When you think about rock music, the words “choral rock band” are probably not the first thing that comes to mind — but the Polyphonic Spree is in fact a choral rock band that singer-songwriter Tim DeLaughter formed in 2000. The band has released six albums and four EPs, and was chosen by David Bowie to perform at his personally curated “New Heathen’s Night” at the Meltdown Festival in 2002. The Spree was also one of his opening acts on his Reality tour. Their songs have also been used on film and television soundtracks, like “Light And Day” and “It’s The Sun” which appear on the soundtrack for the 2004 cult film Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind.
With a new album in hand, Tim DeLaughter is on a quest to share the release with the world through a unique experience. With Salvage Enterprise, which is due out in 2023, DeLaughter had the idea to travel around the United States with nothing more than a set of 360 quadraphonic speakers, his new tracks, access to social media, and a plan. The plan: to stop in a city and find a spot where he can set up the speakers, announce online that the Salvage Enterprise Listening Experience is happening that night, and give out the address via Instagram and Twitter.
The Salvage Enterprise Listening Experience can take place anywhere where there’s room. It’s been held in parks, in a field, on a beach, and, on one very special occasion, DeLaughter made an attempt to hold an Experience in the Meteor Crater near Winslow, Arizona, but was denied access by a US Park employee. It would have been an incredible experience, to say the least.
DeLaughter explains that the reasoning behind his mission was quite simple. “For me, the world seems to be popping from one song to another. I wanted people to hear this album from start to finish. The only way I could really do that is literally playing it for people and “’capturing’” the audience. After sharing the record with some friends, what I realized was that it really works in this environment. So, I decided to use 360-degree speakers so you can actually be in the sound. It’s almost like being outside and wearing headphones without having any headphones on. It’s an exciting feeling.”
The Salvage Enterprise Listening Experience is a powerful and mind-expanding event because you’re outside and you can look up and see stars while listening to such ethereal and inspiring music. The experiences held on the beach must have taken the event to another level. DeLaughter says that choosing the right location was instrumental to the plan.
He says, “The first one was in Rockwall, Texas. In Texas, we did it about six times. For three days outside of Austin, we actually bussed people in from South By Southwest. It was awesome. I’ve found that people were moved just by being put in that position to do something like that. It’s been really cool to see that people are enjoying being away from their phones, away from the chaos, and tuning it all out.”
People who aren’t familiar with the band have also found their way to the events. DeLaughter mentioned that at a beach in San Diego an entire family from Ireland who had never heard of them and was on vacation walked by and later came back to the Experience. “People really like this, and each experience grows from the last one. I may get some people who come [to the Experience who follow me or the band online], but a lot of it is people who see me setting up. I talk to people throughout the day and I say, ‘Hey, check this out!’ I’m getting people who have never heard of the Spree and who are digging it,” DeLaughter says with a laugh.
[Photo by David R. Wilson]
Earlier this year in July, the Experience made its way across California. DeLaughter held six events in Los Angeles, one in San Diego, and briefly traveled up the coast to Northern California. He plans to continue touring the experience in spring of next year, as well. He says, “I wanted to go to Portland, Seattle — that whole area up there — but I didn’t make it. So I’m going to go up there, and then we’re going to work our way over to Chicago, the Midwest, and then back up to the East Coast — all the way back up to New York and Maryland, and just keep going. I want to work my way back through places like New Orleans and Shreveport.”
DeLaughter thinks that the pandemic has taken something out of people, and part of the reason he is doing this is to spread happiness among others who have been missing the communal experience of music. DeLaughter says, “I think people have been so shell-shocked for quite some time and that these events are like a welcome sign. They feel so good. It’s been really cool to see how people have enjoyed being away from the chaos — even if it’s an hour, tuning it all out and listening to an album.”
For DeLaughter, Salvage Enterprise is an album that didn’t come easy to him or the band. DeLaughter explains, “It took about a year and a half to record the album. It’s the longest we’ve ever spent on an album. It’s a really personal record and one of the hardest I’ve ever made in my life — and I’ve been making records for 30 years. But I’m really proud of it. I wouldn’t be driving around all over the country sharing it if I wasn’t.”