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When the Polyphonic Spree first appeared in 2000, the Dallas symphonic pop group was as much a band as a "happening," in the 1960s sense of the word. The Spree's two dozen members took the stage in flowing robes of snowy white, an appropriate backdrop for their happy and uplifting blend of pop, orchestral rock, and minimal touches of gospel. The costumes changed over the years, but the Polyphonic Spree's message remained consistent, drawing comparisons to the Flaming Lips and the Beach Boys with a smidgen of lively Godspell-like attitude thrown into the mix.
The Polyphonic Spree were founded by vocalist Tim DeLaughter, who fronted the band Tripping Daisy until 1999, when a drug overdose killed his bandmate Wes Berggren. Tripping Daisy subsequently folded, and DeLaughter pulled together surviving members of the group for the Polyphonic Spree, a massive collective that admitted more than 20 new members into its fold. The group put together a demo entitled The Beginning Stages of the Polyphonic Spree and distributed it to fans during a holiday performance; a Dallas-based indie label, Good Records, later issued the release. Boasting a ten-member choir, two keyboardists, percussion, bass guitar, flute, trumpets, trombone, violin, French horn, theremin, pedal steel, and an electronic effects wizard, the band had little trouble carving out its own unique niche.
DeLaughter emerged as the group's musical director and lead vocalist, and the Polyphonic Spree hit the road with more than a dozen full-sized vans. Despite the cumbersome nature of touring with an immense lineup, the band drew attention with its cathartic performances, including a gig during 2003's Reading Festival. The single "Follow the Day" was featured in Volkswagen commercials as well as the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind soundtrack, which helped the Polyphonic Spree earn even more exposure. The group's proper debut, Together We're Heavy, was co-released by Good Records and Hollywood Records during the summer of 2004, garnering the Spree additional accolades despite a vicious review by Entertainment Weekly.
Released in 2007, the Wait EP found the band moving in a darker, slightly more atmospheric direction, and the band returned that summer with The Fragile Army, a reprise of the vibrant Technicolor sound of its earlier work. The band now sported black military outfits with red crosses stitched onto the front, signaling a newfound darkness that flecked The Fragile Army with brief flashes of melancholy and textured rock. As before, the Polyphonic Spree took their tent revival-esque show on the road, and the Live from Austin TX CD/DVD captured their strength as a live act later that year. In 2012, the psych-pop extravaganza decided to take on the challenge of holiday music, releasing Holidaydream: Sounds of the Holidays, Vol. 1, which found the band putting its own exuberant spin on some classic Christmas standards. Continuing to color the pop culture world with their brand of vibrant psychedelia, the band took on a cult classic and released the live album, Songs From the Rocky Horror Picture Show, in 2013.
The Polyphonic Spree is a choral symphonic pop rock band from Dallas, Texas that was formed in 2000 by Tim DeLaughter. The band's sound relies on a variety of vocal and instrumental color by featuring a choir, flute, trumpet, french horn, trombone, violin, viola, cello, percussion, piano, guitars, bass, drums, electronic keyboards and EWI. DeLaughter is the lead singer.
DeLaughter's previous group, Tripping Daisy, came to an abrupt end in 1999 when guitarist Wes Berggren died of a drug overdose. Making The Polyphonic Spree a reality was, in part, a reaction to his death.
In 2000, DeLaughter collaborated with twelve other musicians, trying to put a sound together that reflected the music he grew up with. He wanted to explore the orchestral palette and pop sensibility of The Association, The 5th Dimension, Wings, and The Beach Boys; and the vocal style of Ozzy Osbourne from Black Sabbath. Within two weeks, The Polyphonic Spree created a 30-minute set, donned their signature white choir robes and performed with Grandaddy and Bright Eyes.
Shortly after their first show, twelve more musicians joined the band and they recorded "The Beginning Stages of ... The Polyphonic Spree", which contained all nine songs (sections) written for their first show, plus a tenth track (Section 10 – Long Day). The album was intended to serve as a demo recording to garner interest in booking the band for live performances. They performed at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas. As a result of the attention they received from the press and other industry pundits at the festival, the band was invited to perform at London's Meltdown Festival curated by David Bowie in 2002. They opened for The Divine Comedy at the Royal Festival Hall.
In early 2003, they were dropped by their record label, 679 Recordings, citing "lack of record sales." Ironically, it was about this time that the band had only just begun to break into the pop-cultural scene. The song "Light and Day / Reach For the Sun" was used in a joint Volkswagen Beetle/iPod tie-in advertising campaign, appearing on nationwide television commercials in 2004. The same song was used in a tribute to Bill Walsh during an NFL football preseason special. It was also used in an episode of the TV series Scrubs, the end music for the first series of the BBC Radio 7 sci-fi comedy Undone, the music video for the song was also adapted for the movie "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind". Also during this time the band was invited to be an opening act for David Bowie on his "Reality Tour" and performed at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas.
In 2004, Hollywood Records released their second album, Together We're Heavy in Japan on June 30, Europe on July 12, and North America on July 13, 2004. The Polyphonic Spree was featured on the American television program Scrubs on April 20, 2004, in the episode "My Choosiest Choice of All" (3-19); and on the television program Las Vegas on November 29, 2004, in the episode "Silver Star" (2-10). The Polyphonic Spree was also featured on the soundtrack of the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (the DVD features a film clip music video for "Light and Day").
In December 2004, The Polyphonic Spree performed at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert, honoring Wangari Maathai before a worldwide television audience.
2005 saw the release of Thumbsucker, a feature film by Mike Mills, with a score composed by Tim DeLaughter and performed by The Polyphonic Spree. The song "Light and Day / Reach for the Sun" can also be found in Murderball, a documentary about the U.S. wheelchair rugby team.
The band released their third complete album The Fragile Army on June 19, 2007, produced by John Congleton. The Polyphonic Spree dropped their robes for their 2007 tours, and opted for black army outfits, while continuing to don the classic white robes during encores. Recently (July 2007) the song "Running Away" was featured on the Sci-Fi network in commercials promoting their line up of shows for the season.
Also in autumn of 2007, Adidas commissioned a few artists to write theme songs for MLS teams as part of a campaign called "MLS Represent". The Polyphonic Spree was commissioned to write a song for FC Dallas. The result was the song "H-O-O-P-S Yes!"
In September 2007, The Polyphonic Spree performed three songs, "Light and Day / Reach for the Sun", "Soldier Girl", and "Light to Follow", at Oscar de la Renta's Spring 2008 Fashion Show for New York Fashion Week. They recorded the opening track to the Showtime series Weeds for season 2 (episode 9), and also contributed to the Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Nightmare Before Christmas tribute CDs.
Sky Sports are using "Running Away" to advertise their spring and summer Cricket coverage.
UK supermarket Sainsbury's continues to use "Light and Day / Reach For the Sun" for its advertising campaign. It became the most used song in advertising in the United Kingdom.
In 2009, the band wrote and performed the opening sequence to Showtime's new show The United States of Tara, which stars Toni Collette as a woman with multiple personality disorder. This was performed live for the first time ever on their current tour of Australia, in the city of Adelaide. "Light & Day/Reach For The Sun" is also featured on the "Your UQ" advertising campaign for the University of Queensland.
On July 11, 2011, the band released an interactive music video app for iOS devices called Bullseye, featuring the first single from an upcoming collection of songs.
"Light and Day/Reach For the Sun" is featured in the movie trailer for the 2012 animated film The Lorax.
On October 11, 2012, the band launched a campaign on Kickstarter to fund their next studio album, tour, live album, and concert DVD. They successfully reached their funding goal of $100,000 on November 28 of the same year.