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 onto the road, and the Live from Austin, TX CD/DVD captured their strength as a live act later that year. ~ Linda Seida & Andrew Leahey, Rovi