LA-based solo artist Antoine Diligent explains his persistence to create

Antoine Diligent is Anthony Polcino, a Los Angeles-based musician and New Jersey native who has spent the last several years touring and creating with others, now taking space for himself. Antoine Diligent creates soundscapes for listeners to envision dystopian urban environments. Punchy, harmonized guitar riffs and otherworldly synthesizers swirl and reverberate around Polcino’s sometimes low-key croon, with his explicit psych-pop tendencies destined to satisfy longtime fans of Tame Impala, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and Temples. 

Polcino just released “Get In On It”, his newest release and second single from the sophomore album, La Forma. Spacey and delicately shrieking accents lead into Polcino’s honest and simply put lyricism. 

“It’s pretty straight forward… in the age of ‘FOMO’ being an actual thing, it’s not only about missing out on an event happening elsewhere, but also the embodiment of a mood… allowing yourself to feel the way you want to, and be open about it. We all have our own chains that we secretly kind of like being bound to whether we know it or not.”

We talked with the artist about this catchy confessional, his focused creative era and about what’s next to come.

KALTBLUT: What inspired you to create through this solo project, Antoine Diligent?

Antoine Diligent: I’ve always had a necessity to be working on something for as long as I’ve been seriously involved in writing and recording my own music, which at this point is the better part of nearly twenty years.  Bands come and go for various reasons beyond people’s (and my) control. At a certain point the only thing I felt I could truly maintain was a project that simply depended on me being alive for it to carry on. If nothing else seems to be working out, I’ll naturally go my own way.  

“Antoine Diligent” was a pseudonym I had in my back pocket since the days I was in Beat Club (2012-15).  I’ve been a musician in Los Angeles for more than twelve years, and, during that time, toured the United States and the UK repeatedly in venues varying in capacity sizes from fifty to five thousand, been a hired gun, a friend who plays for free, a stand-in, a stand-by, a songwriter, an engineer, a dive bar DJ, on late night tv shows, in magazines, signed, and dropped.  I’ve released a mélange of music in an array of projects as a co-founder, a band leader, a background nobody and a solo artist (also a busboy, food runner, room service attendee, dental office assistant, clothing retail sales associate, and most recently, medicinal cannabis delivery driver).  

In the midst of all this, I never felt any lack of inspiration or lost the will to create and most importantly– finish things.  I considered myself a diligent pupil of not only the art, but of the adaptability to the events of life itself. I proclaimed myself “Anthony the Diligent!” haha.  I had stayed the course, whenever that course was visible. “Antoine Diligent” just sounded more… distinguished. Once I allowed myself to accept the name, I had the freedom to do anything under it. It helped me shed a lot of inhibitions I had musically and stylistically. 

KALTBLUT: Whenever a fellow musician seeks advice on ways to keep on keepin’ on – what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? What’s worked for you?

Antoine Diligent: The simplest answer I can give to that question is: accept everything, and expect nothing.

To elaborate, there’s no real right or wrong advice I can give other than you better know that for yourself and that you are able to understand and accept that statement for what it really means.  For me, it’s just part of who I am. No matter what happens in my life, I seem to always have something I want to say and have the desire to express it musically at every point of life. At least I have so far.  You have to make time for it, and do it. No Spotify numbers, or press, or Insta followers or whatever the flavor of the day may be is going to satisfy you. Funnily enough they’re the most meaningless things on the planet! I know this wholly and fully and even I’m still guilty of coveting such things. I get it though, I’m just a simple human being, and I want to connect with others through the music I spent my very precious, very limited time making.  I’ve mostly always had a job, other endeavors, a serious relationship etc. Making records is a constant, and I hope it never stops. You have to realize and accept that absolutely no one is going to care about it the way you do. So if you’re already feeling that, there won’t be anything anyone needs to hear from me that will help. They’ll probably already be doing it because they really have no other choice. To reiterate what Neil Young said, “sooner or later it all gets real…”

Photo by Wiljòu

KALTBLUT: How does this project differ from Soft Pipes and Beat Club?

Antoine Diligent: Apart from the evident use of different types of instruments– mainly vintage synthesizers– Soft Pipes was more of a first effort… a collection of songs I carefully organized from over a handful of years during the time I was with my first band, Low Vs Diamond.  We were signed to Sony in that band and had a busy touring schedule, and at that time (something like 9 to 12 years ago), that was my main priority. When it seemed like that band was definitely dissipated, Soft Pipes was a way for me to establish and assert myself as a songwriter, lead person, engineer, album creator etc.  It also just kept me busy, and helped me heal after a somewhat sad and difficult time losing what felt like a marriage and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with the other band.

Beat Club is an obvious answer… that was a band of friends with four very distinct players and personalities, and Antoine Diligent is 100% me and my psyche.  It was a very fun, very good band. We had our own thing going on. It just sort of fizzled out as life, choices, and opportunities presented themselves. Jeff is now a member of The Voidz with Julian Casablancas, Jon has various other projects with him, and Joe is now the drummer for The New Pornographers (who I recently got to play bass with, so fun!) We’re all still friends, and in fact, Joe plays drums on all my records, from Soft Pipes through Antoine Diligent.

