Heartbreaks and Exorcisms
Should you be in any doubt about who’s running the great pop racket these days, take a look at the lineup for the iTunes Festival, currently mid-run at Camden venue The Roundhouse. It features Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry, Kings of Leon, Arctic Monkeys and Elton John – a 30-day siren that honks ‘WE’RE IN CHARGE!’. And in case you didn’t hear that, the tickets are all given away for nothing. Still, when you’re turning over 4.3 billion dollars per year, it’s kinda disappointing that they’ve not managed to reanimate Elvis for it. Maybe think of that number when you next hear about how Apple is on its arse since Steve Jobs died.
Backstage at iTunes everyone seems pissed off, and it’s only the second day when we arrive. Tonight’s headliners are Sigur Ros, who, granted, are not Gaga, but their next London show is at Wembley Arena, and you have to buy tickets for that one. We’re more interested in the other half of this evening’s bill, anyhow, Poliça, although we can’t say that they’re all that interested in us. On account of her acute shyness, band singer, founder and lyricist Channy Leaneagh loathes interviews and press distractions. Today’s engagement has been on, then off, then on again, off again, 100% on, definitely delayed, and now, photos on but words off, probably. End of tour fatigue doesn’t help a situation like this, nor do the nerves of the festival, which although a cubbyhole show for Sigur Ros is a pretty big deal for their opening act.
So we briefly liberate Channy from the iTunes ‘Artists’ Village’ where no one talks to each other, share some muted conversation about sound-check, the 5:2 diet that we’ve both only just been told about and the weather (always the weather), photograph her in some selected local spots and agree that while there might well be enough time, it’s probably best if we meet the following day for the interview. We then return to the iTunes Festival to join our fellow nonpaying customers where we are reminded of why it is that we’ve spent the last year so enamoured by this future RnB group from Minneapolis.
Poliça look odd on stage, like the irregular band they are, with too many drummers and not enough guitars. Rhythm is so central to their bruised dub-pop and trip-hop that it’s the only section they have, Chris Bierden on bass and Ben Ivascu and Drew Christopherson on duelling drum kits – a spectacle in themselves. Channy does the rest, her voice an auto-tuned robo flutter once she’s triggered each track’s pre-programmed electro elements (deep sounding synthesisers and more, processed beats), as provided by Poliça’s sleeping partner and producer Ryan Olson.
It was Olson and Channy that started the project while on tour with Olson’s 24-strong soft rock collective Gayngs, and it’s the two of them that are largely considered Poliça’s whole. But considering Olson refuses to tour with the band, foregoing any press junkets or photo shoots also, it often boils down to Channy is Poliça and Poliça is Channy, which is how the group’s most introverted member has been lumbered with explaining herself to people like me.