After long wait, St. Petersburg's Polyenso readies new album 'Pure in the Plastic'
Polyenso has a new album coming out April 1. This is not a joke.
“That’s the biggest comment we see all the time: Is this an April Fool’s joke?” said singer, keyboardist and bassist Alex Schultz. “It’s not an April Fool’s joke. Like, 'We’re releasing the album, only on Tidal! April Fool’s!’”
Three years have passed since the St. Petersburg alternative group released their impressively polished debut One Big Particular Loop. After three years of obsessive tinkering and stutter-steps, they’re finally ready to drop Pure in the Plastic, a warm collection of ambient synthesizers, glistening melodies and watery grooves that harkens to latter-day Radiohead.
The album sounds labored-over, which is no accident. “Some of those songs are like four years old,” Schultz said. Which is ironic, since the “enso” in the band’s name refers to the Zen Buddhist idea of finding beauty in imperfection.
“We’re sitting in the studio, meticulously trying to perfect all these little things, and we’re like, 'This is so silly,’” Shultz laughed. “I hope it still kept some of that rawness.”
It’s been quite an evolution for the still-young band, which also includes Brennan Taulbee on vocals and synthesizers and Denny Agosto on percussion.
As teenagers, they were a screamo group called Oceana; they signed to national label Rise Records and toured constantly. Within a few years, their sound mellowed into a more indie-pop vibe, with lush instrumentation and melodies, and the band changed names to Polyenso.
Many fans have stuck with them since the Oceana days, even if Polyenso’s current incarnation sounds nothing like their former selves. That, along with a sleek online presence, has allowed them to cultivate an international fan base, even with no regular output. Last year, they got a glowing write-up by the Huffington Post, and in May, they’ll play Atlanta’s high-profile Shaky Knees Festival, the same day as My Morning Jacket and Walk the Moon. They’re in talks for a direct-support slot on a big national tour later this year.
Some have urged the band to move away from St. Pete, perhaps to a city like Portland or Los Angeles, where their industry connections — such as a licensing deal with Dualtone Music Group, whose clients include the Lumineers and Delta Spirit — could help them thrive.
Instead, the band is doubling down on their investment in the scene by taking over a building at 910 Fifth Ave. N, and converting it to an apartment and rehearsal/event space called Paper Crane. They’ll throw an album release party there on April 1, and hope it’ll become a rehearsal space and communal hangout for many of their musician, artist and foodie friends.
“I want people to be able to come to one place where all of that is coalescing,” Schultz said. “Not only to have us all feed off each other’s amazing creative energy, but also for people to come into a place, like, 'I’m gonna go there, and no matter what it is, it’s gonna be full of soul, it’s gonna be good, it’s gonna be cool.’”
-- Jay Cridlin