Interview with Channy Leaneagh of POLICA

POLICA got added to the Auckland line-up for St Jerome’s Laneway Festival this week and I’ve recently been really enjoying their debut album Give You The Ghost which, while it was released in the US earlier tis year has only just been picked up for local NZ distribution. So when I was given Channy Leaneagh’s cell phone number and a time to ring her I pretty much jumped at the chance.

It was about 5.30pm her time in Minneapolis when I rang, the clinking of a teaspoon against china implied she was just making herself a hot beverage – she told me that this evenings plans were to go visit her folks and that she was headed to Austin, Texas tomorrow.

Channy had met Ryan Olsen when they were in the collective/band Gayngs; I wondered if there were any general artistic conversations that they had that led to their decision to create this project – but Channy explains that there really wasn’t too much design put into the project formation “There wasn’t a lot of talking; we didn’t really know each other that well – we just sort of said lets hang out and make us some music” going on to explain she visited him he started making beats and she sung along with them. Channy seems almost quite blase about how before they knew it “we ended up making these eleven songs and we didn’t make any more than that at that time he was ‘ok, now we have an album'” – it ended up getting pick up as a release… “it was just one of those things that came from hanging out and making music just to make it”

Channy told me that they started to get together after the record was being printed – “to make sure that they could make music together or was this record a fluke or a moment in time” – assuring me that they discovered that, yes, they can still make music together. In fact the trip to Austin is to record vocals for the demos for their next record.

I wondered if there were many challenges in translating a fundamentally studio based project into a live band to start playing the material at shows – but Channy described this as “one of the least of our challenges, because those are exactly the same instrumentals and variables that we used to record as we use to play live” – she explains further, that near the very beginning of the project, when they realized
that it was something that was a thing they were to pursue, that Ryan had a vision for the live performance – to intertwine the electronic beats with live instruments – and an idea to have two drummers as part of the visual and performance aesthetic of the band.

We talked about the way Channy uses her voice in Polica – it’s quite a significant shift from her earlier vocal work in Roma di Luna where her singing was, fundamentally more traditional – a song sung over instrumentation – while, here, in Polica, her voice is more within the instrumentation; more part of the musical soundscape. She affirmed that this was very much intentional – “I’m like the electric guitar of the band – taking myself out of the singer – I wanted the voice to be congruent with the sounds of the band. ” Obviously reference was drawn to ‘world music’ where often, because the voices are not singing in English, the meaning is less overt – but interestingly Channy also referenced old r’n’b like Sam Cooke and Otis Redding – “they are singing an emotion – even though the lyrics are perfect – but when you listen to the song the singer is singing the emotions – and using those words to push that emotion into your ears and into your body.” She goes on to say that when she listens to a song she doesn’t necessarily want to hear every single word or syllable perfectly , but rather feel it for herself and that this is something she hopes she achieves for others when they listen to Polica.

POLICA play St Jerome’s Laneway Festival on Monday 28 January 2013 (Auckland Anniversary Day) at Silo Park.

Watch their video for Lay Your Cards Out (which features Mike Noyce of Bon Iver)

Their album Give You The Ghost is our now

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