Throughout February and March, progressive metal quartet Polyphia has been flying through their first headlining tour with support from fellow instrumental YouTube sensations Jason Richardson and Covet. Before their show in Lawrence, Kansas, staffer Tim Dodderidge sat down with the full band to discuss whether the Lit AF Tour has lived up to its name, their musical influences and “progressive” sound, James Franco and their song of the namesake, and more.
MEB: Recently, I saw you guys post on your Facebook about your newest album turning one year old. To sum up everything that’s happened so far, what’s the experience been like over the past year?
Tim [Henson, Guitarist]: We’ve done a lot of things.
Scott [LePage, Guitarist]: Yeah. We’ve done a lot of crazy stuff. We went to Japan… (awkward silence)
Scott: …and it was crazy (laughs).
Tim: We did an entire sold-out tour with our CHON homies when that album came out last year. We also toured with Coheed and Cambria since then, and we’ve also been writing a lot of music since then.
So you’re currently on the Lit AF Tour. And I have to ask: has it been Lit AF so far?
Tim: It’s been lit as f*ck.
Scott: Not only has it been lit AF, but it’s also been lit as f*ck.
Not just “AF,” “as f*ck” (laughs).
Clay [Aeschliman, Drummer]: Sold-out shows for the most part. All the kids have been extremely cool and all the crowds have been reciprocating all the energy we give to them.
Scott: These have probably been our craziest crowds. People have been thrown onto the stage, like, into me during parts. It’s pretty nuts.
Tim: We’ve had them singing the guitar parts and stuff, and it was really cool.
Yeah it’s cool to experiment and do that kind of stuff. And you guys have been selling out a lot of dates too. What’s that experience like, playing to full venues every night?
Tim: I think we’ve been pretty used to it for that entire year.
Scott: The last year has been nothing but packed house sh*t.
Tim: Yeah, packed out and sold-out sh*t.
Clay A.: Just business as usual.
Tim: As per use (laughs).
You’re with Jason Richardson too. What’s it been like spending time with him, and I guess Luke Holland too?
Tim: Great guys.
Scott: Yeah, they’re homeboys.
Clay [Gober, Bassist]: We’ve known Jason since…
Tim: …since, like, 2013?
Clay G.: 2014, that’s when we started working with him.
Tim: So we’ve known Jason for a while. We just met Luke, and he’s really, really nice. Very cool.
Clay G.: He kicks ass at poker…
Clay G.: Oh yeah, pool.
Tim: Pool tabling.
Cool, and Jason was featured in your song “Aviator” as well, and he shreds, as expected.
Clay G.: He does indeed.
I assume he’s been joining you guys on stage for that?
Can you describe what that experience has been like so far, having that kind of collaboration?
Tim: When he gets up on stage, I’m just like, “Ah, here’s the song”, because I don’t have to do anything anymore.
Clay G.: Dude, I love playing that song. ‘Cuz I’m like, “This is Jason’s song. This is a cover song” (laughs).
Tim: The first half, we’re sweating, like, “Don’t f*ck up, don’t f*ck up.” And then he gets on stage and all the attention’s on him.
Clay G.: (laughs)
Scott: It’s pretty funny too, because I’ll look up like halfway through his solo and everyone’s holding up their phones.
Clay G.: It’s pretty sweet.
That’s awesome. I also have to ask about your song “James Franco”. What prompted naming a song after the actor, and how did you come up with the idea for the video then?
Clay G.: As far as naming it, I think James Franco, around the time that album came out in 2014, James Franco had a lot of hype. He was the Instagram King. I think he had just done This Is the End…
Tim: …no, a little before that.
Clay G.: Around that general time. So we just thought it would be hilarious to name it some shdick hybie word.
Scott: We wanted to name it after a celebrity and were thinking, “Which one’s our favorite one?”
Tim: At the time it was definitely Franco. It pretty much is still.
Clay A.: The vibe of that song was also very blissful and Radio Disney-y.
Scott: The other night somebody brought, like, a James Franco cutout mask with eyeholes in it.
I was considering doing that (laughs).
Scott: Oh, you should’ve, because I wore it. It was hard.
Tim: For the video, originally it was supposed to be a guitar play-through. And I remember talking about this, and it was a terrible idea, but it was around the time “Bound 2” came out — the Kanye video where him and Kim were doing that bullsh*t on the motorcycle. And then Seth Rogen and James Franco did the spoof of that.
