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
How did you become involved with The
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
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
Is there a hazing process to be in
Ah, don’t tell anybody . . . it involves a mousetrap,
earthworms and, of course, Kool-Aid.
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
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
Are you surprised by your
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
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
What do you see yourself doing in 10
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
Do you have a certain method to your
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
In life, when one door is closing, another one is trying
to open. Don’t ever underestimate that
What’s your greatest
Do you have any hidden
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
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?
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
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.