Shaky Knees 2016: Polyenso X Vinyl Mag
St. Petersburg-based trio Polyenso create their sound through an eclectic fusion of indie rock, electronic, folk and hip-hop. Formerly known as Oceana, the band brings something new to the table with lighter, more uplifting music under their new name. We had the chance to chat with Polyenso’s own Alex Schultz prior to their set at Shaky Knees to discuss influences, songwriting and what fans can expect in the future as the band evolves, changes and continues to push the boundaries of what they do.
Vinyl Mag: So are you guys excited for Shaky Knees?
Alex Schultz: Oh yeah, this will be our first major music festival.
VM: And you’re playing Bonnaroo this year too right?
AS: Yeah, second major music festival.
VM: Pretty exciting way to kick off your U.S. tour!
AS: Yeah, this tour is kind of like a festival sandwich. We’ve got Shaky Knees the first date and Bonnaroo the last date. So it’s perfect, it worked out really well.
VM: Are there any other cities or venues you’re really excited to play at?
AS: Oh yeah, we haven’t been out to the west coast, as Polyenso, ever. You know in other bands we toured out there a while, but not as Polyenso, so we’re just excited to be out there. It’s been too long. But New York of course is going to be amazing. We have a lot of friends in New York and we’re excited to play there. And a couple other cities, but mostly I think we’re just excited to get out to the west coast.
VM: Do you guys have any favorite songs to perform live? Do you do any covers, or have anything that gets the crowd really excited?
AS: We kind of re-invented this album, because we recorded the whole thing in the studio. And we never played any of it live before until we started rehearsing for this tour. So we kind of re-invented a lot of the tracks live. So they’ve got this whole new dynamic. My favorite to do live is “Let it Go.” I know, I think Denny’s is “Every Single Time” or “A Pool Worth Diving In,” but yeah, no covers on this one. I was thinking about doing a Prince thing, but things were so crazy, we didn’t have time to put something that would have really honored him together, so we decided to just play our songs, maybe say something.
VM: So you guys started out as Oceana…how has it been changing from that sound to the sounds of Polyenso?
AS: Honestly, back in those days when we did play with that band we had always listened to the things that inspired Polyenso’s music, we just never really let them come out in our writing. Little bits here and there vocally and melodically sometimes, but there wasn’t really room for it in that type of music. So with this new stuff, we let those influences completely take over. Influences like Sufjan Stevens, Bjork and Paul Simon. And Flying Lotus. Some of the other hip-hop influences you can hear on the new stuff. We’ve been listening to that stuff forever, now just let it finally really influence our music and that’s why the big change happened and that’s why we decided to start a new band and honor that stuff we didn’t in the past. Cause that was a time and we’re proud of it but we just started something completely different, and didn’t do it under the same moniker. But luckily when we did form Polyenso, we had a lot of fans from our other band that kind of grew with us, so there was a lot of crossover. They were like okay, I can get into this now at this point in my life and they were on the same page as us. So it helped a lot and we got a lot of support from those fans.
VM: Loyal fan base.
AS: Yeah, totally. I mean we got a lot of heat for it too, a lot of internet hate, stuff like that, but if you’re gonna change something up like that you’ve got to expect that.
VM: Yeah, you’ve got to stick to what feels right for you. So what was your writing process like for Pure In The Plastic?
AS: It was something completely foreign to us as musicians. We got an awesome opportunity to be in the studio with a producer that some friends introduced us to, in our hometown, and we talked for a little bit, we showed him some of our old music from our first album, and he was making all these comparisons like R.E.M and Radiohead, and he really loved it and wanted to hear some new stuff so we showed him some little things we had been writing, and one thing led to another and we ended up being in that studio almost every day for about two years. So our first album was pretty classic writing scenario, we would all be in a room together and would be bouncing ideas off each other and I would have my guitar, and Denny would be on the drums and Brennan would have his guitar and keyboard and we would just write classic band style. But with this new one, we had a little bit written, which is what we showed the producer, but for the most part we went in and completely wrote and recorded everything piece by piece. So the three of us were rarely in the studio at the same time. Denny would come in and lay down a drum groove, then I would come in the next day or so and put bass and synthesizers or a vocal melody and some guitars and then Brennan would come in and do the same thing and we would just tweak this thing until it became something that we all were completely obsessed over. And then we would all sit down together and structure it out. Decide which part was the intro, which part we would do verses or choruses. Pop music, Prince, Michael Jackson, Paul Simon, people like that they still have a huge influence on what we do, as does the experimental, so we’re big on The Beatles, stuff like that, we experiment for sure, and we got the opportunity to experiment like crazy on this new one, but at the end of the day, we want to make it accessible for ourselves and for other people, and the blending of pop meets experimental is what happened there. Because of what we listened to. But the writing process was literally all in the studio, we never played any of it live together before, so playing it live together now is an experience. It’s really cool. Super fun.
VM: Going forward, what do you want people to think of when they hear your name, or hear your music?
AS: I want them to be excited about what they’re going to hear from us next, and I want them to be excited about when they listen to our records, that they’re going to hear something new every time. Because some of my favorite records are like that, you listen to it once and you love it, or you don’t love it, it takes some time to get used to, and then you listen to it again and you hear something new. We put a lot of love into this record, so I just hope when people think about us they get excited for music in general. And what’s next. Because we’re going to keep evolving, keep changing and pushing the boundaries of what we do.
VM: Is there anything else you want to share with Vinyl readers?
AS: Well if there’s any of our fans out there reading this, just wanted to say thank you. For helping us get to this point, because this is the start to what we’ve been working towards for the past five years. These opportunities are right there in front of us and we’re not going to mess them up. The reason that we’re here, not only because of music but because of that awesome fan base we were talking about earlier. So anybody that’s reading this that’s been listening to us, thank you.