If mind-blowing instrumental math-rock is your musical delicacy of choice, meet Poly-Math – if you haven’t already. They’re currently sitting on one hell of a debut mini-album, which is called Melencolia, was reviewed here for your delectation, and contains three ultra-intense epics that will have you scratching your head in wonderment for months to come.
Here, Poly-Math bassist Joe Branton talks about Melencolia‘s presently-missing fourth track, the joys of instrumental music, and why Poly-Math are on the lookout for the world’s biggest inflatable bananas…
Your debut album Melencolia is out on April 8. What feelings and thoughts are floating around the Poly-Math camp right now?
We’re really looking forward to the release. We put a lot of work into this record, and we’ve tried some new things so it will be interesting to see how it’s received.
We actually recorded another 15 minute long track that didn’t end up on the record; we’re going to put that out in two parts as a live recording that we did at Old Mill Studios in Scotland, so we’re looking forward to having everything that we wrote for the Melencolia record available for people to hear.
What first attracted you to the world of instrumental music?
Poly-Math was a side project for all of us at first. We all played in other bands at the time; Tim, our guitarist, was a drummer in Monsters Build Mean Robots, and he was looking for an outlet for his guitar playing.
I guess we were attracted to instrumental music because we were all bored of playing in bands where you spend most of the time just supporting a vocal. We wanted to push ourselves technically, and really just to play whatever we wanted without any constraints.
We are all very inspired and influenced by bands like The Omar Rodriguez Lopez Group, King Crimson, Yes, Camel, etc. – all of whom were prone to lengthy instrumentals or completely instrumental tracks and albums.
I think we all just find it more expressive than vocally-led music normally is.
What is your earliest musical memory?
Wow, that is a question! We discussed this and all of us had very different answers, but the one thing that stayed consistent were the bands that we remember listening to, drumming along to or dancing to: Led Zeppelin, Cream, Hendrix.
Those guys were pushing boundaries before anyone else, and they inspired a generation of players who were trying to do something different, trying to change conventions rather than just writing another three-minute general rock song.
I think it’s our love for those bands that made us the type of musicians that we are.
Your songs are pretty complicated, to say the least. How would you describe your creative process?
I think it’s the same with anything, you just need to break everything down. We tend to write in individual progressions; when we’ve written the part we’ll go back over it to see if we can distort it a bit, drop a note here, add a bar there, just mess up the time signature a bit, then we’ll decide whether that progression needs to lead into a peak or a trough, and we’ll piece the song together like so.
We always have odd riffs, progressions, and ideas floating around that we haven’t used yet, hence the leftover B-sides from Melencolia.
What are your passions outside of music?
That’s pretty hard to answer. We’re all pretty two-dimensional people to be honest. Chrispy (drummer Chris Woollison) travels a lot! He spent a good wedge of last year in India, and is just about to move to Berlin.
We tend to write and gig in chunks of time throughout the year, so us living apart has never affected us too much. We actually all fully dislike one another, so the least amount of time spent together the better really.
Tim is a avid record collector and has a great wall of vinyl at his house, and I am a gear fanatic so the bulk of any money I have goes on new guitars, amps and effects. Me and Tim get together whenever we buy something new and try to work it into Tim’s mammoth pedal board.
You’ve gained a serious reputation as a live act. What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened at one of your shows?
Probably last year’s ArcTanGent festival, to be honest. We arranged for 50 giant inflatable bananas to be thrown out into the audience, and then I ran along the front of the audience pouring tequila into peoples’ mouths. I think that was pretty weird.
Trouble is, if we play the festival again we’re going to have to think of some way to up that….who knows, maybe bigger bananas!
Beyond Melencolia’s release, what does the future hold?
Well we’ll be touring and playing a serious amount this year, so an awful lot of that.
We’d like to do something different for our next record. Some ideas have been floating about: a traditional Spanish folk record, an ambient record, maybe a short film. Whatever we decide, it’ll be very different from what we’ve done so far, hopefully not in a bad way.
We’ve just bought an organ, and there is some discussion of us switching to a two drum kit set up. Nothing is in stone yet, but we’ll see.
The last two records have been inspired by lithographs by Escher and Durer, I think we’ll look further afield for our next record, a different angle in some way. You’ll have to wait and see I guess!
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