Poliça's Channy Leaneagh looks for meaning beyond the hype

"In general, I try to look for the spaces that haven't been found yet."

| June 04, 2014
A little left of center: Poliça's Channy Leaneagh
- Photo courtesy of Colin Kerrigan
A little left of center: Poliça's Channy Leaneagh

Rolling Stone once called Poliça "America's Portishead," and in some ways, that's not such a bad comparison. There are the haunting female vocals, downtempo beats and lyrics that brim with distress and heartache: check, check, check. But why saddle an emerging band with comparisons, however well meaning, that might yet be surpassed?

Poliça, at its core, is vocalist Channy Leaneagh in tandem with producer Ryan Olson. Both are standouts of Minneapolis' lively music scene; Leaneagh sang on a few tracks for Olson's soft-rock collective GAYNGS in 2011, a year before the release of Poliça's first album, Give You the Ghost.

"Ryan just reminded me last night the only reason I have a band is because he does nice things for people," Leaneagh says with a laugh. "I sent him some beats and asked if he'd help me, and that's what happened with Poliça."

Shulamith, the band's much-lauded second LP from 2013, didn't drastically evolve from Give You the Ghost so much as expand on what was already there. From the outset, Olson and Leaneagh envisioned an aesthetic to underpin all of their work as Poliça. To wit, even though Leaneagh needs her voice auto-tuned less than anybody this side of Adele, her modulated vocals have become the ghostly hallmark of Poliça's electro-pop noir.

"In general, I try to look for the spaces that haven't been found yet," says Leaneagh. "I just desire to go against the grain, to go against the norm. I just find that that's what I'm attracted to musically."

"It's not intentionally trying to be different," she adds. "But I think I notice that I and the people I'm making music with all have very different tastes, but we all like things to be a little twisted, or a little bit off ... and I think that way you can capture the hearts and the souls of people that aren't quite fed by just the middle line."

It's a welcome philosophy, one that has attracted fans well outside the Twin Cities. The band's summer tour hits U.S. locations that missed out on the first round of Shulamith dates, before embarking for Europe. Leaneagh, however, like so many well-hyped artists before her, seems most concerned about staying true to herself. It's a sentiment captured in "Tiff," the buzzed-about single featuring guest vocals from Justin "Bon Iver" Vernon, on which she sings out, "I'm a pawn in the hype machine."

"I think about how people carry on their own Instagram accounts, and they're documenting, like, what they had for breakfast, and what they're wearing today, and the size of their ass, or what their boyfriend looks like, or something," Leaneagh says. "And [we are] really into sort of creating this hype around ourselves, and this story, and kind of advertising ourselves. And in general, that's what can be expected of you as an artist: to do that one-hundredfold.

"Is it possible to just to be a musician and not create a false sense of reality about yourself?"

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