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Where Is My Mind?: Purling Hiss' Mike Polizze

- by Q.D. Tran

Tonight at Johnny Brenda’s is the album release show for Purling Hiss’ rad new LP Water on Mars (Drag City). Also providing some sweet, sweet tunes will be Spacin’ and Axis: Sova. We were happy to catch up with the Hiss’ mastermind and local guitar hero Mike Polizze this week before the power trio hits the road to melt some faces across America and Europe. You can check out what he had to say about the band, their latest release and much more below.
 
The Deli: Where did the name Purling Hiss come from?
 
Mike Polizze: It’s a reference to white noise. The purling definition is: (of a stream or river) Flow with a swirling motion and babbling sound. I thought it just sounded cool, and complimented the music I was making during the first 4-track recording.
 
TD: Why did you call the new album Water on Mars?
 
MP: I think in context - it’s thought provoking. It’s meant to be interactive with the listener to conjure their own relation to the title. That’s what I get out of it. Maybe it’s a nod to the future, and desire to be somewhere else. It can mean many things.
 
TD: There is certainly a more polished sheen to the songs on this album. Was this a conscious effort when you started recording it? Did your experience with recording “Lolita” for Weathervane’s Shaking Through at a professional studio have anything to do with it?
 
MP: We already had tentative plans to record with Jeff Ziegler, and had already demoed with him the year before, so we knew what we were getting into. The demo and Weathervane experience helped guide us into the studio setting. 
 
TD: How do you feel Philly and its music community have affected your music from when you first started performing out until now?
 
MP: I think being in a band with Birds of Maya has definitely rounded out my musical personality. I’ve been with them almost 10 years, so going into Purling Hiss, it had a big effect. Also, just being surrounded by so many other great friends and bands helped too.
 
TD: You originally put together the band to play out live. Was there a defining moment with Kiel Everrett and Mike Sneeringer that you realized Purling Hiss was a cohesive unit, and you should start writing songs more with their input?
 
MP: Definitely on the first tour, I knew we had a great unit. The friendship was there, and everyone involved wanted to move forward with it. There were some kinks to work out along the way, but with this new album, it proves we found our sound. It’s getting better too. I’m already looking forward to newer songs.
 
TD: Besides an apparent growth in the structuring of your songs on the latest album, there seems to be more of an emphasis as well as maturity with your lyrics and storytelling. What helped to inspire that?
 
MP: I think it was just a natural evolution, and understanding that the vocals would be recorded more clearly, and just an over all completeness of songs.
 
TD: You worked on the production of Water on Mars with Jeff Zeigler and Adam Granduciel. What did you learn from being in the studio with them that you never realized before while recording your previous works in your bedroom by yourself?
 
MP: They have the ears, the resources and the knowledge. Recording by yourself in the bedroom is taking on everything, and with limited resources and know-how, you can only get so far. I’m very proud of those recordings, and home-recordings have great charm, but it was time to capture the band’s sound, and going into the studio was the next step.
 
TD: Both of them are also the lead songwriters in their bands Arc in Round and The War on Drugs. Did they provide you with ideas that affected your songs in anyway? If so, how?
 
MP: They both have a lot of experience working in the studio - obviously. So as hard-headed as I can be, the suggestions were pretty welcomed. Jeff knew how to engineer, and capture us live, as he has done sound for us at live shows before. And Adam also watched us grow as a band, since we’ve toured together a bunch. They knew our personalities and how to help us find what we were looking for, from getting a live sound all the way down to the nuances of a slight effect on a pedal.
 
TD: Where did your love for guitar come from? Was it the first instrument that you ever picked up, or did you start your musical journey with another instrument?
 
MP: I took piano lessons when I was a child. I picked up the guitar when I was about 13, and knew that was the instrument for me.
 
TD: What was the first song you learned on the guitar that you were really excited about?
 
MP: I got really close to learning some Hendrix stuff!
 
TD: Who are your guitar heroes?
 
MP: I started off as a teenager trying to cop Hendrix, Iomi, and Jimmy Page riffs. I eventually got real into Greg Ginn, and a few years later concentrated on song structure.
 
TD: What’s in store for Purling Hiss this year? Will there be any more releases before the year is out?
 
MP: We will support this new album by touring this spring in the US and Europe. That’s all for now.
 
TD: What’s your favorite thing to get at the deli?
 
MP: I’m trying not to eat too much deli meats these days.
 

 

 

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Purling Hiss
Water on Mars