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Musician Mark Pirro This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Mark Pirro is the bassist for pop group The Polyphonic Spree, a 25-member group that includes two keyboardists, a harpist, and a 10-person choir. Live, this group emits a vibe of love and happiness. I caught them at the Voodoo Music Festival in New Orleans and it was one of the best performances I have ever seen. Their music is symphonic pop that is life-affirming and glorious. The Polyphonic Spree’s latest release is “Together We’re Heavy. ” Mark and I communicated about the Spree’s success, building microphones, and use of mousetraps.



How did you become involved with The Polyphonic Spree?

Everyone with the band has a different story. For me, I was fortunate to have a history with Tim DeLaughter. Tim, Bryan (our drummer) and I all played in a band called Tripping Daisy for almost 10 years. That ended in 1999 and two years later, Tim got the idea for The Polyphonic Spree and asked me and Bryan if we wanted to be in the rhythm section. That was about five years ago and I’m still playing bass and shaking my head at how Tim was able to convince us to be part of his outrageous vision.



What’s the best part of being in The Spree?

There are many things actually . . . seeing the world, making new friends, making a living doing something I love. I think the best thing, however, is just being a part of something that is helping change the world of music. On paper, The Polyphonic Spree is not supposed to work, but it does. It always manages to get around, go over, or break through obstacles. It is pretty exciting to think that we have opened the door so many times when people said it couldn’t be done.



Is there a hazing process to be in the band?

Ah, don’t tell anybody . . . it involves a mousetrap, earthworms and, of course, Kool-Aid.



What inspired the name The Polyphonic Spree?

Tim will tell you it had something to do with a theme found on those old Wacky Pack stickers popular in the ’70s. Some play on the product Polydent, I believe. Anyway, I think it just helped get the word in his mind, but the name is not quite that random. It describes the sound and nature of the band. ‘Polyphonic’means many sounds, and ‘spree’ is an extravaganza of sorts.



Do you remember your first gig with the Spree?

Yes, it was opening for Grandaddy. I think we had just 13 members at that point and people were already flipping out about our size.



What’s the biggest misconception about your group?

That we are a religious cult and always walk around in an unusually good mood. C’mon people, get real.



Are you surprised by your success?

When I look back at all the things we have done, like touring with David Bowie, being on the MTV Video Music Awards (when we don’t even have a video), playing at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, being on numerous late night shows, performing Sgt. Peppers in front of former Beatles’ producer George Martin, and touring Europe, Japan and Australia, then yes, I am surprised by our success.



What are your hobbies?

Well, I am fascinated with the art of creative recording and have a modest home studio. I have actually done quite a bit of recording for The Polyphonic Spree. In fact, Tim scored a movie soundtrack for the 2005 film, “Thumbsucker” and we recorded the entire thing in my living room.

I also have a side business building microphones. I have designed one that uses vintage components to achieve a nostalgic sound reminiscent of the early days of recording.



What do you see yourself doing in 10 years?

At this point, I have no idea. I’m open to anything. If I went back 10 years and someone handed me a crystal ball showing me what my life would be like now, I wouldn’t have believed it. Usually, truth is stranger than fiction.



Do you have a certain method to your music?

Well, Tim is the songwriter and he usually has a pretty good idea of what he wants. We first work it up with the primary rock instruments, guitar, bass, drums and piano. Then we bring in horns and strings and, once the arrangement is fairly solid, we finally addt he choir.



Do you have a quote or motto you live by?

In life, when one door is closing, another one is trying to open. Don’t ever underestimate that fact.



What’s your greatest fear?

Fear itself.



Do you have any hidden talents?

I think at my ripe age of 34, I am pretty in touch with all my talents. I hope my friends will tell me if I missed something.



What’s been your craziest fan experience?

Hmmm, probably meeting Noel Gallagher from Oasis and finding out that he is a huge fan.



If you could tour with anyone, who would it be?

Paul McCartney.



Do you guys have any rituals you do before performing?

Yeah, we usually gather around as a band and do a three-minute vocal warm up. Then we get out the mousetrap, earthworms and Kool-Aid . . .



What’s the one piece of advice you would give to young musicians?

Learn how to improvise and play with other people.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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