POLLENS’s brand of sometimes-polyrhythmic, sometimes-choral music can be described as “trance,” and though the descriptor is far from perfect, their music does bring to mind a certain whirling trance. We got to ask Jeff Aaron Bryant about how he describes Pollens, the band’s move from Seattle to Brooklyn, and what “trance” really means to him. Find out for yourself below and at their set at On The Rise on August 25!
Since your first release in 2011, a strong rhythmic pulse has been present within your music; even quieter, contemplative tracks like ‘Look Present’ have a repetitive, danceable drum loop in the background. To what extent do you consider your work dance music?
Dance music is all there is… If you hear us do a tune and you can’t dance to it, please come talk to us. We’ll fix it. That’s a guarantee.
Repetitive polyrhythms play an important role in your music, especially on your 2012 work, Brighten & Break. Did the idea to incorporate African polyrhythms exist since the inception of the band?
I’m only ever excited about a handful of things and drumming/percussion is always one of them. Complex rhythms do funny things to our ear and our body-experience of time—Even the simplest polyrhythms seem to want to restart as soon as they finish… Like a barber’s pole.
Much of your newer work incorporates large choral arrangements. Does the compositional process fall on the entire group, or just a couple members of the band?
I do the initial writing, but then we arrange and edit together… We pretty frequently get songs up on their feet, learn the changes, then swap parts, change the rhythm, add more words, whatever, until we get something we’re all feeling great about. And then we start editing.
Normally, when one hears the term trance music, they are directed to that style of electronic house music which originated in the early ’90s and is now oft-derided for its overproduction. ‘Overproduced’ is just about the last descriptor that comes to mind when listening to your music. What about this genre descriptor do you feel fits your music?
I was into trance in high school… Goa trance/psytrance… But when I think about trance now, it’s not electronic music that comes to mind—it’s ecstatic folkloric musics; it’s cyclical, contiguous musics that I think about. Stuff that’s long or insistent. And built from an element that’s repeating. By ‘repeating’ I mean, playing something over and over that could just as well be a loop. Trance for me isn’t just music made from looped samples, but also durational, body-stuff—repeating physical gestures over and over. Go! and keep going.
Throughout your time as a band, you’ve been based in both Seattle and Brooklyn. How do the two areas compare to each other? Was there a particular reason to relocate to New York?
Seattle is so fun… Music is really important there and it’s a great city for being in a band. New York is so… multiple? I can see the same bands over and over here and be in a different crowd every time. It’s cool for me… I feel like I never know who we’ll be performing for.