KALTBLUT: Can you talk about the narrative behind “Get In On It” in the context of LA?

Antoine Diligent: “Get In On It” can definitely work in the context of LA, where there is literally something interesting going on every night of the week if you look for it… especially in the days of seeing what all your friends are doing at any moment on Instagram, haha.  The song itself, even though it has somewhat of a peppy rhythm and positive attitude, still feels a little melancholy to me. It’s someone who’s not overtly positive by default, but really wants to try it for more than a day for god sakes! 

It’s loosely about the mindset of consistently setting yourself apart from reality, realizing that, and being stubborn about wanting to change it. That feeling good, or doing fun things, or owning a pet, or waking up early- literally anything– is something other people do, but certainly not you… and then thinking, that’s just simply not true!  In a place like LA that’s sometimes known for its superficial tendencies and self indulgence with all that can seem meaningless and ridiculous, there are sure a lot of wonderful, deep, and inspiring people and things to do here. It’s hard to explain unless you spend real time here, day to day. It doesn’t snow or get very cold, but it still feels like winter because of the sun’s position in the sky.  You just feel it. Stuff like that. “Get In On It” is about clearing the clouds that follow you around. Taking the metaphorical ride, if you will, that someone has asked you to take… and not passing it up just to remain where you are and be comfortable. 

KALTBLUT: Did you work with collaborators on the single, or did you play every instrument?

Antoine Diligent: Everything I do as Antoine Diligent is all me. I write, record/engineer, and produce everything. Though as I mentioned earlier, my long time friend Joe Seiders plays the drums.  He’s the only other person I allow on my recordings haha… his drumming is just too damn good, and I need that. I will make very extensive, more than half complete “demos” in my apartment in Los Feliz, the neighborhood I’ve lived in LA for ten years or so. Then we recorded the drums in his garage in La Quinta, out near Palm Springs where he lives.  I bring that back to my apartment to mix and finish it (aka have fun going nuts and making whatever choices I want!). The lyrics on this one are worth mentioning, not because they’re original or even that good, but they formed themselves after several takes of repeating the same thing on the fly during recording… so I took that as that’s what I wanted to say that day, apparently.  I laughed and talked to myself during one take and left it in the song. That’s what I mean about “solo project freedom.” Anything that fits becomes part of the music if you say so. The only thing I had set beforehand as a demo on my phone was the chorus melody and that guitar line that goes with it.  

I also do a decent amount of graphic design and design mostly all of my album artwork.  My friend Bryan Olson of the band Shadowgraphs made the (what I think is iconic) cover for my first LP “Futurisms”, and I did the typography.  For the new singles and record (La Forma), I’m doing it all. I like to stay busy… and as I said in one of my other tracks Television Eyes, “I’d suggest that you give it your best…”.

KALTBLUT: What are your favorite details about your neighborhood and what’s kept you settled in this place?

Antoine Diligent: There’s a few reasons. The most obvious is, I can’t really move because my building is rent controlled. If I leave, I better know where I’m going and that I can afford it. it’s a pretty eclectic neighborhood.  Its residents are not defined just by “artist types” and what not. I mean, they’re there, but so is everyone else. It’s walkable, which is very rare for LA. It’s situated next to the nicest park in the city, Griffith Park. If I’m off, I never have to use a car. I can walk out of my apt to the park, the grocery store, the bank, the post office, restaurants, and mostly everything else. So that helps.  I also run a fragrance line with my fiancé called Thin Wild Mercury that’s image is steeped in the history of LA… you should check it out! So yeah, we’ve kind of accepted that this is our home, for now. I’m comfortable here. I know many of the people who work at a lot of the establishments here on a first name basis. It’s got a neighborhood feel, and I dig that.  

And for anyone that knows me, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite spot, Little Dom’s. It’s an Italian restaurant where I’m most certainly a regular. Great food (and I’m a vegetarian), music, vibe, staff, and everything else.  It gives you the feeling that it’s been there forever, even though it has only been there about the same amount of time as I have… and that’s no small feat anywhere, let alone in LA. 

KALTBLUT: What are your next steps for this project?

Antoine Diligent: Really, I just want to keep making songs and records and putting them out. And I hope it grows and changes and remains interesting, obviously.  As long as I grow and change personally, the music surely will as well. I’m just assuming if I keep doing it, the path for it will be revealed as I go. There’s not much more I can really hope for given the circumstances of my life, the state of the world and whatever ashes remain of the music business.  I consider myself lucky that I’ve learned how to record myself, and I have a place to do it. Thank god for that. At some point I’ll have to play live more often… I haven’t put together any kind of set band yet. I hope my desire to connect with other people will become so untamed that I’ll have no choice but to make that happen. But yeah, there’s a question of budgets there too. I don’t have a label or anything, everything depends on me. So maybe part of my next steps will be reaching out more to involve others, because as we all know, no one ever really makes it alone…

Feature photo by Casey Curry