Polyenso: From metal to melodies, an indie band evolves
(Welcome to tbt*’s Ultimate Local Music Guide! All week we’re spotlighting 10 of our favorite local artists of the past year. Today: Atmospheric indie rockers Polyenso.)
Polyenso are a tightly knit sextet whose sonic foundations are mini pop-masterpieces shrouded in a fog of electro-acoustic mystery.
The name Polyenso is derived from the Japanese word enso, meaning circle. It’s a visual commonly associated with Zen Buddhism: a single brushstroke forming an imperfect circle.
Guitarist Alex Schultz explains: “It symbolizes something different for everyone of us, hence the poly. We’re all our own enso. What we took from it as a group was beauty and imperfection, and letting the mind be free to let the body and spirit create … not overthink what you’re doing, but to let your soul take over and do it for you.”
Polyenso emerged from the ashes of Oceana, a high school screamo band started by a 16-year-old Schultz. They were signed to post-hardcore emo lablel Rise Records, and made quite a name for themselves in their respective scene.
As they matured and their tastes changed, their interests developed in genres outside the screamo realm. As with most artists, they were inspired by the music that surrounded them, and their musical output evolved as well.
Exploring new instruments, sounds and textures, Oceana’s last effort, Cleanhead, was a logical sonic bridge. No longer wanting to be pigeonholed, they changed their name, dropped a guitar player, added a trumpeter, Alec Prorock, and Polyenso was born.
“There’s more freedom,” Schultz says. “People in that genre like it when you go outside the box, but you can only go so far before they’re like, 'Okay, this is too weird for me.’ With Polyenso, it’s the first time in our music writing lives where we can put out music and show our fans, 'Here’s our most creative thing,’ and they dig it. It’s crazy to us, ’cause we were always so concerned about losing or gaining fans inside this sub-genre. We have the newfound confidence that you can write what you wanna write. We’ve been focused on harnessing that wild imaginative creativity that a lot of good musicians have.”
Their determination and confidence paid off handsomely. They raised $10,000 through a Kickstarter program to record and release their debut album, One Big Particular Loop. The album was recorded with Matt Goldman, whose production credits include albums by Underoath and Copeland, as well as the final Oceana release.
“It was fan-funded,” said bassist Kolby Crider. “People believed in us that much, that they wanted to hear what we had created post-Oceana.”
Their studio recordings are awash with electronic textures and ambient landscapes. Live, the sounds are re-created with the help of their in-house sound engineer, Connor Hawkins.
“On stage, a lot of the keyboard tones are the actual things we used on the album, like the iPad Animoog synthesizer,” Hawkins said. “As far as reverb and delay, a lot of the vocal tones on the album are very spatial, and kind of drowned out, so it’s easy to create that same effect. Otherwise, we do play, occasionally, with some backing tracks: very minimal things, textures...”
The result is an energetic show awash in a wall of sound. Says Schultz: “We’ve been trying to not recreate the album live, but reinvent it.”
-- Aaron Lepley, tbt*