"We always go back to the sounds of melancholy lusting..." - POLIÇA open up about making new album When We Stay Alive
A lot of artists will tell you the making of an album can be traumatic, but, in the case of Minnesota electro collective POLIÇA, that description is rather too close to home.
During the making of the LP, singer Channy Leaneagh suffered a terrible spinal injury.
On the roof of her home in Minneapolis, installing used tights filled with sodium chloride to stop ice dams forming around the rim of her roof, she slipped and fell off, falling a full 10 foot and compressing her vertebrae in the process.
Leaneagh had been thinking of quitting making music, but, as she recovered, she was ordered to rest, which gave her time to work on songs, songs that formed the backbone of the band's new album When We Stay Alive, which hits shelves today (January 31st).
We spoke to Leaneagh about making the album, the effect her accident had on the album and their plans to be more mindful with their touring...
The writing process for this album was very different from what you’ve done in the past, was this a harder album to make as a result?
"Writing lyrics and vocal melodies are things I consider big gifts in my life. I always like to try some new approaches with each record. It did not make it harder to set out to try to re-write my story or my vision for myself in song; it just put a focus to it. It doesn't always end up being what I set it out to be, but that's how creating goes."
At the start, did you have a goal of how you wanted this album to sound?
"Our first song for the record was 'Trash in Bed', which didn't even make the record. That sort of upbeat techno sound was where we were aiming but Ryan's main focus is on process and collaboration. The process he ended up gravitating and being more inspired by was what you hear on the record. We always go back to the sounds of melancholy lusting...or something like that."
You’ve said half the album was recorded before your accident and half afterwards, was it a challenge to bring the two halves together?
"Some five or so songs didn't make it on this record. Not all did fit together in the end."
Did the accident influence the album's lyrics?
"The accident didn't change me as much as one would hope. I still have many of the same struggles with the darkness inside myself and in the world. I wrote in trash in bed "All you fascists are a passing phase, you grow big and then we cut your legs'. That is as much about the fascists trying to take control of the world as it is about the fascists in my head."
"And they are still there, but their darkness and feelings of failure don't consume me the way it did before the accident. I've got more tools in my toolbox, sure places I go to get myself right. Some of those tools and new strength affect my songwriting now, but really it's about being resilient and healthy enough mentally and physically so I can keep working, living and feeling life through these dark times."
It’s a 10-track record, did you strive to keep the tracklisting concise or was it simply that was the number that made sense?
"We went through many orders, and combinations but it always comes down to the most crucial and cohesive together as a whole. No fillers."
Can you talk us through the collaborators who helped you make the album?
"Collaborators on this record are close friends or new friends from the PEOPLE collective. Collaboration is done a lot in our community with close friends, people that feel like my family now. It is a close community, but we are locked up here in the tundra and we got to keep each other warm and inspired."
"Many a time one of us in Poliça have repeated the words, "the only reason to do this is for your friends." It is something of a motto that it's for them and by them and with us and for us and it's everyones and no ones at all. I'll play on your record and you play on mine. Nothing is sacred and ego is the death of sincere creation."
Which song on the album took the longest to get right?
"It was 'Fold Up'. I was pretty done by then. I was telling Ryan at this point don't send me any more. I think I had written and recorded over 35 songs in the last year and so I was kind of like I don't have anything to say and I need a little break. But then one night I put my kids to bed and just felt like I wanted to sing about something and so I wasn't done yet. It's definitely not my golden masterpiece, but it's worth a listen."
And which came together most quickly?
"'Feel Life', I wrote right away when I heard the track. It rushed out. It was the same with 'Driving'."
When did you decide on When We Stay Alive for the album title? Were any other titles in contention?
"I'm not going to share all the other titles because I don't really want anyone's comments that I made the wrong choice; because I can't go back now. The main contender for a while was Disappointing Men. It gave too much credit to men. The record isn't about men or gender; but it's still a good title. The other contender I will share is "That's My Face", which was too much of an inside joke with myself that whenever I see myself in the mirror I say 'That is your face, get used to it...'"
What are your plans to take the album out live? When will we see you back in the UK?
"The only plan that stuck before we started making this record was that we wanted to trade our two live kits for two fully electronic kits. We have been rehearsing and relearning old songs with the new set up. Without giving away any of the "magic" we have been working on basics like making it sound as good as possible."
"I'm not into lights or big production because touring with semi-trucks are environmentally destructive. We try to travel with as little as possible, consume as little as possible and encourage people to take mushrooms or very safe acid if they want to see a fancy light show while we play. We're back in the UK in February."
You’ve got four records now, how will you decide what makes your live set?
"It's a feeling. I've written so many at this point that we go with a collective; "that sounds like a good flow"..."