Interview: Los Angeles Police Department
Written by Lanny Lieu on November 23, 2014
Last night, I went to dinner with Ryan Pollie aka Los Angeles Police Department (the band) after their six hour drive from Vancouver BC and had a chat with them before their set at the Doug Fir opening up for Avi Buffalo. This interview was interrupted a few a times by Lefse Records & Loch Ness Management founder, Matt Halverson and his witty remarks. Thanks, Halverson. Also big thanks to Ryan for squeezing this interview into his tight schedule and Chris Robbins for helping set up another interview for KPSU (the Generationals interview was also him).
First things first, how’d you pick Los Angeles Police Department as your band name?
I had already done the record and was going as my mom’s name, SHARRA, for a while because I thought it was a cool name. We were doing these new projects and we did this cover song of a band, Good Luck Bear. It was me, Justin, and my buddy, Jake (Avid Dancer) and we were like, “man, we need a name.” It ended up being Los Angeles Police Department because we saw a cop across this 7-11 and there were cop cars all around there and we were joking around about how funny it would be to see a marquee with “Los Angeles Police Department” cause you think we were cops playing here. We got a good laugh at that so I started naming all my stuff Los Angeles Police Department on iTunes. We get a lot of questions like, “can you do that?” “can you name your band that?” and I just want to play around with the concept.
Has anyone from the LAPD actually contacted you regarding your moniker?
No, but I do get really hilarious Facebook messages from people who are like “I’ve seen some suspicious activity on 4th & Gardner and I think people are dealing drugs there.” It’s a message to me because I don’t think people realize that it’s not the cops so when I check my messages, it’s like, “ok, I don’t think I should be getting these and I don’t have the proper contact to forward these to.” Some people post on my wall without seeing that it’s a band and they write stuff like, “the LAPD is fucking awful. Here’s a news story of how that they beat up.” It’s like woah. I’m getting a glimpse of what it would be like to be an officer who’d have to go through this.
You grew up in Philly, went to school at Bates in New England, and now you’re currently located in Los Angeles. What inspired the move out west?
I knew that I wanted to play music and I knew after living in Philly and in Maine that L.A. in my head was much more of a music town. I knew I didn’t want to live in New York and I knew that I wanted to live where a lot of creative people lived and I knew L.A. was a destination for people who want to be creative. Justin and I grew up together. In college, we talked about moving to Los Angeles so I had him. He wanted to be in a band too and do screenwriting. I wanted to play music. His friend from college, Brendan, wanted to play music too. So I had people to play music with and I knew L.A. was cool so that’s what inspired it. LA inspired the music too. The music I wrote there sounds different. When I was in college, in the snow, I wrote a lot of lyrics about the cold and the snow and here the music sounds warmer, it sounds sunnier, which is nice.
Yeah, a little more Californian.
Yeah, so I think location and environment informs art in a big way. That’s why I think traveling is important if you’re a writer. Going out to different places and writing in different environments will inspire a lot of cool stuff.
You were formerly in a band called Warm Weather. What’s the most valuable thing you got out of that experience?
Warm Weather was actually the three of us (Brendan, Justin, and Ryan) without Will. It was way different. It was a lot of vocal harmony, very 60s inspired. I learned so many things from Warm Weather. Especially, that I wanted to be in a band for the rest of my life and that I want to pursue music as a career.
(Ryan looks at my notes)
LOOK AT THIS. You have really good handwriting and I liked how you outlined the title like a serial killer. That’s pretty cool, too.
Thanks? That’s the first time I’ve heard that… When did you pick up your first instrument?
My mom made me take piano lessons when I was growing up. I was young. I was six or seven years old when I had my first lesson. That’s partially why I became a songwriter – because my mom made me take piano lessons and I would sit at the piano and not practice what I was supposed and make up some other shit. That’s why I suck at reading music. It’s cause I spent all that time doodling and writing songs instead of practicing.
Did you initially attend college at Bates with the intention of earning a music degree?
