The Polyphonic Spree with STarlight Mints and Corn Mo at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), Monday and Tuesday (September 29 and 30), 8 pm. $17.50. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
At first, Tim Delaughter's idea of putting on shows with his cheery 24-piece rock 'n' roll choir was met with shocked disbelief. The added bit about them merrily prancing around with French horns and harps in matching white robes gave small comfort to cult-wary Texas concert promoters, especially since the bearded DeLaughter has cultivated the zealous demeanour of a monomaniacal prophet. But now that people have had a chance to experience the stunning live spectacle of the Spree enthusiastically belting out their feel-good tunes in unison, DeLaughter's hippy-dippy concept doesn't seem quite so ridiculously unhinged any more.
"Growing up in the late 60s and early 70s, all the music I heard on the radio - the Fifth Dimension, the Association and the Beach Boys - was lavishly orchestrated with symphonic instruments," explains former Tripping Daisy frontman DeLaughter from his Dallas home. "That had a huge impact on the way I heard music. It shaped my whole pop sensibility.
"When Tripping Daisy ended, my whole agenda in putting this band together was to make music like what I'd been hearing since my childhood. It was just meant to be a project here in Dallas, with the idea of maybe playing some local shows just to let some of this inner sun shine out."
DeLaughter's plans for a part-time dream band he could jam with when he wasn't running his Dallas record store changed dramatically once he released their sunny pop debut disc, The Beginning Stages Of The Polyphonic Spree, on his own Good Records label.
The Spree's lushly realized music and captivating choral singing were an immediate hit with Flaming Lips fans and Up With People survivors alike.
"That CD was never really meant to be released as an album. When I tried to tell people about the band, they had a hard time getting their heads around what we were doing.
"Our first show was called The Beginning Stages Of The Polyphonic Spree, for which I'd written a body of music - just one long piece, from section 1 through 9 - and we recorded that just to use as a demo to get gigs.
"When people came to our shows asking to buy our music, we had the demo manufactured, and that became our debut disc. Ever since then it's been a freakin' weird ride. I'm constantly surprised by what's been happening on a daily basis."
In the three years since, the Polyphonic Spree have become a cause célèbre of the UK music press, toured incessantly in their massive 26-sleeper travelling hotel-bus and signed a lucrative deal with the Disney-owned Hollywood Records - their ideal label home. That's just the start of the Spree's fairy-tale ride.
"Our new album is done, and it's sort of a rock opera. If there's an underlying theme to it, I'd say it's hope.
"We've also got a children's record and a Christmas television variety show in the works right now. A lot of talented people with great ideas have been inspired by our music, so we're just opening the door and letting them into our Polyphonic Spree world."