Photo Gallery: Pittsfield indie rock trio Polysonic Joy
PITTSFIELD -- Armed with a drum kit, bass, guitar, keyboard and a loop station, the Pittsfield-based indie rock trio Polysonic Joy is a self-proclaimed pioneer of the "All-Core" genre, blending rock, synth pop, punk, jazz and more.
The band features frontman Simon Brown (aka Von Simonburg) and drummer Jon Hubbard (Jon Sonic) -- formerly of the band Tempest -- and freshly trained bassist, Alicia Zaludova (Joy Hertz).
The two-year-old group has expanded its scene, playing from Boston to Bennington, Northampton to North Adams, and will play the latter city Saturday night. They also have summer studio recording plans. Here, they chat with The Eagle about songwriting, music videos and their ambitious bid to become famous.
The 413: Let's start at the beginning. How did Polysonic Joy convene?
Zaludova: Those guys have a long history together.
Hubbard: Yes, we do. Back in 2008, I was in another band at [Berkshire Community College] and we were looking for a vocalist. Simon showed up and tried out. I loved him. But the other two members were into hardcore, screamo stuff, so they hated him.
Brown: Really? I didn't know that.
JH: Yeah. But the two of us started playing together without the other band members, and we formed a group called Tempest.
SB: Yeah, we ended up doing that group for a while, about two years. I think somewhere there still exists 50 copies of hand-painted demos.
(For the record, Zaludova is from Wisconsin, but Brown is a Monument Mountain Regional High School graduate and Hubbard is a Taconic High School graduate who's now a senior at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.)
413: So when did Polysonic Joy form and how did Alicia fit in?
JH: Simon went to Westfield State to get his bachelor's degree.
SB: Yes, classical composition.
JH: Then around 2012, he was back in the area, and we reconnected.
SB: Yeah, it was strange. I was thinking how I should message Jon because I was looking for a drummer, and then I logged into Facebook and got a message from him saying, ‘Hey, we should get together and play.'
Alicia didn't play bass at the time.
AZ: I was going to play drums but whatever I did, I knew I wanted to be rhythmic. I'm glad I play bass now.
413: Had you ever played an instrument, Alicia?
AZ: I played piano as a kid.
JH: But this was her first time on strings.
SB: She started playing bass on my guitar. It was kind of crazy. We both worked full-time, but at night, we'd come home and practice.
JH: Yeah, the first time we jammed, I had no clue she had only been playing for three weeks. She's caught on pretty well.
413: So how did it feel playing together again as a new group?
JH: It felt pretty natural.
SB: When you play with someone for a long time, as I have with Jon, it's like, ‘Yeah, we can do this.' At times I'll introduce to him to a new song, and he jumps right in like he was reading my mind.
JH: I think we're both more developed as musicians too. We don't have to play straight rock anymore like we used to. We've added elements of jazz, swing and pop to the group.
413: Where does the band name, "Polysonic Joy," come from?
AZ: I was reading the editorials in The New Yorker, and someone described music as being polysonic joy. I liked that idea.
SB: Yeah, and then we turned the pages and saw that there's this band called Polyphonic Spree. And we were like, ‘Nooooo!' But we stuck to our name.
JH: The only thing we have in common is that we have the same number of syllables in our names and we play music. Unlike them there's only three of us, and we don't wear white robes.
SB: No one's sued us yet.
413: It's hard to pick genres, but how do you describe your sound?
JH: It's definitely a process that's evolved. We started out as a rock and added jazz and dance
SB: We're pretty flexible. I'd say we're a rock band that's secretly a singer-songwriter band. We take from a lot of genres, but we call ourselves indie rock to make it simple.
We all have different influences too. I grew up listening to old school country like Townes Van Zandt and Merle Haggard.
Alicia's bass playing is minimalistic out of necessity. We write a lot of two-note bass lines with sudden flairs, but she can jam now too.
JH: Yeah, and the stuff I listen too comes from Germany and Norway, like progressive symphonic metal bands. So in terms of our music, we'll start with a soft section, explode in some parts and then bring it back to the soft stuff.
AZ:We can be on the same bill as a punk-rock band or JD Sampson. (Sampson of Le Tigre, which is described as "feminist electroclash".)
JH:We make our pace match whatever's on the bill.
413: I've read on your website and Facebook page that you've gone a month writing a song a night, and try to produce a music video a week. That's ambitious. Why?
SB: I write a lot of songs. The songwriting thing is a challenge, but I like it. Right now it's fun, and not forced. It creates this roller coaster of work, and part of that reflects on our generation too.
For example, I could put on an old blues record, like Robert Johnson, but I can only listen to it for about 15 minutes because it all sounds the same. I think our generation has a bit of ADD when it comes to listening to music.
413: What are your shows like?
AZ: I think we're lucky too. Simon's pretty charismatic and a natural showman. If people are in the room, he can bring them in.
JH: In between songs, there's a lot of humor.
413: How are audiences in the Berkshires? Are people coming out to your gigs?
JH: There's a scene right now in Berkshire County for live music, but it's really split. I think it's kind of a niche audience. You have some fans who will only go out to see certain kinds of music, and then you have the fans who will go out to see anyone, just because they want to go out and see a show.
SB:You never know what to expect. We did a show at Casey's (in Pittsfield). There, you walk in and think, ‘Oh great, a dingy pool hall,' but then the bartender there is smiling and happy and people are willing to help you set up. There's free pool all night and the price was right. A lot of people came out to that show. It was really fun.
AZ: I think also now, we're seeing our audience grow the more we put ourselves out there. We're still new, but we're seeing people respond more and more to what we do.
SB:And there are guys out there like Andy Poncherello who are amazing. He got us onto that bill with JD Sampson, and it was a one-of-a-kind show I think some people really missed out on.
413: So what's next for Polysonic Joy? What would you like to see happen for the band?
[Dead silence and looks exchanged. Zaludova grins.]
AZ: We want to be rock stars. [Smiles more.] We want to be famous.
SB:We want to be able to make a living
JH: ... doing what we love.