Joe Polydoros' debut album is 10 years in the making.
"I never ever ever considered myself a musician at all," says Polydoros. "I really like sound and sounds [and] I’ve written music before, especially when I was younger. I started out doing punk like the late-70s- sounding punk. I had sort of a performance noise band Art Vandalay—that’s the most fun I’ve ever had playing live. I stopped for almost 10 years."
It is, frankly, hard to believe that Polydoros doesn't consider himself a musician—his work says otherwise. He has always enjoyed making "sound," even if it is considered technically music, by some definition. He found he could express himself well through the medium of film and accompanying sound designs, even completing a sound design for a ballet film that went to the Cannes Film Festival in 2014.
The center of Polydoros' creative work is firmly self-expression, whether it is actualized through film, sound design or, more recently, music. The right words are sometimes impossible to find and that's where art enters. Sometimes, it doesn't require words to convey a sense of frustration, or loss, or love—or a combination of all of the above. His debut album is the perfect example of this; the lyrics and instrumentation are able to tell a story, even if the plot is not explicitly described.
Polydoros realizes that sometimes the lack of words says more than a meandering soliloquy.
"I had long sad versions of the songs, I wanted to do the thing where I was saying these terrible things," Polydoros says. "But at end of the songs, there are long instrumental, contemplative things to show that I am reflecting on it and it wasn’t all bad. The reason they were instrumental is that its hard to put memories into words without the words taking on different meaning to different people. One thing I don’t have to do is explain the meaning behind it."
The eight piece collection has a hint of nostalgia—obviously influenced by 60s and 70s rock 'n' roll—yet is still decidedly modern. While the album as a whole is impressive, there are a few songs that stand out in particular: "(This is) Hip-gnosis" and "Where Bergman Meets Bikinis."
At the beginning of "(This is) Hip-gnosis" there is over a minute of instrumentalism before Polydoros' vocals swing in. It's almost as if he's finding the right words to say—he doesn't want to screw it up. The vocals that finally emerge are sad, yet accepting of this sadness. Polydoros sings:
Dear such and such,
It's true I never cared for you,
At least we touched,
Two Geminis with two points of view
For a moment we wonder who is this other Gemini, but it is not enough time to consider before the rest of the song takes off. The listener is swept into playful poetry and the racing tempo of the rest of the song—it is quite hypnotizing. The intent probably isn't to sit and untangle the meaning behind the lyrics.
"Where Bergman Meets Bikinis" is immediately upbeat. The vocals and instrumentation are a bit more urgent than "Hip-gnosis." Some of Polydoros' punk rock background peeks through. An underlying frustration is at the song's core, but sometimes the best art emerges from a place of exasperation.
"I thought I understood contemporary romance and love and stuff and I’m not so sure that people love each other like they used to, romantically or platonically," Polydoros says. "People are completely selfish with their emotions now."
This is sentiment is definitely at the center of "Bergman Meets Bikinis." The final section of the song could possibly be referring to the modern obsession with texting and dating apps: "It's true what they say/that cellphones make better philosophers/we'll see which one we would rather break." The song describes observing the world as a sort of outsider and coming to terms with this otherness. It doesn't try to bridge the gap between the observer and the observed, but seems okay with leaving the two perspective at odds; Polydoros decides, "I think I would rather stay indoors." We don't blame you.
The concept of opposing perspective is a thread that runs throughout each track. While many of the songs create a sense of distaste for the perceived selfishness of others' actions, there is time given to the opposite viewpoint. It is, in a way, trying to understand why people can really be, for lack of a better word, shitty.
"...There's a duality thing happening with it all," Polydoros says. "While it's true I'm being extremely critical on the current state of pop culture and modern love, there's also different viewpoints. There are arguments and rebuttals."
Creating this album was a collaborative effort. Polydoros' songwriting was brought to life with the help of his producer, Dylan Ludwig and fellow musicians Jessica Crocker, Alexa Simpson, Billy Rose, Shawnee Davis and Charlie Myers.
The full album will be available for listening June 30 on Soundcloud. Listen to "Bergman Meets Bikinis" above.