POLIÇA – Interview

“I am drawn to music and I like making music that is comforting in its kind of darkness and its reality.”

Diese Band hat so einige Themen parat – viele davon haben Poliça auf ihrem dritten Album ‘United Crushers’ verarbeitet. Deutete das letzte Werk noch eine feministische Lesart an, erzählt das neue elf kleine Geschichten, die einerseits von sozialer Ungerechtigkeit, Gentrifizierung oder dem Niedergang amerikanischer Städte handeln, um dann wiederum die Liebe in den Mittelpunkt zu stellen. Wir trafen Sängerin Channy Leaneagh beim einzigen Deutschland-Konzert von Poliça, um mit ihr über Bandstrukturen, experimentelle Arbeitsweisen und den neuen warmen Sound der Gruppe aus Minneapolis zu sprechen. Dass diese am Ende doch keine Lieder schreibt, die sich zur Flucht aus dem Alltag eignen, bedingt sich vor allem aus den Themen, die auf ‘United Crushers’ im Mittelpunkt stehen. Und auch wenn sich die Songs keine explizit feministischen Themen behandeln: Warum Poliça immer wieder mit diesem Thema in Verbindung gebracht werden, ob sie sich als feministische Band sehen und wie sich dieses Image mit einem Baby als Tourbegleitung vereinen lässt – das erzählte uns Channy im Februar in Berlin.

Polica - Interview

An earlier quote of you says that you wanted ‘United Crushers’ to be your best work. Now that it’s finished: Would you say that you succeeded with this plan? And if so – in which aspects particularly?
Well, I guess you’re always trying to currently make your best work. But I feel that my lyrics are better with this album, I’m singing better. Of course there are more things I want to do, but in that way – I feel that I have improved and I guess that’s what you hope to do with each record.

You say, you’re singing “better”, but what mostly stands out is that you’re singing different. You’re voice sounds more natural now than on previous albums – you didn’t electronically alienate your voice that much.
Yeah, I didn’t use as many things that kind of cover my voice. This had to do with finding a better sound and a warmer sound. I hate the sound that’s kind of digital, like HDTV sound – I hate that. So with that album I was able to find the kind of sound that I was looking for since the last record.

But when you decided to electronically change your voice on the two albums before: Did you just do that because you wanted to try things out? Or did you want to express something through that which lies beyond the sound, maybe explicitly not produce a “warm sound”?
I am not that intentional. I wish I was, but I tend to make things based on experimenting. Likewise now I am trying to experiment with different pedals and obviously I’ve done enough with auto-tune so now I’m using other things. The first record was really shy – that is kind of the best word for it. Because it was just me and Ryan at ‘Give You The Ghost’, I was just singing these songs for the first time and they are shy in a way that demos are. And now I am not making demos anymore. That was great about the first records, but that is not something you can continue to do sincerely.

When you are talking about Ryan and you at the beginning: You did not have a band at that time, right?
Yeah, because in the beginning we didn’t really know what we were doing.

And was there ever a time you were on stage together?
No. With the past record ‘Shulamith’ he toured with us and did a lot of vocal processing, but always behind the stage.

But since there is always a lot of synth-sound in your songs: Did you ever think about someone on stage joining you to play the synthesizers for example?
Well, so much that forms this band is the chemistry. And the five of us get along very well. We just don’t care, I guess! Ryan plays all the synths live, he records them onto tape or whatever and then onto the record and that’s his contribution and I guess we just don’t want to have anybody else.

So is he always there when you’re touring?

Yes, most of the time. He is also the father of my baby, so now he’s on the road and we watch him together.

