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Interview with POLYACHi
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
I’m not sure how Schuyler would answer this, but I (Des) would be dead, no question, dead if not for music. We both got into music as kids, both started playing instruments as kids. When I was little, I saw someone on MTV playing guitar and making faces and moving around. I asked an adult why the guitar player was doing that, and the adult told me it was because the guitarist was “feeling the music.” That idea blew my damn mind. Got me thinking about how some of my favorite movies as a little kid, Star Wars and Batman, were important to me for the music as much as anything else.
Playing music is like having another way to perceive reality, and it is the biggest dopamine hit I’ve ever been able to find consistently. Music draws us all together, it lets us express things that can’t be expressed any other way. For both of us, music is at the center of our lives each day.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
If I’m not playing music (or attending obligations), I go to shows and watch my friends play. There isn’t such a thing as not-playing-music for us, unless we are just too drained. Schuyler is in 3 bands, including POLYACHi, and I’m about to get a second band going. I mean, sure, we watch movies or have drinks and socialize or play games or doom scroll here and there, but there’s really no such thing as either of us choosing something else over music.
The world around us and the lives we live influence our creativity. Our atheism informs our work, as do our personal histories. Mostly, we draw constant inspiration from the world around us, the conversations we have with each other and with anyone else. Sometimes we make a song to externalize a feeling or set down a burden. Sometimes we write to process the various unprecedented, historic events we all keep living through year after year.
How long has your band been around?
Privately, we got started in 2011 and spent the next 11 years refining our style without gigging or releasing music. There are five records worth of material we’ve made that perhaps a few dozen people have ever heard. Sometimes we draw from those songs, such as SUPPOSED TO FEEL, which we’ve released on our EP, THE SiCKNESS GETS WORSE, as the third incarnation of that song. The riffs and hook basically stayed the same, but perspective helped us shape the song into its best version.
Publicly, we’ve been around since April Fool’s Day of 2022, which is when we dropped our first song on Spotify. It’s kinda strange, because we’re a band that’s been around for 12 years… only we’ve been around for 1 year. Like, we’ve played with a few bands who knew we were playing for the first or second time, probably expecting inexperience, and then we lay out the sort of set you’ve gotta have a decade of history to do. People still don’t know what to expect from us, and we’re here for it!
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
Love this question!! Schuyler lives in La Crosse, Wisconsin and I live in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. We work out of both cities, together and separately, and we each have friends and social lives in both cities. Some things are quite different, but fundamentally La Crosse and Cedar Rapids are old Midwest American cities built around large rivers and crisscrossed with train tracks. Sounds from trainyards and crossings have always been a part of our lives, and the dynamics of those sounds are massively present in our music.
We also both take inspiration from our surroundings whenever we’re out; birds, cars, wind through trees and snow, insects buzzing, cats and dogs, trucks and motorcycles, etc. The climate is severe in this part of the country, temperatures vary by over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) through the seasons. It goes from rainforest- to tundra-like conditions here each year. A lot of people wouldn’t want to live that way, but the climate forces everyone here to make massive changes in their daily routine several times throughout the year. It also varies our states of mind, and gives us natural recording breaks in the winters.
It should also be noted that the Midwest scene is outstanding, and we are influenced by all of it.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
A long time ago, my life was changing a lot and I was afraid I might become complacent and quit playing music, which horrified me. I got a tattoo that said “Pagliacci” and made an industrial EP by myself under that name. Later in the year, Schuyler visited me in Ames, Iowa (where I lived at the time) and we reformed Pagliacci as a two person project.
Around 2017, we changed the band name to POLYACHi for a variety of reasons, including 1) to create a bit more distance from the Italian opera and the general imagery of clowns; 2) to have a visual representation of POWER with the all-caps letters and insecurity with all the “i” letters in lowercase; 3) we needed a band name unique to us so that search engines would lead to our music; and 4) the prefix “poly” is charged with connotations about love and sexuality, which we make a lot of songs about.
POLYACHi means the music that only Schuyler and Des can make, because the music is made of us.
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
Our shows, from our point of view as the performers, are time-contracting blurs of extreme dopamine and epinephrine hits. It feels like a moment apart from time lingering in a pocket eternity and then suddenly slipping away into obscurity. That probably sounds like a load of flowery bullshit, but it’s the truth. Performance is a sacrament to POLYACHi, a euphoric ritual that blurs memory into feeling.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
Gabe’s in Iowa City is our home venue and favorite place to play. A lot of legendary bands have come through Gabe’s, like Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins, and super dope shows happen there all the damn time. The Iowa City scene is a creature unto itself, and Gabe’s is an intensely queer space at the core of it.
We want to play all the places. Basements, backrooms, bars, and BBQs. We want to play at 1st Avenue in Minneapolis, CBGB, and overseas in Europe, Japan, and Australia. All of it!!
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
Slipknot, Tomahawk, Puscifer, Witch Fever, POLYACHi - if I had to pick a lineup for one night only (I think five bands is the upper limit). There’s a part of me that wants to say Tool because of how important that band is to us, but Puscifer is making far more interesting music lately. Like, Existential Reckoning is one of the best albums ever and Fear Inoculum is merely fantastic.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
Pursue whatever creative choices you want to try, be willing to look a fool, express yourself with complete authenticity, don’t overplay your local area, stay sober until your set is over, and mix it up with all the people you meet. Don’t worry about making money, but try to create opportunities where it can happen. Get the album art as soon as possible. Don’t do hard drugs. Try not to smoke cigarettes.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
Wouldn’t do it. Everything that happened for us to get to this moment shaped this moment. To alter that, we would alter who we are, and we are both happy with who we are and what our band is becoming. Our eyes are on the future, our minds are in the present.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
Fuck. Alright. For me, the song we have that is most meaningful is UNDER THRESHER. In 2020, during a custody dispute I learned my 20-month-old daughter was not mine biologically, which erased my rights as a parent. My daughter’s mother fled across the country with my child. This was done in a manner designed to cause maximum harm to me and, I believe, specifically with the goal of driving me to suicide.
