Tim DeLaughter moves the Polyphonic Spree from dark to light on “Salvage Enterprise”

Tim DeLaughter of the Polyphonic Spree.
Photo: David R. Wilson

The Polyphonic Spree’s new album, Salvage Enterprise, is the band’s first album of original material in more than a decade.

The gap between 2013’s Yes It’s True and Enterprise wasn’t necessarily intentional, so much as the result of Spree ringleader Tim DeLaughter grappling with whether there would ever even be another record. “I didn’t think I could write a song to save my life,” DeLaughter said during a recent conversation.

But he did, clawing his way from darkness to light, and in the process, emerging with the Dallas choral rock collective’s most vulnerable, gorgeous release in years — as evidenced on tracks like “Hop Off the Fence” or “Winds of Summer” — which, given the band’s penchant for Technicolor melodies and perfectly appointed bombast, is saying something.

Salvage Enterprise is a moving, carefully considered masterwork, and one which DeLaughter and his collaborators will celebrate Nov. 22 with a performance at the Granada Theater. (Next year, the band will set up listening experiences at planetariums across the country, which DeLaughter dubbed “PolyDome.”) DeLaughter talked about the genesis of Salvage Enterprise and much more in a recent conversation, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity, below.

You describe the record as “an adventure in overcoming.” What were you overcoming?

Tim DeLaughter: “Life in general, man. It’s hard. One big, heavy ride. I was in the midst of and the grip of that. This record kind of brought me out of it.  I didn’t think I could write a song to save my life, and I thought it was over until I stumbled into trying to teach myself Logic [Pro, a recording software program] to start recording. In order to record something, I had to play something, and I started to play. I write out of improvising. I write the lyrics and melody and music all at the same time — I’ve kind of always written like that. For the first time in years, [songs] started coming to me.”

That frames the album for me a little bit differently. Thinking back over songs like “Morning Sun” or “Open the Shores,” it almost feels like you’re talking to yourself a little bit, at times.

DeLaughter: “I’m kind of always talking to myself. It starts with me, because it’s all written out of visualizations and improvising, and when you go there, you’re in the midst of whatever comes to you at the time.  I found that what I’m going through, other people seem to be going through as well, at times.  Even if you go back to Tripping Daisy, there’s this reaching for something, and this hopeful feeling I’m trying to get to.”

Is hope hard to hold onto?

DeLaughter: “Yeah, it is.  I found through my years of dealing with ups and downs, I know in my heart I’m gonna come out of it.  This time, it just seemed to last a little bit longer. So it was interesting exploring that space, and actually came out of it while I was making the record. That’s why I’ve been so hell-bent on people hearing this as a whole, is that I want people to experience it, the beginning of it, to realizing what we’re capable of, and coming out of it.”

Something else about Salvage Enterprise, maybe more so than prior Spree records, is that the band, which is known for its ecstatic instrumental flourishes — those moments are as much lyrical as they are musical here.

DeLaughter: “I kind of went to some vulnerable places I’ve never gone before lyrically. I really inadvertently bared my soul, so to speak. This was so raw at the time for me — I didn’t know what people were going to think.  This record is the most specific sonic record I’ve ever, ever done. It’s way more stripped down than previous Spree records. It’s extremely dynamic, but it’s pulled back in a lot of ways.”

You talked about feeling invigorated at the conclusion of making this record — what is it that keeps bringing you back to the Polyphonic Spree? Because you could very easily go off and do probably a half-dozen different things.

DeLaughter: “There’s nothing like the Polyphonic Spree. Once you’ve been immersed in the sound of the Polyphonic Spree, it’s hard to go away from it. When I was younger and in Tripping Daisy, I thought this would be something I do later in my life, and unfortunately, it became a lot sooner. But I’m doing the band that I ultimately wanted. If I could create the most perfect situation of a group musically, sonically and have everything I ever wanted, it would be the Polyphonic Spree, the band I’m presently in. Twenty-three years of that, it’s hard to leave.”

The Polyphonic Spree Salvage Enterprise album release show at Granada Theater, Dallas. 8 p.m. Nov. 22. Tickets are $30-$60.

Preston Jones is a North Texas freelance writer and regular contributor to KXT. Email him at [email protected] or find him on X (@prestonjones). Our work is made possible by our generous, music-loving members. If you like how we lift up local music, consider becoming a KXT sustaining member right here.