GEORGE, UNITED STATES - MAY 25: (From left) Ben Ivascu, Drew Christopherson, Channy and Chris Bierden of Polica pose for a portrait backstage at the Sasquatch Music Festival in George, Washington, United States, on 25th May 2012. (Photo by Steven Dewall/Redferns)

INTERVIEW: Drummer Talk With Polica

Polica are certainly an acquired taste. Renowned for their organic, rhythmically driven take on synth-pop, the band have carved a name for themselves in the world of the abstract yet melodically beautiful.

Born out of the collapse of front woman of both Channy Leaneagh‘s marriage and previous project Roma de Luna, Polica embodies a raw emotion that is hard to find anywhere else in music today. 

Having just released their third album, the boundary pushing United Crushes this year, Polica are the perfect match for this year’s installment of VIVID.  We took time to catch up with Drew Christopherson, one of the bands two drummers, to chat about the bands upcoming tour and why it’s better to have double the noise with two drummers in your band.

Where am I finding you today?

I’m in Minneapolis at home on a two-week break between our tours of the west coast and east coast of our US tour. We’re leaving for the second leg of the tour on Thursday.

How many dates will be involved in that leg?

About three weeks again. Usually they are three-three and a half weeks for us. From the beginning, we had to do shorter tours because Channy [Leaneagh, singer] had a kid, plus we were all in our thirties and had lives at home. So we figured that if we can’t do it, let’s do it shorter, and it’s just worked out that three weeks is perfect for us. This year, our periods of time at home are shorter, so there’s a lot of back and forth.

I was reading in an interview a while ago that Channy said your latest record United Crushes was a “last chance” record for her. Did you feel that way about it?

I think that it might have been how Channy was feeling at one particular time. I don’t know if she meant it to be taken literally, but it felt like at times, when you’re making a record and putting it out, it can feel really heavy, and you’re just not sure if you can go through with the process again. However, when it comes out it feels great, and you’re riding it, and you can’t wait to get out into the next one. This band really does ebb and flow with whether we think this is something that will last for a couple of records, or forever. Right now the vibe is really good and it feels like, “Why would we stop this?”

What sort of connections did you have to the songs? I know that Channy is the main songwriter, so how was it from your perspective?

The first record, none of us really knew each other at all. We only sat with the songs for about a week. The second record, half the songs we had rehearsed, but the other half we didn’t really hear until we were recording, but this time for months we went over them together as a band in the practice space. It was fun doing it in a collaborative way this time around, and for that reason I think there is a little bit more of each of our personalities written into the music. It feels like a little bit more cohesive. When it comes to lyrics, I never know what they are until we are recording them in the studio. I think Channy really knocked it out of the park with this one in many ways, so it means something to me on that level as well.

What aspect of your personality did you bring to this record?

I guess I was kind of writing breaks. I really wanted there to be moments on the record that didn’t have any drums, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t play. Our other drummer Ben [Ivascu] and I started playing with electronics as well, and just sort of exercising restraint rather than our earlier stuff which would always build up to some dramatic drum ending. So here, we kind of wanted to deliberately rebel against that and have things deconstruct into nothing. So that was fun to keep on the mind. I think everybody had their own little goals this time, and we all got to do them from track to track.

Talking about how you and Ben had that different mindset, who makes the calls when you guys are writing?

It’s a surprisingly organic situation. We’ll all be in the practise space trying out ideas, and our producer Ryan [Olson] will be there too, and we will try things for a while. Basically Ryan will listen, and we will be thinking, “Ok are we feeling this or not?” As soon as somebody says, “Yeah I really like that,” then we go with it. But if we are doing something that Ryan thinks is dumb, he will tell us that it’s not working, so it’s pretty collaborative. In the end, when Ben and I are really dialling stuff in for a live show, we just sort of mould our parts together and talk about not playing on top of each others beats and all that. It creates itself.

Do you guys ever go into a song with a lead and rhythm part, in the same way that two guitarists might?

Yeah a little bit. Basically if one of us is holding down a good beat, the other person is free to do something more creative, like tinkering around on rims or something, so we try to complement each other that way. Sometimes in one song we will trade-off who is doing that lead part, and there are moments where we will both want to do the lead part, and that’s kind of how we achieve the broader range of dynamics I guess. Knowing when to join up and play the same thing together and knowing when to be more contrasting.

Was it really challenging when you found out that you would have a drumming companion when you first joined the band?

Ben and I had already played in a band together called Marijuana Death Squad, and that’s how we kind of formed the band. We figured that we were a good pairing. Also, I’ve been playing music with Ryan for over a decade, and everybody in the band had kind of had these other projects going on. We were kind of handpicked by Ryan based on who had played in other projects.

Do you feel like something’s missing when you play solo in your other projects?

Absolutely. I play drums for Chris [Bierden], our bass player’s solo band, which is called Invisible Boy, and there is no click track or electronic effects, and it’s both exhilarating and terrifying for me because I’ve been playing for 10 years to a click track with Ryan, but we’ve sort of embraced it. I like playing both ways so it’s ok.

Do you think we will see more traditional small bands with two drummers in the future? Orchestras obviously have more percussion sections, but could we see that more with more, for lack of a better word, mainstream band setups?

I think that we are already seeing that. Whether bands have two full drum kits is one question, but the amount of bands now that have somebody in the band playing a floor tom and a cymbal…the list goes on. There’s auxiliary percussion going on at the front of the stage all the time, even in the mainstream. There has always been bands with two drummers as well. Even back in the 60’s that was a more popular thing to do than in the 90’s. I think people are learning that if you can have two keyboardists or guitar players, then why not have two drummers as well? I don’t know if it will ever take over as being normal, but it certainly isn’t exciting enough on its own anymore. It can come across as just boring, but it all depends on the way that you do it. You can make bad music with any setup if you are not careful.

It’s great to have the band out for Vivid, which happens to be a very visually oriented festival. What kind of visuals can Polica bring to the table in that regard?

We are pretty proud with the way it’s looking right now on our tours. We’ve been working with an artist named Eric Carlson who did all the album artwork, and he’s also done our backdrop for us, and we have our own lighting and stuff for the first time. It’s very minimal, but definitely brings a good vibe. Whether we can tour internationally with that remains to be seen, but I’d like to think for the Australian shows that there will be something special on the table because we are very, very excited to come back and play these shows, so we want them to be as good as they can be.

Polica Australian Dates 2016

Tuesday, 31st May- Melbourne Recital Centre, Melbourne


Friday, 3rd June- Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney