Larger Than Life?

August 19, 2008

The Polyphonic Spree Listens in With Shure NILES, IL, August 19, 2008 — By its own definition, The Polyphonic Spree is a "choral symphonic rock group." Founded by Tim DeLaughter and generally including anywhere from 13 to 27 members during live performances, the group is often comprised of a ten-person choir, a pair of keyboardists, percussionist, drummer, bassist, guitarist, flautist, trumpeter, trombonist, violinist/violist, harpist, French horn player, pedal steel guitarist, someone on theramin, and an electronic effects person. DeLaughter accepted the very first Polyphonic Spree gig before he even had a band. Faced with a hard deadline to create and produce, he somehow pulled everything together in time. "I do things like that," he admits today nearly eight years and countless gigs of all sizes and scope later. "I definitely need things like this for my psyche to move forward. If that's what it took to make this band a reality...I mean, I didn't even have a band. It was all just an idea and wishful thinking. The difference is acting on it. It took that date to make things happen." These days, front-of-house engineer Adam Fisher and monitor engineer Chris Preston are the ones given the task of riding herd over the horde onstage at Polyphonic Spree gigs. Dealing with a sea of faces, an assortment of voices, and a variety of instruments each night, the pair use Shure PSM in-ear personal monitor systems to help provide better control over what's heard in both the stage mixes and the house. "The PSM systems are useful on a number of levels," monitor engineer Preston says. "If someone has an amp that's putting us into feedback situations, the in-ears provide a ready fix. When you have cello, violin, and viola players cranking things up to hear themselves over a percussion kit, it's also good to have in-ears in that situation, too." Out in front, Adam Fisher somehow finds a way to keep everyone and everything situated in the mix, even the less-than-conventional instruments. "Well, it's all about making everything fit into the spectrum of frequencies," he explains of his role in the process. If you subtract something from one instrument, it might be wise to add it to another. For instance, if I take the upper-mids out of a guitar so it won't thrash your ears as much, I'll add the same back to the cello. The cello produces a lot of low-end anyway, so that just makes it come out more." Mark Pirro and Bryan Wakeland join DeLaughter as the three original members still with the band. Before the Spree, all three were in the band Tripping Daisy, a group that included the late Wes Berggren on guitar.