Updated: May 3
(Photo Credit - Poliça)
Before I get into this exploration, I must explain the title. Because it is November, I am participating in NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, a valuable but inherently flexible concept. It could be a first draft, a second draft, or an outline, but you want to create a coherent 50,000-word piece of literature in thirty days. My project is a short story collection based on Animals, Humans, and Emotions. However, I took a couple of hours to work on another project, an exploration of Poliça.
During my last writing group, I told my friend Susan that in my twenties, I followed a band from Athens, Ohio, called Guest. Although the band is no more, I learned a lot about enjoying music from going to many of their shows. However, one skill I never picked up was the ability to write about live music or my favorite group.
“Finally, after years of thinking about music, going to live shows, and examining new albums,” I said to Susan, “I feel confident capturing these thoughts in words.” Yet here I am now, during NaNoWriMo, twenty thousand words in, and I am struggling to communicate my feelings and thoughts about Poliça.
A month or two ago, I started an article that intended to explore the moment I realized Poliça was one of my all-time favorite bands. However, I did not get past a couple of single-paragraph openings because I was in a weird mental health space. About a week or two ago, I was 530 words into an essay that also mentioned Spoon, Brijean, Caribou, Drake, Goose, Bea Miller, Kehlani, !!!, Anderson .Paak, Little Dragons, The Black Keys, and of course, Sault, another band I need to write about. In it, I tried to explore the idea that this year was an excellent year for new releases. Many bands and performers took their “A” games to the recording studios. Because music is the timeline of my life, I love when its presence is so significant that I feel new and unique energy. This year brought some of the best music I’ve ever heard.
But there I go again, skirting around the reason, the purpose for writing this article: Poliça is my nomination for Band of the Year. Ok, there it is, for a second time, and because it felt so good, I will repeat it: Poliça is my nomination for Band of the Year.
I plead ignorance. I do not know where I actually have a vote, but I write about music all year long; I listen to a large variety of music, and I believe I have good instincts for hearing brilliance. Throughout the rest of this month and December, I will do research to find music awards where my opinion counts. However, again, I digress.
Poliça. It was an amazing year for the band. In April, they announced Madness and a tour that would bring the Minneapolis band to Philly. I felt like someone who had just seen proof of aliens; I had to do something and tell someone. I texted my wife: BOO, POLIÇA IS COMING TO PHILLY. I emailed my editor: Michael, can I get a press pass for the Poliça Philadelphia show? I opened my front door and screamed, “Poliça is coming to Philly.”
The last one is not true, but only because I am too shy. I would have done it, but I hold myself back from having fun. If Poliça comes back to my area, I will do it. You know, just to get over my anxiety.
Focus, Jesse. Focus.
Poliça is my nomination for Band of the Year. The Minneapolis band level jumped in my personal musician/band/performer ranking from a band I chose to listen to and really like to a band I follow, seek out, and study. In my life, that is a huge compliment. Music is the blood of my writing, the timekeeper of my expression, and the voice of my soul. I absorb, dissect, and remold it into symbols, letters, words, and paragraphs.
I saw this band in June and am still reeling over the concert. Seeing them live, dancing with/to their music, and feeling the energy they brought made me declare, while encompassed in their sound, that they are one of my all-time favorites. I remember actually saying the words out loud in the venue.
Afterward, I paid more attention to their stories and posts on Instagram. I checked out the venues where they performed, viewed clips, read articles about them, and watched interviews and intimate concerts. (Poliça performs in KEXP studios.) They were on a roll. I felt the work they had put into their music and the love of their craft. Then, BAM. I could not and still cannot imagine it. Chris Bierden was hospitalized after a headache which led to doctors discovering a brain tumor.
I have to pause to let that sink in.
I felt for him, for the band. Life came in and said, I’m going to throw this major challenge at you. Although he takes it in stride, uses humor through his Instagram stories, and seems to be practicing again, the situation is serious. I find it difficult to wrap my head around, and Chris, if you happen to read this article: I am cheering for you. It may be from a vast distance, but know that there are people in this world who you have never met in person that are thinking about you and your recovery.
If you have ever met me, you know that I am very closed in and do not share much of myself, so I feel that what I just wrote is enormous for me. It is me reaching out and trying to communicate my emotions to another person and group of people. I think about you, your music, and your story. It is important to me to share my thoughts because of the dedication you put into your craft. You can physically and musically express what I can only do in silence. You are a voice I can stand with because I believe I understand the purpose behind it.
Since September, I have listened to Madness and When We Stay Alive many times. A couple of weeks ago, I started listening to everything in their Spotify catalog, which I thought I had done before. I guess I never went back far enough, or maybe I just never listened to the EPs and Singles because I found some gems. Music for the Long Emergency with stargaze. Yes, this is how I imagined the band when I began to compare them to Portishead. However, Bruise Blood: Reimagining Steve Reich’s Music for Piece of Wood also with stargaze. This one made me shake my head, relisten to it, and think, I’m so far behind.
While I do research on the music awards I have a vote in, watch Poliça and Chris Bierden’s Instagram stories. They are putting in the time, and he’s doing the work. Even if his situation changes the band’s touring, I know they have a lot more music to explore. They have been building momentum, and even with the seriousness of Bierden’s health, I do not doubt that the Music Gods are with them and will continue to stay with them. The musicians in Poliça are lifelong musicians. It is what they know, and it is what they are great at.
If you want to donate to Chris Bierden, check out the gofundme page created by Friends of Chris.