Interview: Purling Hiss

Purling Hiss - Photo courtesy of Purling Hiss

Purling Hiss - Photo courtesy of Purling Hiss

Mike Polizze’s world view has been thrown for a loop in the past year: the man behind lo-fi psychedelic project Purling Hiss is finding himself dealing with things that never were an issue before.

“There [are] a lot of new situations that I’ve dealt with in the past year, that I’ve never even thought about,” he said, citing the aspects of practicing, recording and touring with a full band.

Although Polizze has played in bands for years – most notably in Philadelphia-based Birds of Maya – it has never been in the capacity of frontman or primary songwriter. And while Purling Hiss gave him a musical outlet on the side, it wasn’t until recently that it even became a real band thing.

Adding to the list of albums and EPs written, recorded, produced and released from home, Polizze came out again this year with something new. The release is the six-song “Lounge Lizards,” which Polizze said has more of an intentional framework than past releases.

“Everything I have released has been home recordings, and lots of half-baked ideas,” he said. “But ‘Lounge Lizards,’ though home recorded as well, has more structure to the songs. I knew I wanted to do something more straightforward when I made it.”

As is the case with the majority of musicians who play variations of rock and pop music, Polizze’s songs typically begin as musical ideas, with lyrics generally coming last. Where songwriting is concerned, he doesn’t often find himself short on inspiration, but the difficult part is deciding which songs are worth continuing on with and which ones ultimately won’t work.

“It’s easy to write and document a lot of ideas, but deciding to keep an idea or move on can be the hard part,” Polizze said. “I just basically look at a song or idea, as something that either will keep my attention or not. It’s not really an issue of doubt. If it’s something I actually enjoy listening to and playing, I’ll move forward with it.”

Because so much of Polizze’s time as Purling Hiss has consisted of him working as a solo artist, the recent addition of new members (Kiel Everett and Mike Sneeringer) has made it so that he can now take the project on the road. However, there are challenges – aforementioned and others – built into that, as Polizze didn’t envision Purling Hiss as a touring band, and thus wrote songs that he didn’t expect would be performed in front of others.

“I was never a frontman in a band, at least since high school, and since I’ve been doing Purling Hiss live in the past year, I’ve realized some songs are hard to translate live, vocally,” he said. “I never took that into consideration when I wrote and recorded the past albums, because I never thought about playing them live…they were just ideas I was documenting.”

Yet he is certain that aspect will change, with songs now being written with the live format somewhat in mind.

“Now that I have a band, new songs will be written and recorded, and when [they’re] played live, I think the translation will be much more accurate,” Polizze said.

His approach toward these changes are positive, particularly because they bring with them a new challenge, where songwriting is concerned.

“I’ve just been playing music, and focusing on guitar as a primary instrument so long, that I think I stopped noticing a physical improvement on my playing a long time ago, and channelled my focus more on the craft of songwriting and recording,” Polizze said. “Taking the creative angle, to me, actually means so much more than just playing as a better musician. It seems multidimensional, for example, to create layers of interweaving instruments and harmonies and building off of that…in the end you have all these components working together to create something bigger.”

And it is exactly in that moment when those ideas all converge that Polizze finds the highest amount of satisfaction.

“It is a great feeling when a brand new idea comes together,” he said. “It’s like hearing a song you love for the first time. And that feeling is every time something is being written.”

Purling Hiss plays tonight at Monarch in Berlin. The show begins at 21.00.

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