markpirro

Sonic Glory:
Mark Pirro of
The Polyphonic Spree

Mark Pirro is the bassist for pop group the Polyphonic Spree. The Spree is a 25-member group that includes two keyboardists, a harpist, and a ten-person choir. Live, The Polyphonic Spree emits a vibe of love and happiness. I recently saw them live at the Voodoo Music Festival in New Orleans; I can honestly say that it was one of the best performances I have ever seen in my life. Their music is a style of symphonic pop that is life affirming and glorious. The Polyphonic Spree’s latest release is “Together We’re Heavy,” out now on Hollywood/Good Records. Mark wrote in to discuss the Spree’s success, building microphones, and use of mousetraps.

 

How did you become involved in the Polyphonic Spree?

Everybody that is involved with the band has a different story. For me, I was fortunate enough to already have a history with Tim. Tim, Bryan (our drummer) and myself all played in a previous band called Tripping Daisy. We did that band for almost 10 years. When it came to an end in 1999, Tim didn’t really want to do anything musically for a while. About two years later he got the idea for the Polyphonic Spree and that is when he asked me and Bryan if wanted to be rhythm section. That was about five years ago. I’m still playing bass and shaking wanted my head at how Tim was able to convince us all to become part of his outrageous vision.

 

What’s the best aspect of being in the Spree?

There are many things actually… traveling and seeing the world, making new friends, making a living at doing something you love, etc. However, I think the best thing is just being a part of something that is helping change the world of music. On paper The Polyphonic Spree is not supposed to work. However, it does, and always manages to get around, go over, or break through any obstacles in its way. It is a pretty exciting thing to think that we have ‘opened the door’ so many times, when other people have said it just can’t be done.

 

Is there any sort of hazing process in order to be in the band?

Ahh, don’t tell anybody… it involves a mousetrap, earthworms and of course Kool-Aid.

 

What inspired the name the Polyphonic Spree?

Tim will tell you it had something to do with a theme found on one of those old ‘wacky-pack’ sticker that were popular in the 70’s. Some play on the product, poly-dent I believe. Anyway, I think it just helped get the word in his mind, but the name is not quite as random as that. The name describes the sound and nature of the band. ‘Polyphonic’ meaning many sound, ‘spree’ meaning an extravaganza of sorts.

 

Do you remember your first gig with the Spree?

Yes, it was opening for Grandaddy. I think we only had 13 members at that time and people were already flipping out on the size.

 

What’s the biggest misconception about the Polyphonic Spree?

That we are a religious cult and that walk around all time in an unusually good mood. C’mon people, get real.

 

Are you surprised by your success?

When I start looking back at all the things we have done (touring with David Bowie, being on the MTV Video Music Awards when we don’t even have a video, playing the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, being on numerous late night shows like Jay Leno, performing Sgt. Peppers in front of George Martin, and touring other places like Europe, Japan and Australia), then yes, I am surprised by our success.

 

What are your hobbies outside of music?

Well I am fascinated with the art of creative recording and have a modest home studio in my apartment. I have actually done quite a bit of recording for The Polyphonic Spree. In fact, Tim scored a movie soundtrack for the upcoming film, ‘Thumbsucker’ and we recorded the entire thing here in my living room. When I’m not busy recording, I have a side business/hobby building microphones. I have designed a microphone that uses vintage components to achieve a nostalgic sound reminiscent of the early days of recording. You can check it out at http://placidaudio.com

 

What do you see yourself doing in ten years?

At this point, I have no idea. I’m open to anything. If I went back ten years ago and someone handed me a crystal ball showing me what my life was going to be like now, I wouldn’t have believed it. Usually, truth is stranger than fiction.

 

Do you have a certain method to your music?

Well Tim is the songwriter of the band. He usually has a pretty good idea of what he is wanting to hear. We first work it up with the primary rock instruments, guitar, bass, drums and piano. Then we bring in the horns, strings, etc. once the arrangement is pretty solid we finally bring in the choir.

 

Do you have a quote or motto that you live by?

In life when one door is closing, another one is trying to open. Don’t ever underestimate that fact.

 

What’s your greatest fear?

Fear itself.

 

Do you have any hidden talents?

I think at my ripe age of 34, I am pretty in touch with all my talents. I’ll hope my friends will tell me if I missed something.

 

How would you describe the Polyphonic Spree’s music in three words?

THE POLYPHONIC SPREE

 

Do you have a favorite moment from being on the road with the Spree?

Yeah, the first time we got to perform the song ‘Slip Away’ with David Bowie. It was pretty surreal.

 

What’s been your craziest fan experience?

Hmmm. probably meeting Noel Gallagher from Oasis and finding out that he is a huge fan.

 

If you could tour with any artist, who would it be?

Paul McCartney.

 

Do you guys have any rituals before you go on stage?

Yeah, we usually gather around as a band and do a three-minute vocal warm up. Then we get out the mousetrap, earthworms and Kool-Aid….

 

I recently saw you live in New Orleans, what’s the key to putting on such a great live show?

A mousetrap, earthworms and Kool-Aid.

 

What’s the one piece of advice that you would give to young musicians?

Learn how improvise and play with other people.

 

For more info on the Polyphonic Spree, check out their websitewww.thepolyphonicspree.com

To view some live photos of the Polyphonic Spree click here.

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