Clay G.: That’s what that was.
Tim: And I was telling Scott, we were going to get Joe to get his dad’s motorcycle and put it in a garage. We were going to, like, green screen the stupid sh*t that they did, and he was going to be shirtless. And it was going to be really odd. But we didn’t do that.
Scott: Yeah, I basically told him there’s no f*cking way I’m going to do that.
Scott: Seth Rogen and James Franco can get away with that because they’re funny. We’re just lame.
Tim: Because they, like, kissed in it and everything.
Clay G.: I think we had a conversation about that, actually.
Scott: Tim, if you want to kiss me just say it, dude.
Tim: I need the video to break the ice. But then we ended up doing the play-through for it, and the video came a year later. At that time, they had just done The Interview.
Clay G.: That’s what it was.
Okay, yeah. 2014.
Tim: So we did The Interview spoof instead of the “Bound 2” spoof.
It’s been a few years, so if that song came out today, what celebrity would you name it after? I don’t know if it would change…
Tim: I would say James Franco still, but, like who else…?
Clay G.: I would say it’s a fair question. I don’t know. We don’t talk about James Franco much these days.
Scott: Sh*t, who’s our favorite celeb now?
Clay A.: Louis C.K.
Tim: We wouldn’t name a song after him, though.
Clay G.: I feel like you guys would probably just name it “Party Bing” or “Headass” or something (laughs).
Scott: Let’s just stick with “James Franco”. I like that one.
Tim: If we come up with something before the end of the interview, we’ll tell you. I’m just going to be ignoring all your questions and thinking about that the entire time…
Scott: …the whole time. Looking up celebrities (laughs).
Muse featured a lot of guest guitarists, so would you say the latest album was, I guess, more of a standalone album all about you guys, being your first sole Equal Vision Records release and everything?
Clay G.: We kind of just wanted to make an album with all our favorite guitar players on it. You know, rappers have been known to do that sort of thing…
Tim: …yeah, rappers, put, like, a million people on their album. But we wanted a whole album full of features, and we got to do that. And then Renaissance, we were like, “Okay, we’ve had a bunch of features, now let’s have zero features” and like you were saying, it’s kind of showcasing us this time around.
Was there any specific reason for the statue of David…I think it was David on the cover?
Clay G.: Oh, we call it “David”. But it’s just a general naked guy statue, pretty much (laughs).
Tim: I mean, it’s just really Renaissance-y, I guess.
Clay G.: That image itself I think embodies Renaissance more than anything I can think of, at least. That sort of imagery that comes with that word.
Tim: I’m not even sure if that’s historically correct. It could be or it couldn’t be. I don’t really know. [Outside person nods]. It is? We’re good then. Cool (laughs).
So being on Equal Vision Records, I listen to a lot of progressive metal but there don’t seem to be many progressive metal-type bands on that label. They’re more known for alternative music. Do you guys think you fit well on that label, and what prompted that choice?
Tim: Really, they just f*ck with us heavy. It doesn’t have anything to do with their artist roster or anything like that.
Clay A.: For us, it’s not even really something we even acknowledge.
Tim: I don’t even know who’s on that label.
Clay A.: Coheed was on it.
Tim: Well, I know the OGs, Portugal and Circa…the OG roster. But I don’t even know who’s on it now. All I know is we f*ck with them and they f*ck with us.
Clay G.: I think we’d like to be considered progressive in the same way a band like Coheed is considered progressive, which is, not like the “prog” context of what it means to be progressive.
Tim: Actually literally progressive.
Clay G.: Actually literally forward-thinking and progressive.
Yeah, the mindset.
Clay G.: Or, like, whatever we would like to think that word means.
And then on Muse, you guys had said hip-hop and pop was a huge influence. Would you say that was the same on Renaissance? What kinds of artists and music inspired that?
Tim: Renaissance was a little of the same route, but harder.
Clay G.: Further down the line. Listening to more, like, The Weeknd and more serious, go-hard stuff.
Tim: The music was pretty poppy. Muse was pretty poppy, and “Whatever” was on the radio. It was…
Clay G.: …a little darker.
Tim: A little darker, for sure. The hip-hop we were listening to was definitely a little bit darker.
Scott: We were sadder during that album (laughs).
Tim: Were we? (laughs)
Scott: I’d want to say, it turned out that way for sure.