It’s a long story, of course, and I’ll not tell it here. But I did want death. For a long time, the only thing that kept me alive was my duty as a parent to be there for my child if she needs me someday. Eventually, POLYACHi made UNDER THRESHER and it allowed me to externalize a lot of my sorrow and grief. It is also important to me that my daughter, should she ever trace my digital footprint, will know I always loved her and I always wanted to be there for her. I want her brother, who will remember me from the first several years of his life, to know that I love him just as infinitely.
Anyway, we don’t play UNDER THRESHER and we don’t play CROWN OF SHiT (the song made to externalize hatred toward the monster who stole those kids from their parent). Both songs exist because I couldn’t carry the full weight of those emotions in my heart and continue to live, much less function. Making UNDER THRESHER saved my life, and it preserved the loss in that moment and the enduring love I have for my kids. UNDER THRESHER means so much to me that I don’t think I could perform it if I wanted to, not without breaking down and sobbing, but I’m grateful every day for the song existing.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
DOOM SCROLLiNG is a ton of fun to play and is well-requested. THE BEATiNG i SO RiCHLY DESERVE is also well-requested, but it is the most technically difficult song for both of us to perform. Sometimes, that’s a good thing, because you feel a strong sense of accomplishment for not-fucking-it-up. Sometimes, though, you just fuck it up. That’s kind of perfect though, because THE BEATiNG is a song about making mistakes.
We’re rehearsing songs from our forthcoming LP, THE BLUEBiRD OF NOTHiNGNESS right now, though. The songs are far from gig-ready, but they are our favorite songs all-around, and we suspect people will generally agree on that. Still! It’s important to keep the old shit under your hands and honor and remember the people we’ve grown from.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
Our process has become: 1) talk about the kind of songs we want to make, what’s on our minds at the moment, and what’s going on in our lives; 2) talk about song titles and themes; 3) hang out with a 7-string guitar and compose riffs that seem to fit those song titles and themes; 4) set tempos, create song structures, and record the guitar parts; 5) Schuyler thinks long and hard and composes drum parts; 6) we record the drum parts; 7) I make up bass parts on the spot, Schuyler gives input, and we record it; 8) figure out and record piano, keyboard, and samples; 9) record the vocals because we were working on lyrics the whole time; 10) mix/master; 11) review; 12) repeat steps 10 and 11 as necessary, but not to excess, and then; 13) repeat the entire sequence from step 1.
That probably sounds hyper-specific, but we’ve been experimenting with various processes throughout the years and this version of the process plays out fluidly and easily. Everything inspires us to write music, everything. If given full access to our time, POLYACHi could easily put out an LP and an EP or two every single year. For now, we’re releasing individual songs every month or so, with clumps of songs coming out all at once here-and-there.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
We are for compassion, community, and living authentically. These songs give us a platform to express thoughts and feelings we perceive as socially unwelcome in the USA. Our messages, therefore, are anti-capitalism, anti-racism, anti-fascism, anti-religion, and anti-patriarchy. The main message we want to get across to the listener is simply this: You are not alone and your genuine self is beautiful and worthy of love.
We are sex positive, body positive, and fully in favor of a long hug and a good cry. Our music is about feeling, processing, healing, and transforming. And ratchet shit.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
So far, when disagreements have occurred, one of us winds up persuading the other to change their mind. Our vision is and always has been unified, meaning disagreements tend to be about HOW to do something not WHAT to do or WHETHER to do it. In the event of such a disagreement occurring, however, we are prepared to resolve the matter with a best of 3 games of Rock, Paper, Scissors.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
ROME WASN’T BURNT iN A DAY drops on the Fourth of July. We spent last summer simmering with rage and writing an album called THE BLUEBiRD OF NOTHiNGNESS. ROME is the first song we’re putting out from BLUEBiRD. ROME sets the tone of the record by shoveling shit into the mouths of the white supremacists who carried out a failed insurrection on January 6, 2021. You know, those same facists who whip up a froth attempting to justify the constant lynching of black men by police? Those oxygen wasting losers who demand sexual arousal from candy wrappers?
With ROME, the song and release date were designed specifically to taunt, infuriate, and brutally mock the American fascists who fancy themselves savior-patriots, i.e. the MAGA-Q Anon-GOP-Jesus-and-bullets crowd. Last year, those pieces of shit had a hearty laugh when bodily autonomy rights were stripped from everyone with a uterus in this country. This year, the fascists are banning books and carrying out genocide against the trans community. Worse still, these disgusting, Christian pederasts are primarily targeting and sexualizing trans children.
A few weeks after ROME WASN’T BURN iN A DAY, we’ll release GOOSESTEP, a song directed toward anyone standing in complicit silence as facism sweeps America and as fascists carry out a genocide against the trans community. As summer draws to a close, we’ll drop DEATH WORSHiP, a connect-the-dots between police lynchings, school shooters, the coward Kyle Rittenhouse, prayer, and white supremacy.
Last summer was when POLYACHi decided to take the gloves off forever, and this summer is for doing as much damage as possible to the weak egos of the soft cowards who uphold systems of oppression.
After Pride ends, our onslaught begins.