RAWK TAWK: Q&A With Polica

Photograph by NIKKI BENSON

BY MEREDITH KLEIBER Polica is one of those bands that defies categorization. Their freshman album, Give You the Ghost, falls stylistically somewhere between the synthesizer-driven music of their contemporary, Yeasayer, and the seminal trip-hop of Portishead. The live band includes two drummers and a bass player, which showcase frontwoman Channy Leaneagh’s haunting effects-driven vocals over a minimalistic drum-and-bass backing. The project began as a collaboration between producer Ryan Olson and Leaneagh, who met while working as part of the alternative supergroup Gayngs (which included Justin Vernon of Bon Iver and Dessa and P.O.S. of Doomtree, among others). Their shows have been winning rave reviews worldwide, including a critically acclaimed SXSW set this spring. Judging by the quick sellout of their Johnny Brenda’s show earlier this year, Union Transfer should be a packed house come Wednesday night. Phawker recently got the boys from Polica — drummers Drew Christopherson and Ben Ivascu and bassist Chris Beirden — to answer a few questions in anticipation of the show.

PHAWKER: What is your worst tour experience/tragedy that you can kinda laugh about now?

DREW CHRISTOPHERSON: Driving off the road in the Rocky Mountains near Durango, CA.  When we reached the peak of the mountain it was snowing so hard we could not see more than 10 feet in front of us. The van slowly slid off the road and into the ditch. Luckily, we were able to dig it out ourselves and get back on the road unharmed, but not without losing our minds a little bit.

CHRIS BIERDEN: Many years before Polica when I was touring with Vampire Hands in North Carolina, I got robbed at shotgun point at a party, and then heard a kid get shot around the front of the house… that was probably my worst experience in all my years of touring. I thought I was looking at a dead man, but the dude survived. He even got stabbed too. He let me feel the bullet shrapnel lodged in his back when we played that same town years later. Come to think of it, I still don’t really laugh about it now.

PHAWKER: Can you explain the connection between Polica and Bon Iver?

DREW CHRISTOPHERSON: Both bands are rooted pretty firmly in the Upper-Midwest of the country. One member of Polica grew up in Eau Claire with Justin Vernon, but musically speaking, both bands have similar ethos when it comes to collaboration and experimentation. Yes, we have all grown to be friends, but our shared experience of approaching music from the Midwest perspective bond us in other ways as well.

CHRIS BIERDEN: We’re just friends… I mean, it’s not like we made out or anything.

BEN IVASCU : Drew has known Justin Vernon since grade school.

PHAWKER: How do you react when people recognize you on the street?

DREW CHRISTOPHERSON: The last time it happened to Chris and I, we got confused and said “who do you think we are exactly?” When they said “you’re in Polica!” we got even more confused.

PHAWKER: If you had to use one word to explain Polica, what would it be?