like when the sun goes down you turn into a whole different creature. That’s the chorus of ‘Not My Real Life’, you’re not yourself, when you’re doing that. So yeah, we scoured the internet for months for clips that gave you that feeling, of losing control, like you weren’t yourself, that’s where that came from.
KALTBLUT: What direction do you guys hope to take things together in the future? Polyenso: We’ll see how we feel after the Pvris tour, and the festivals that we’ve got coming up, but the studio is where we feel most alive. So I think the future for us, is just to continue making and recording music. We wanna produce other projects, so there’s gonna be a lot of that. So any fans that are reading this, that patiently waited for Pure In The Plastic, you will not have to wait that long, ever again, for a Polyenso record, or any other project, that we do – I can promise you that. We hope to get over to Europe this year, so hopefully that can happen. But we’ll see how everything goes – being an independent band we hustle, of course! Our management is amazing, so all we can do is hustle, and see what happens. But we’re ready for it. It’s not for lack of trying, to any fans that are reading and have wondered why it’s taken so long. Like I said we’ve been doing it for almost ten years now, so we’re just excited that things are heating up. I remember I was at Bonnaroo last year, as a fan, and I was watching some artists and I was daydreaming about us playing there, and we’re doing it this year! So that goes to show that with the help of our team, and if the right things fall into place, this could be something that really works out…