With a lot of bands, especially in metal who become known on YouTube, a lot of them stay independent these days. Was that a tough thing for you, trying to decide whether to do that or sign with a label?
Tim: Here’s a really cool analogy that one of the people I look up to told me one time. So you’re juggling balls, right? And you have three balls that you’re juggling and you do it pretty well, and someone throws you another ball. And now, oh sh*t, you’ve got four now. And then another ball and another ball. Eventually you drop all the balls, right? So when you’re independent, that’s kind of what it’s like. You’re doing everything. As you grow, as you keep growing, you keep adding more balls. You’re either going to get it done it really well, or it’s going to fail miserably. So we liked having a helping hand in that.
That’s a really good way of describing it. So how do you continue to excite and enthrall people who haven’t heard of your band, or maybe don’t even listen to metal much, as you continue to move forward?
Tim: The newer sh*t that we’re writing is definitely some other sh*t. That’ll definitely be a cool crossover thing when it comes out. On the path of “Lit”, it’s the same kind of thing.
Scott: Tim and I have started to write a lot of beats and sh*t, use of electronic instruments and things like that. We just like putting guitars over it and stuff…like that. That’s pretty much what we listen to, and then add guitars to it and that’s pretty much what our newer stuff is.
And I’m sure, playing metal all the time, you get tired of it and don’t want to listen to it all the time. I assume you listen to a lot more mainstream stuff in the car or van?
Clay G.: Kind of…
Tim: …it’s not so much mainstream…some of it is. I, personally, don’t listen to anything that has anything to do with us, or this. Everyone’s got a very diverse music taste.
How would you all describe your musical tastes then, like, in a sentence or two?
Scott: Coheed and Cambria for this guy, that’s it.
Clay A.: Yeah, that’s pretty much it (laughs).
Clay G.: I’ve pretty much only been listening to Incubus lately.
Tim: Dude, f*ck, it’s all classic rock. All he listens to is classic rock (laughs).
You can’t go wrong with Incubus.
Clay G.: I agree.
Scott: I listen to a lot of weird electronic music that not a lot of people have heard of.
Tim: Lots of Soundcloud sh*t, though.
Oh yeah, that’s where you find the best stuff, Soundcloud…and Bandcamp too.
Tim: Oh yeah.
What would you guys say your plans for the future are, after this tour is over and everything?
Clay A.: Big sh*t.
Scott: We actually have the rest of the year booked up with tons of sh*t.
Tim: Me and Scott have Asia clinics. Well, hold on…before that, we finish this tour and then we’ve got studio booked for a while. As soon as we get done with that, me and Scott have Asia clinics to do. And the we come back, and then we’ve got a Japan tour this summer. Then we come back from that and have a U.S. tour that we can’t tell about yet.
And you have a new album coming out soon, since you’re going to be in the studio?
Tim: We have an EP coming out, most likely in July.
Sweet. This is the last question: I’m a big traveler and you guys are from Dallas. In one sentence can you tell me why I should visit Dallas?
Scott: Hmm…let me this about this one…
Clay A.: ‘Cuz we’re from there and we’ll buy you a f*cking beer, dude!
That’s a good one, yeah (laughs).
Clay G.: There we go.
Clay A.: Chug beers.
Scott: Dallas is cool, though. They have a Hooters there, which is cool.
Clay A.: Jesus Christ (laughs)…
Scott: …we’ll buy you a beer there.
Specifically Hooters, nowhere else.
Scott: Yes (laughs). Tim, your turn.
Tim: I can’t even convince you to come there. We go there because we live there. It’s home.
So you guys all grew up there then?
Scott: For the most part, yeah.
Anything else you guys have to say. Anything pertinent for your fans?
Clay G.: Stay litty, you know.
Clay A.: Dude, two things: chug beers and…
Scott: …and the rest is history.
Clay G.: The rest is history. That’s all she wrote.
Tim: There’s more we have to say, I feel like. There’s definitely more than what’s coming out (laughs).
Scott: Cowboys could’ve won the whole thing.
Clay A.: Dude, they were so close!
Scott: They were so close. They could’ve done it.
Clay G.: The f*ck? When did that get talked about? I don’t remember that.
Scott: Oh man…
Clay A.: …that one’s recent.
Scott: That one’s fresh.
Clay A.: Scott’s been getting me with that one.
Clay G.: Sounds like we’ve ended on a sh*t degree.