When I was in high school, I wanted to go to music school. Again, my parents were like, “I think you should go to a liberal arts school. We know you love music and you want to do that but who is to say you won’t love psychology or philosophy or things that aren’t offered in a regular high school curriculum?” So fair enough, I went to a liberal arts school and took all those classes and ended up taking a lot of cool courses and was happy that I didn’t go to music school but also, ended up taking a lot of courses in music. It made sense for me to pick that major.
Moving on to your writing & recording process, I’ve read that you like to write and record your songs the same day. Is that true?
It’s not so much necessarily that way anymore but when you’re in the zone for writing you allow yourself to be not too self-critical. Once you find a progression you love, you just keep building and building on it. You don’t allow time to be like “no, I don’t like it. I want to make the chorus stronger.” You just let yourself go for a bit and that can be valuable. For this record, I didn’t want to be too heavy on composition. I wanted it to feel loose. I wanted it to be a bit lazier. I would sit down, write the song, let the lyrics go, let the guitar parts happen. I’d look back a couple of days instead of judging it as I went. That’s why I tend to record like, a stream of consciousness because if you’re really critical in the moment, you get rid of a lot of cool parts.
Your music is very layered, lo-fi, bedroom pop. How’d you create the sound and what was the recording set up like?
It’s not intentional. I record in my room and I don’t really use any effects. I spend a lot of time setting up mics and making sure I have a good sound coming out of my amps and the vocals, I’d make sure they sounded alright. It sounds lo-fi ’cause it is. I’m recording on my computer. I don’t spend any money on software or anything like that. It sounds bedroom because it also is. It’s layered because I like bands like the Beach Boys. A lot of music I like seems to be layered so I think that came naturally.
How’d you select the 11 tracks for your self-titled LP?
I had something like, 30 and I sent them to Brendan and Justin and my friend, Jake and we all listened to them and we all skyped and chose our favorites. It ultimately came down to what I wanted to do. From there, I just played around with the track list and narrowed it down and show the different sides of music that I like. There’s probably a full album from that time period that no one has ever heard.
Do you ever plan on releasing some of the tracks that didn’t make it onto the album in a future release?
No, I think they didn’t make it on there for a reason. (laughs)
How do you translate the recorded version of your songs to your live performances?
It’s very different live. Like I said, everything is recorded in my bedroom and it’s all me. These guys shred and they’re really good musicians. I’m a writer first. I know how to play guitar but I’m not as competent as Will. The arrangement is a little different live so it’s more of a rock show. Brendan as a drummer – I’m more of a lazier drummer – and Brendan is super aggressive and is like an animal back there. It brings a new energy to the songs. It gives it life in a way that you can know the record and come and hear the songs live and like the record and the live performance. I think that it’s cool that you can go see a band and have that experience and not just hear the same thing. If I wanted to recreate the same thing as my album, I’d have to invite people to my room and play it all myself and I don’t know how that would work.
You’re currently on a tightly scheduled tour with Avi Buffalo. How’s life been on the road?
It’s been fun. We haven’t toured too much yet so we’re not like the tired, angry band. We’re really excited about everything. Shows have been great and things have been fun. We got four people to drive.
Have you toured before?
We have as Warm Weather two to three years ago. We’ve played about a show a month in LA. We try not to play out too much. A lot of our friends are in LA and we don’t want to make them pay $20 every other week to come see us. We play a lot of house parties so nobody pays either. We played on Halloween, actually. Will was Tarzan and Brendan was Fred Flintstone. Justin and I were from Guardians of the Galaxy. It was fun and adorable and a lot more sloppier because we were drunk.
What have you guys been listening to on the road?
Brendan: I don’t know what it’s called but it’s R. Kelly…
The Ignition remix?
No, it was the saga. Do you know it?
…Trapped in the Closet?
Yeah! I recommend watching the videos. It’s a beautiful audio-visual experience. There are 33 chapters of it… we have also been listening to a lot of Christmas music.
What are your favorite 2014 albums?
I love that Each Other record.
Oh hey, that’s a Lefse release!
Yeah, that was amazing! Also, Ty Segall’s Manipulator, new Alt-J, Avi Buffalo, and some tracks off the new Weezer record… also add Taylor Swift’s 1989 to that list!