oliça’s third album, United Crushers, is another beat-driven, electronically enhanced affair that mixes the shimmering, high-lonesome vocals of Channy Leaneagh with the sleek production work of Ryan Olson, a creative duo that also happens to be a romantic couple and parents of a newborn son.
But Poliça — which rose from the ashes of Olson’s Minneapolis-based Gayngs collective — is no ordinary Electro Synth outfit: A pair of drummers and an impressively expressive bassist anchor the band’s atmospheric songs.
United Crushers is both a continuation of and slight evolution from Poliça’s previous records — 2012’s Give You the Ghost and 2013’s Shulamith. The first track, “Summer Please,” features everything that makes the band unique, opening with trademark chilly synths and uncommonly distorted, otherworldly vocals before kicking into high gear via a versatile rhythm section that could make even the most reserved listener’s ass move. “Melting Block” is a funky come on, while “Top Coat” feels like Portishead fronted by Beth Orton. Relatively plaintive album closer “Lose You” is marked by Leaneagh admitting that “I can’t fuck you enough.”
CityBeat recently phoned Leaneagh, who was holding her young son while on a tour stop in Connecticut, to discuss everything from the fact that this could be Poliça’s final record (the band’s three-album run with Mom + Pop Music ends with United Crushers) to theories on why Minneapolis is such fertile ground for musicians.
CityBeat: You wrote and recorded this record while you were pregnant. How did that influence the results?
Channy Leaneagh: It wasn’t that much different than before, but it has to have had some impact. I’ve already had a kid, so a lot of my songs have already been influenced by being a mother. But even more so this time, lyrically, I was concerned about the place you’re bringing your child into and kind of more hyper-critical of who you are in preparation of bringing a life into the world, and maybe more hyper-critical of things you want to change for your child. Hence you’re less angsty and self-involved. As a parent, man or woman, you tend to need to focus your time and be more deliberate about the time you set aside for your work and being creative. It’s a passion of mine, and I have to make every moment count if I’m leaving my kids to do something.
CB: You’ve said this record felt like your last chance in some ways, like it was writing a final paper. What did you mean by that?
CL: This is our last in a series of three albums with our record label. And, for me, my records are very personal and are very much biographical. I’m writing about what’s going on in my life, and this one definitely feels like the final in a trilogy. I don’t take it for granted that it’s a given that I’m going to keep on doing this. I’m always going to make music, but I’m not going to keep trying to be in the limelight if people aren’t interested in hearing it. My feeling is like, “This might be the last time we get to do this.” It’s not guaranteed for me. I’m not the kind of musician who is like, “God put me on this Earth to be a musician” or “This is my destiny” or something dramatic like that. It’s been a gift, it’s something I never imagined doing and it’s crazy that we’re all doing it and we’ve been able to put out as much music as we have, but I never take for granted that this might be our last.
CB: When you started the band, you didn’t really know the other guys besides Ryan. How have things changed now that you know each other better and have played together for so long?
CL: It’s gradually become more of a cooperative experience. It used to be very separated. Ryan would give me the beats and I would spend some time alone with them and record. And then we’d bring on the bass and then the drums. It was very systematic and separated, and maybe we never really heard each other until the final demos. Gradually it’s become more of a conversation, especially with this record, where we toured the songs down to Texas before we even recorded them. In that way, we’re just always evolving or trying to make it interesting for all of us and think about the live show while we’re recording and writing. Getting to know each other on the road over the years makes making music together very intimate now. We didn’t start out as friends, so there’s a lack of bickering that can happen if you’ve been friends for a long time. It’s more of a family vibe now, but also a dose of, like, we’re coworkers, which sounds weird, but we tend to have more boundaries and just kind of let each other be who we are.
CB: I read that you named the record United Crushers after some graffiti artists in Minneapolis. There seems to be a really strong affinity between artists there and a disproportionate amount of good music from there. Why is that?
CL: Just dealing with the passing of Prince, we talked about how he had this two-hour radius clause where musicians who wanted to work or record with him had to live within two hours of his studio. We do have a lot of really talented musicians living in Minnesota and the Minneapolis area. At the school I attended growing up, everyone had to play an instrument starting in, I think, third grade. I got a violin for free and I had lessons and played in an orchestra. We have a really good park system with a lot of art and dance programs for kids. I did theater as a kid, starting around 4 and 5. The city really has a history of fostering art education through the parks and public schools. I don’t know if that’s why so many people are in bands, but there is definitely a lot of support in the community for artists. And we’re far away from any big city, and so you kind of make your own scene and do your own thing.
POLIÇA plays Covington’s Madison Live Wednesday, May 4. Tickets/more info: madisontheateronline.com.