Thursday, April 24, 2014

Square Zeros #16: Polly Watson (1-800-BAND, Crimson Sweet, Flaming Fire)

I can't write anything about Polly Watson, the keyboard player for 1-800-BAND, without a quick anecdote about how we first met her.

It was a few summers ago, when Jon and I were playing in a very different incarnation of what would eventually become Sunset Guns. We were rehearsing at our practice space in Greenpoint and playing a particularly loud, melodic, over-the-top teenage love song we'd recently written. When we finished, someone was pounding on the door, and it turned out to be Polly. She gave us a sweet (and undeserved) compliment on the song and told us about her project, 1-800-BAND, which practiced in the space next to us.

Two (Three? Who's counting?) years later, 1-800-BAND's new EP, Diver Blue, came onto our radar, and Jon and I went knocking on Polly's door. We're stoked to feature her in our first episode of Season 2.

1-800-BAND plays a bright, super-sincere style of power pop that makes them stand out among their scruffier, sloppier garage counterparts. Diver Blue, which came out this month, is unabashedly sentimental and fun-loving — the kind of record you want to blast through the speakers of your old sedan when you're burning down the highway on a road trip somewhere. The opener is an anxious love ballad with a great keyboard hook and my favorite line on the EP: "You wanna do it again / again 'cause the first time was so fun / but you're not so sure I'm the one." But it's the chorus of the third track that you'll be shouting along to from the passenger seat: "Here comes summer / hungry as a hunter / here comes night / all right!" Musically, it's got a new wave edge like The Nerves, with more driven guitars à la later Hüsker Dü. They recently released a video for the title track:

Polly's first serious musical endeavor was an early-2000s project called Crimson Sweet that she formed with some of the guys she plays in 1-800-BAND with currently. At the time, she says, they were all complete novices on their instruments — a factor that, we're beginning to realize, often makes for some inventive stuff. Polly played guitar and sang, and for someone just starting out, the results are pretty stunning:

Crimson Sweet found some success, touring the U.S. twice and even making it to Europe for a string of shows before going their separate ways. When they split, Polly joined an experimental folk collective called Flaming Fire and traveled with them across the country. The collective is fronted by Patrick Hambrecht, whose Southern Baptist upbringing fuels a wonderfully bizarre mix of psych-folk songs he plays with a rotating cast of dozens of musicians. Polly played guitar and sang with Flaming Fire during a U.S. tour. She brought us a track called "Holy Holy Holy" that's probably best summed up by a few lines from the bridge: "Nail your soul to a tree / cry for her, bleed for me / eternal lamb, forever slaughtered / let my torture be my altar."

Lyrically, Venom. Technically, Bright Eyes. Musically, Sunday school. You've got to hear it for yourself:

1-800-BAND is playing a bunch of dates on the road next month. New Yorkers can catch them May 9 at the Bell House opening for none other than power pop great Dwight Twilley. Check their home page for the full list of shows, and stream the Diver Blue EP on Pitchfork.

Thanks, Polly!


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