On a new self-titled album, Ryan Pollie’s Los Angeles Police Department project takes the bedroom pop tag to heart. We talked with Pollie about recording on his own terms, nostalgia, Philly cheesesteaks, and that band name.
Bandcamp: On Los Angeles Police Department, you take the bedroom pop tag very literally. Did the comfort and convenience of being at home help the recording process? And do you think that there is a sound or vibe from a small personal space that you can’t replicate in a studio?
Los Angeles Police Department: There’s a massive difference for me between going into the studio and recording at home. I think recording at home can never sound as “quality” as something that’s done professionally, but I tend to get super anxious when I’m doing takes in the studio. At home, I’m never worried about fucking up while experimenting or how long it’s taking to get a drum part right. Also, engineers and producers would probably hate working with me, because I’m often writing the song as I’m recording it. So they’d have to sit there while I figure out a chorus or sing gibberish. It would probably be a really uncomfortable experience for everyone involved.
BC: On Facebook, you refer to Los Angeles Police Department as “we.” Who else is in the band and who plays what on the album?
LAPD: I think when people are talking about Los Angeles Police Department recordings, they’re talking about just me. All the instruments and vocals and everything on the record are me, except two bass tracks were done by Justin, who lives with me and has been writing and playing music with me since I was 14. The live band is like the other side of the same coin and I’m really proud of it for different reasons. It’s way more energetic and fun, partially because our drummer Brendan is an animal and loves Keith Moon, and because our guitarist Will is super shreddy.
BC: Can you please spill the beans on why you chose the name Los Angeles Police Department for the band name and album title? (We did giggle at your Facebook page, which lists you as working at the LAPD.)
LAPD: I think that giggle factor is definitely the main reason I chose that name. It cracked me up. As far as the album being self-titled, it was always my intention to have sesos design the artwork as a kind of busy, micro mural thing that would stand alone without a band name interfering with it. So it didn’t allow for any album title brainstorming. I got the records the other day and the artwork is incredible.
BC: How did you arrive at the idea of recording each song in a day, and how many days did you do this? Were there any 11:59 p.m. “not gonna’ make this deadline” emergencies?
LAPD: I write a song pretty much every time I’m by myself and pick up an instrument. When it came to recording, I would just get in the practice of opening up my computer and setting everything up as soon as I would write the skeleton for the song. In my head they weren’t going to be released and be talked about, so it allowed me to just get something down and mess about without thinking too hard about getting the right take. It was never like, “oh I have to finish this one by tonight or fuck it.” It was more that I wanted to get everything down while the energy was there. I have a much tougher time writing a song and recording it a month later. The more I play a tune and think about it and practice it, the more I doubt how good it is; I get insecure about it. So it’s just easier for me to try to finish everything at once. Then I can just look back and think, “that was that song that I did that day.” If I had a vocal or something left to do, often times I’d never do it.
I’d say when I decided on the final track list, I had probably around 30 or so that all had dates as names. I narrowed it down to 20 and asked Brendan, Justin, and our friend Jake to create their ideal album out of those, but it was so confusing. I’d say “guys, what do you think about 8/31?” and they would reply “which one is that again?” And we’d have to listen to it, and be like, “oh yeah that one, but then which one is 8/30?” And then we’d have to play that.
I was working a shitty retail job that sometimes would give me four shifts out of seven days, so when the album was being made I’d record multiple times a week. Now I have less time and just try to record once every weekend, unless I go to Disneyland. Then fuck that, I’d rather go to Disneyland.
BC: Your press release says the album is “the perfect distillation of where the project is currently at and where it could be taken in the future.” Where do you see taking the project in the future and do you envision using the same song-in-a-day routine again?
LAPD: I think my buddy Matt, who runs Forged Artifacts, came up with that. And he totally cheated because he has a bunch of my newer demos. I don’t want to say too much about the direction we’re going in, but I think it’s safe to say it’ll be a little more rockin’ and less chill. I’ve been recording the same way I always have and probably have about 15–20 new songs since the record. I’m not sure if any of them will make the next album, because maybe I’m going to hire a blind orchestra, and a South African a cappella group, and I just haven’t signed with Usher yet to get that Bieber money.
BC: According to reviews and comments from fans, you seem to have struck a nostalgic chord with some listeners. Your music reminds people of something, which I think is often a mark of something great. What were you listening to leading up to the recording of LAPD?
LAPD: I never really make conscious decisions to try to write or sound like anybody else. Granted, it definitely happens sometimes. I’ll write something and be like, “why is that so familiar?” And then I realize it’s a melody from a Raffi song. But for me, it’s the biggest bummer when someone says, “yo, check this song out; it sounds like the song you thought you wrote.”
BC: You were previously in a band called Cereal Heroes. How does the sound of Los Angeles Police Department differ?
LAPD: Wow, how did you know that I was in a band called Cereal Heroes? Damn. Justin and I were in that band with our friends Eric and Anthony from eighth grade until senior year of high school. It went from pop punk to classic rock and everywhere in between. As a songwriter, it was probably the best possible thing for me. I wrote so many different types of songs and probably wouldn’t have found my own voice without that band. Los Angeles Police Department definitely sounds a lot different. There are some Cereal Heroes records I have where my voice hadn’t changed; they sound like a punk band fronted by a small child.
BC: Philadelphia and LA are obviously very different places, each with its own music scene. How do you feel the West Coast shift affected your sound, and are you digging LA?
LAPD: Before Los Angeles, I was actually writing most of my music in Maine, where I went to school. I did an album called Snow Day, and it was all electronic with a lot of orchestral instrumentation. I did it all on Reason 4 with Vienna Instruments in Pro Tools, and did all the vocals in this little closet in the music building of my college. I think environment definitely influences art. When I’m back in Philly, I’ll write different music than when I’m here, for sure. I need to change my surroundings more, actually. I think it’s healthy for a writer to not stay in the same place. I like LA, though. I have a lot of friends here.
BC: Philly cheesesteak or Korean-Mexican taco?
LAPD: The Philly cheesesteak probably makes it in my top 5 meals ever.
BC: What is next for you and for Los Angeles Police Department?
LAPD: I really want to fix this tape machine I bought off eBay. I want to find Village Green on vinyl. I need to set up my guitar because it sounds really bad up the neck. I should probably clean my room and drink less beer. I want to try smoking pot again soon; it’s been since Christmas. I want to get into more bands that I always thought I hated. I always thought I hated Hall and Oates and I’ve been listening to Abandoned Luncheonette a lot recently. My mom would be so upset at me if she knew this. Maybe I’ll start liking other bands I’ve always hated, like Billy Joel or U2, and it’ll wildly change my writing. Then I’ll time-travel and give my younger self my new record. Young me will hate it, but then he’ll go back to it later in life and really like it. I think I’ve just created a paradox.