Poliça’s Channy Leaneagh isn’t bothered that some critics don’t ‘get’ their superb new album, writes Ed Power
POLIÇA’S Channy Leaneagh doesn’t care what the haters think. The stately electro pop group were a name on everyone’s lips when they broke through in 2012. Then came the inevitable backlash. She sighs: either you allow the negativity pull you under or you puff out your chest and push past it.
“Pitchfork doesn’t really like us,” Leaneagh says, referring to the influential music website notorious for its ability to kill a band with a scathing review (it rated Poliça’s latest LP six out of ten). “In the world today, if you’re not young and up and coming — not the new thing — you’re going got be overlooked.
“We know we’re not going to get as much notice as we did with our first record. And who knows if that was even warranted. Our new album isn’t getting a lot of attention. It does cause you to reassess what you are doing. It’s not about impressing the cool people — it’s about making art. I could give a f**k about the critics.”
She says this calmly, in a tone that makes it clear she isn’t bothered. Allow me to be indignant on her behalf: United Crushers is an astonishing achievement, a soulful blend of pop and electronica that variously recalls Portishead and Kanye West’s 808s and Heartbreak (the sad, distortion-filled LP about the death of the rapper’s mother). Those inclined to overlook Poliça’s album because of lukewarm write-ups are doing themselves a disservice.
The upside is that Leaneagh and company are going down rather better in this part of the world than back in America. Bizarrely, their fame is in part owed to Samantha Cameron declaring herself a fan. That the wife of a (soon to be very ex) Conservative prime minister would come out for Poliça is deeply ironic, as the group have never made a secret of their left leaning politics. United Crushers is named after an anti- establishment graffiti collective in Leaneagh’s native Minneapolis, and it ripples with righteous fury against the one per cent and their lackeys.
“Our single ‘Wedding’ is about the militarisation of police in the US,” she explains. “It’s something we have talked about a lot — how the drug trade has fuelled this change in the police and led to the oppression of people.”
Leaneagh recorded Poliça’s debut, Give You The Ghost, as she was coming to terms with a divorce and the project swells with sadness. She is now in a relationship with Poliça producer Ryan Olson. However, United Crushers isn’t exactly a cork-popping affair. Instead, Leaneagh voices the worry that, having found happiness, she might throw it all away.
The honesty is at times searing and unnerving. “The first album was about me having failed at a relationship — the shame I felt at the end of my marriage. I had hurt someone,” she says. “The second [2013’s Shulamith] was a break-up record — it was about being cheated on by someone I was with. It was an angry infidelity record. And now here I am tentatively experiencing love — I want to hold onto it.”
Coming from Minneapolis she was naturally shocked by the death of the city’s great musical icon, Prince. “My first ever concert was a Prince show,” she says.
“I was eight and he played for free for people who had volunteered with the Special Olympics. It was inspiring to see someone to come from Minneapolis and not from an affluent family, and become one of the greatest performers of all time. It endured us all with pride — his message was that you can be who you want to be.”
Polica headline the first night of the Castlepalooza Festival, Charleville Castle, Tullamore, Co Offaly, on Friday
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