Interview | Introducing…The Pollyanna Band

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The Pollyanna Band is a collaboration between Polly Paulusma and Annie Dressner or, we prefer to think of them, ‘a coming together of two titans.’ Make them your favourite new band of 2014.

Hello, please introduce yourself and your music to the uninitiated

Polly Paulusma: Our music is bluegrass, female harmony, acoustic, folky…Like a female Simon & Garfunkel, is how someone described it.

We know you’ve only recently started writing together, but tell us a bit about the album you’re working on. Is there a theme?

Annie Dressner: There isn’t a set theme, but we might find one…

P: We tend to get into the heads of female personas, quite strong women, it isn’t necessarily always about us, sometimes we’ll get a mood from the music, and lyrics come with that mood.

Having seen you perform, there seemed to be a few love songs…

P: We’re both happily married now, and that gives an interesting vantage point – events from your past distil. With events that are painful, that distance is really helpful. You can reflect on past antics with a bit of humour and nostalgia. Which is different from the kind of songs you write in the thick of it.

A: For me though, material gets less interesting when you’re not pissed off!

P: Some of the songs I’ve written when I’ve been right in it have been so personal that it was harder to make it universal, relevant for someone else. Now it’s still emotionally engaging, and I definitely pull myself back to that place in my head, but you’ve got the ability to get out of it again. Working with someone else is nice too…We have independent ways of working, so it becomes an egalitarian coming-together of two titans [laughs].

What was your best ever gig (together or separately)?

A: One of my favourite gigs [as a solo artist] was at the Old Cinema Launderette in Durham – the environment was cool and it was really full, and everyone was excited to hear the music. It was fun and intimate.

P: I played at the Istanbul Jazz Festival in 2005. The gig was going kind of well, then there was a power cut. Everyone took out their lighters, candles appeared, and we did the rest of our gig without electric lights or a PA. It was amazing – it’s nice when something goes really wrong, then becomes just magic.

What’s the worst thing about being a musician?

P: I’ve got two children, and the worst thing is that pull – I want to be touring forever, but I really love my children and can’t do that to them. It’s a sort of tear at the heart of my life, which I find quite painful. It’s one of those unsolvable dilemmas. But it will change as they get older.

A: For me the worst thing is probably driving home really late at night after gigs, and the unreliability of it. Sometimes I get frustrated and wish I wanted to do something else, but I don’t want to.

P: It’s vocational, like being a nun or something. I’ve tried to stop doing it so many times, but always kind of get dragged back by my hair, back to the cave.

A: I find it a lot more fun writing with Polly than writing by myself. Having somebody else’s ears is really helpful. I have four ears now. [Laughs]

What inspires you?

P: I have no idea. Memories, other people’s stories… If you knew everything about where the song was coming from, you’d probably know where you need to go without having to write it down.

A: My answer to that question is always just, life. Life and love.

If you won a billion pounds what would you do with it?

A: Buy stuff!

P: I’d put about 25 million into an account, live off the interest for the rest of my life and give the rest away. If you’ve got enough for yourself and your kids, the rest is just bollocks isn’t it?

A: I’d buy a zoo.

P: I would not want a zoo! Think of all the elephant dung…I’d buy speakers for my shed. And new pants. I heard on the radio that the average duration women keep their knickers for is fifteen years, and how disgusting that is.

A: I’d get a water fountain. Since I was little, I really wanted a water fountain in my room. These are my dreams.

Which of your songs is your favourite, and why?

A: Out of the ones that we’ve written together? I like ‘Take Me Over’.

P: That’s my favourite too. It was the first one we wrote. It was a real “ooh” moment.

What are your plans for the future?

P: Other than putting an album out, I’m going back to school – I’m going to do a masters on folk music in literature. I feel like it’s important that I’m a practitioner too – I need to know what I’m talking about. And I’ll be working with the artists on my record label [Wild Sound]. Lots more music, basically.

A: I would like to make an album in the next couple of years, and I would like to become highly successful in stock photography [laughs].

P: Yes Annie’s a photographer too, you should check her out.

Finally, we’re always looking to expand our musical horizons. Do you have any recommendations of bands or artists we should be looking out for?

A: I like Sweet Baboo, and Dan Wilde, and Chris T–T is really good, and Gary Stewart.

P: I like Wes Finch, and She Makes War, she’s incredible, she has loads of tattoos and a megaphone. There are some Cambridge lads I’m working with called From The Woods, who are all sixteen and just starting to play gigs together, and Harry Harris, and Stylusboy. Also Bill Orrick.

Interview: Becky Varley–Winter