Your last album ‘Shulamith’ had a strong feminist aspect or at least it suggested a feminist reading through the title which refers to the famous feminist Shulamith Firestone. When listening to ‘United Crushers’ it seems that you’re going more into the direction of general human rights or social injustice topics. Was that an explicit plan or did you just process the topics that were concerning you the most?
What you find in the songs is mainly just what was on my mind when I was writing them, I think. And certainly there are a lot of subjects on the record, but probably like 90% of the record is about love and relationships so it is not like a 100% political record at all, but the strongest opinions always kind of stand out. I guess I can’t really NOT write about it. I am somebody who can’t really separate the ideas I have in my mind. I tend to not be really good in small-talking, I have to go straight to the intense issues and discuss things. All my records are kind of a conversation with the band and with Ryan. They are all about my feelings and my life at the time of writing it. And right now, all over the world there is so much bubbling over with regard to human rights – kind of the conservative versus the progressive – that it is hard not to talk about it, I think. And I don’t think Poliça has ever made music to purely escape into. We definitely have pop-aspects but we don’t do the kind of pop-music that you listen to to forget about everything. I am drawn to music and I like making music that is comforting in its kind of darkness and its reality. There is a dreamlike quality to it still, but I like to talk about stuff that matters to me.

So do you feel that you could capture all the stuff that’s been in your head on that album?
Well, if you look at ‘Shulamith’ – I wouldn’t say it’s a feminist record. It’s more like “a woman writing a record”. But I named that record after her. And similarly ‘United Crushers’ talks about everything that I wanted to talk about at the time I wrote it, I guess. And I feel like I got to say the things I wanted to say. For example ‘Melting Block’ is an important song to me. I like to write stories. And I guess this album is just like 11 little stories.

But if we go back to Poliça being a feminist band somehow – not only through the title of the last album or through being a female front singer – I think it is not easy to exactly name the aspects which create this preferred reading. Where do you think did you get that attribute from?
I think you can answer that question in a kind of backhanded way. I guess Poliça is that sort of band where even the men in the band are kind of feminist. Also in the way we operate as a band. I don’t think I represent myself as kind of androgynous, we are operating kind of equal and that has certain aspects of feminism. I am a female front woman, but I also try to blend in with the rest of the band so that we are all equal players. We uphold each other and allow each other all types of space. And even the subjects of the lyrics, the way I write about love, they always come from a kind of place where I am not a weak character. I often have a strong, confrontational tone, I guess. I am very self-critical but I am also critical of the world around me, so I try to not be a victim. I think being a feminist also means being able to speak and think about other things besides just the fight for women’s right. Because I think when we all join and unite together, it’s better for everyone and everybody will rise up.

You are on tour with your baby at the moment. How does it feel to be trying to handle that – do you sometimes feel like being stuck in a very female role?
Yeah, it is sort of like the concept of the modern novel or the modern question – I am constantly a contradiction to myself. I am also married – but I also don’t really believe in marriage. But I do believe in having and raising children – but I also believe in having equal relationships, where the dad takes care of the baby as well. Yeah, but mainly I find myself in tons of contradictions all the time. And it is working on touring. I have to work in order to make money to support the family and so he just has to come with me.

So one last question since I heard way too late of that one concert in Berlin: How was it and when will you be playing in Germany again?
It was good! I do sincerely like the crowds in Berlin quite a bit. They are fun and seem not afraid to dance, so I like playing in Berlin. I always wanted to play in Berghain, now we were in the Berghain Kantine, so it was a smaller version, but it was a good show! It was only our second concert on this tour and with this record, so we just need to be out at night and be in front of people. Right now we are having kind of a promo tour – we didn’t bring any of our lights with us so this had sort of a “showcase character”. But in October we’ll be back in Germany for a proper tour!

‘United Crushers’ erscheint am 04. März 2016 via Memphis Industries. Aufgenommen wurden die Songs im letzten Jahr in El Paso, Texas von Sängerin Channy Leaneagh, den Drummern Drew Christopherson und Ben Ivascu, dem Bassisten Chris Beirden sowie dem Produzenten Ryan Olson.

Poliça – Tour:
24.-26.6. Hurricane Festival, Scheeßel
24.-26.6. Southside Festival, Neuhausen ob Eck
27.10. Die Kantine, Köln
28.10. Batschkapp, Frankfurt
29.10. Uebel&Gefährlich, Hamburg
04.11. Astra, Berlin
05.11. Technikum, München