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Embracing the spirit of the Polyphonic Spree

Tim DeLaughter performs with the Polyphonic Spree.
Tim DeLaughter performs with the Polyphonic Spree.

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(CNN) -- "Twenty-four Texans in robes is pretty interesting," Tim DeLaughter admits.

DeLaughter is the man behind the Polyphonic Spree, a Dallas-based symphonic pop group he founded after his former band, Tripping Daisy, dissolved following the death of guitar player Wes Berggren.

The Polyphonic Spree -- two dozen Texans strong -- takes the stage in flowing white robes, bringing audiences what DeLaughter describes as "a big celebratory, spirit festival."

"We truly are celebrating the fact that we are playing music, and we like what we're doing," DeLaughter said. "And it's not like four people conjuring up energy and feeding off each other. It's 24 people doing it."

The band's first album, "The Beginning Stages of ... the Polyphonic Spree," (Good Records) was recorded and mixed in three days as a demo album and released last year. The uplifting sound caught on with audiences, and the band has added a second leg to a debut tour of the United States and Canada.

The group recently wrapped a second album, which is scheduled for release later this year.

TMR chatted with DeLaughter about assembling the band and the inspiration for the unique sound of the Polyphonic Spree.

TMR: The true power of your band cannot be judged until you see it live.

DELAUGHTER: I totally agree.

TMR: Did you have this vision for the Polyphonic Spree when you began?

DELAUGHTER: The main of objective at the beginning was to create a sound that I've been wanting to hear for quite some time. My last band, I was thinking of it back then -- "One day I'll attempt this. I've got plenty of time. It will work out." And there was a space there that gave me an opportunity to put it together. It was mainly a selfish and self-indulgent need to hear a sound that wasn't really going on at the time.

TMR: It is a huge, big sound. Do people think you're mad?

DELAUGHTER: Yeah, they think I am mad, [that] I am head of a cult. Yeah, they think I'm off. It's a weird situation to be in. But it was -- to answer your question earlier, "Did I know it was going to turn out like this?" -- I had no idea. It was all about trying to create a sound, not create this big celebratory, spirit festival that seems to go on when we all get together. That's something that kind of evolved. In the beginning, it was just the sound.

TMR: Even your part evolved?

The band's 24 members make touring a challenge.
The band's 24 members make touring a challenge.

DELAUGHTER: Oh yeah, big time. I wasn't even going to be in the band in the beginning. I just wanted to put it together and watch it. You never get to experience your own band, and I wanted to do that with this one. But in order to translate the songs to everybody else in the group, I was playing guitar [and] became more part of it and then just got really engrossed and before you know it ... it was just like "aaaaaahhh" started happening.

TMR: You have the benefit of looking at the theatrical experience. You have the benefits of video. When you watch it, can you detach yourself? What do you see? How do you interpret it?

DELAUGHTER: It reaches points of nirvana. It's a pretty amazing experience. I mean it touches on these little situations we all have in life where we graze the tops of them every now and then. With this band, I get to do it a lot more regularly than I have ever done as a human being. So it's a pretty special time to be a part of something like this.

TMR: You've read the criticism that says it's like watching some strange religious cult.

DELAUGHTER: Right, I know. We wear robes -- 24 Texans in robes is pretty interesting. I just thought it would be a beautiful statement to have people wearing robes with this type of music. And in the beginning we were projecting images on our robes, but now we have moved beyond that. Now we use screens.

TMR: Are you a religious man? Does the music have any religious connotations?

DELAUGHTER: Yeah, it does. I mean, the whole band has completely different religious beliefs. It's not like we've adopted a certain religious power, but there is a religious overtone in the spirit that's being conveyed on stage. We truly are celebrating the fact that we are playing music, and we like what we're doing. And it's not like four people conjuring up energy and feeding off each other. It's 24 people doing it. So it's a massive amount of spirited energy that gets going, and you're just part of it.

TMR: So you're the sole composer?

DELAUGHTER: I write the songs and then everybody in the group ... the prerequisite in this band is to be able to improvise your own parts. I don't dictate to those guys what part they are going to play. I may introduce an idea like, "Hey, why don't you try this?" and if something just sticks out in my head, "Why don't you do this?" But for the most part, the group pretty much comes up with their own stuff. They're fantastic. I bring in a song, a skeleton of a song, and then everybody else just adds the parts.

TMR: Do you ever look back?

DELAUGHTER: We do that all the time. Like "Two years ago, would you think you would be sitting back talking on CNN and you're over here and just played your sold-out show in London?" I'd be like "What? No way." That's life for you, man. It's got a lot of crazy turns, highs and lows. Embrace them.

CNN.com's Marnie Hunter contributed to this report.


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