Local music: Poliça on the line

With a sold-out First Ave show and a debut album coming Tuesday, the fast-rising band has much to discuss -- but not much free time to do so.

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Poliça played the Current’s birthday party two weeks ago, with Channy Leaneagh flanked by drummers Ben Ivascu, left, and Drew Christopherson.

Photo: Richard Tsong-Taatarii, Star Tribune

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A sign of its members' increasingly busy lives, the only way to get Poliça all together for an interview last week was via teleconference -- the sort of thing music critics do with bands like Linkin Park or Blink-182.

Anyone who caught Poliça's set at the Current birthday parties two weekends ago at First Avenue, though, knows the four players already are on the same page musically. Runners-up in City Pages' 2011 Picked to Click new-band poll, the quartet spent the fall and early winter preparing for the tour that kicks off after Tuesday's return to First Ave, also the day their debut album, "Give You the Ghost," finally drops. The 11-song collection's simmering chemical fusion blends electronically fused vocals and atmospheric melodies with sultry, organic grooves that build to a boil.

Enjoying the calm before the storm, drummer Drew Christopherson (who also heads the band's record label Totally Gross National Product) corralled everyone via his mobile. Fellow percussionist Ben Ivascu was in Austin, Texas, in a monthlong residency with another of his bands, Marijuana Deathsquads. Singer Channy Leaneagh and bassist Chris Bierden were at their Twin Cities homes.

Leaneagh, who has done most of the interviews to this point, was happy to have new bandmates to help explain the special birth of Poliça on record and its even more unusual delivery on stage. The band started as the former Roma di Luna singer's side project with Gayngs producer Ryan Olson, Poliça's wizard behind the curtain. It turned into an electronic, two-drummer, guitar-less band with a bassist who sings like a girl. Pretty weird stuff, when you think about it. So it made sense hearing what each member does think of it.

Q: On paper, this band shouldn't work as well as it does on stage. How did you pull it off?

Bierden: We all had the same mind-set when we got together, and we're kind of at similar points in our lives and creative careers. We were all craving something like this, something more far-out and wild where we could do what we do best without thinking too much about it.

Ivascu: It helps that we're all pretty mild-mannered and get along. Most of us were already friends. That's very important to something that's as creative as this.

Q: Ben and Drew, what sort of challenges and rewards come from being in a band with another drummer?

Ivascu (also of the Stnnng and Deathsquads): I've had many rhythmic ideas over the years that can only be accomplished with a drum machine or another drummer. It's really fun to be able to work out those ideas now with Drew.

Christopherson: It's fun to come up with parts without having to always be the guy "keeping the beat" -- the basic kick-drum and snare parts. Now we can create parts on cymbals or rims and really explore other territory.

Q: How do you keep two drummers from drowning out the intimate, personal aspects of Channy's songs?

Christopherson: We're very conscious about being reactionary to Channy. There are certain times we get to take the spotlight, but, overall, we approach the songs reacting to Channy first. It's kind of rare for a record to start with the vocals and lyrics first, like this, and the band reacts to those.

Leaneagh: I wasn't worried, because I wrote these songs with Ryan, and he had the two drummers in mind early on. We were always thinking about how the drums would fit.

Q: Any trouble fitting two drum kits in one van, though?

Ivascu: No, because we don't have any big guitar amps getting in the way. [Everyone laughs.]

Q: How did the other musical pieces fall into place?

Bierden: This is a great band for a bass player, because I get to tap into what's going on rhythmically, but then I also get to play off what's going on melodically. And singing with Channy is a joy. It's intimidating, too, because she's so good, but our voices match up pretty naturally.

Christopherson: There's a certain pep in a lot of Chris' bass parts that are important. Without that kind of bouncy feel, we might fall into a trap of playing, dare I say, trip-hop. We have that dark electronic vibe, but Chris keeps it more up-tempo and energetic.

Q: Why did you stick with Totally Gross National Product for a label, and not something with more national clout?

Christopherson: It really wasn't a tough decision. If we waited around for other people or another company to get involved, there's no way we would have a record coming out in February. It's as simple as that: We didn't want to wait around to put the record out. But [TGNP] has always been more a community-oriented operation, and everything we're accomplishing and learning with this record is to the benefit of everyone else in that community.

Q: Is it awkward that the album release date and First Ave gig are on Valentine's Day, given that these aren't exactly happy love songs?

Leaneagh: It might be a bad fit for some people. The songs aren't very romantic, but the music is pretty sexy and lusty, I think.

Christopherson: It just happened that Valentine's was on the Tuesday in February when we decided to put this out. It did probably help us sell tickets, though, since we sold to a lot of people buying two, instead of just one person hoping to find a date there.

Leaneagh: And it was a good way to get Ben back to town on Valentine's.

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  • Polica's CD

  • POLIÇA

    When: 8:30 p.m. Tue.

    Where: First Avenue.

    Tickets: Sold out.

    HEAR

    samples from Poliça's debut at startribune.com/music

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