Since way back in 1990, Dallas native Tim Delaughter has been making the Dallas music scene his personal domain. Known mostly for his work with hugely orchestral indie pop heroes The Polyphonic Spree, Delaughter’s has been a name that must almost be mentioned in sync with the Dallas music scene, but what most people don’t know is that Delaughter’s influence extends even farther than the reach of the super positive gypsy band atmosphere of The Polyphonic Spree, the singer/songwriter has had his hands in a number of influential groups through the years, has started Dallas’ premiere record store, and now, with his new and mysterious group Preteen Zenith, is poised to make a splash once again when he takes the stage at the Granada Theater at the Gorilla vs Bear Festival set to take place Saturday, July 23.
Growing up in Dallas, Delaughter started the highly influential psych pop rock group Tripping Daisy as singer and guitarist along with friends Mark Pirro on bass, Wes Berggren on lead guitar, and Jeff Bouck on drums in 1990. After playing several local shows around town which incorporated multimedia elements including film, onstage pictures, and lights, Tripping Daisy released their first single “Lost and Found” which received moderate airplay on local radio stations. The band recorded their first full length Bill in 1992, an album characterized by heavy vocal effects and angular, unconventional guitar riffs and chord structures. The extensive use of effects lent Bill its tag of psych rock and as the album began to pick up steam around the country, Tripping Daisy’s neo-space pop sound went on to influence countless other bands that would discover Tripping Daisy’s work.
Before recording their second full length LP, Tripping Daisy signed with major label Island Records and released I am an Elastic Firecracker in 1995. The album proved to be Tripping Daisy’s most successful offering in terms of sales and exposure as the video for I am an Elastic Firecracker‘s lead single “I Got a Girl” was granted heavy rotation on MTV and made the band the recipients of a level of popularity they had never experienced before. Tripping Daisy’s third album Jesus Hits Like an Atom Bomb was released in 1998 and Delaughter and the band reportedly consider it their best work, successfully combining the experimentation of Bill with the eclectic pop of I am an Elastic Firecracker. Tripping Daisy’s third album was based around a loose concept of moving between small vignettes in songs and was subject to critical acclaim. Tragedy struck the band in 1999 however, when guitarist Berggren died of a drug overdose. Tripping Daisy was in the middle of recording what would be their final, self-titled album and released the recording posthumously after Berggren’s death. Shaken by the loss of a friend and collaborator, Tripping Daisy disbanded in 1999.
Tim Delaughter would not be deterred despite the break up of his most successful venture to date, with friend and business partner Chris Penn, Delaughter opened Good Records following Tripping Daisy’s end. Good Records existed mainly as a record store in the truest since of the word, selling vinyl, CDs, VHS and DVDs, and various books and oddities, but through the years has also served as a popular venue for bands to play intimate shows to attentive audiences. Like Delaughter, Good Records has become a cornerstone of the Dallas music scene hosting events and performances regularly.
After getting his business venture firmly off the ground, Delaughter got the idea for his next musical endeavor. When he would have told his friends about it, they must have surely thought him insane after he pitched the idea: a 24 piece orchestral pop band complete with unconventional rock instruments including cellos, strings, harp, and a full size gospel choir with every member dressed in matching robes. The concept must have seemed ludicrous, but the group to be name The Polyphonic Spree would prove to be Delaughter’s most successful and forward thinking project to date. Working at first with 12 friends including former members of Tripping Daisy, Delaughter set out to explore the pop music of his early childhood such as The Beach Boys, Wings, and Black Sabbath. The band quickly worked out a setlist and played their first show with Grandaddy and Bright Eyes. Following the show, The Polyphonic Spree’s line up was rounded out by 12 more members accounting for the full 24 member line up of the band’s most recent incarnation. Working quickly once again, the band recorded The Beginning Stages of… The Polyphonic Spree in 2002 as a demo tape, but the recordings were eventually released as the band’s first full length LP. The album found Delaughter taking charge with his wild charisma, soaring vocals, and unique songwriting style as he was backed by dramatic Pet Sounds style pop from the chamber orchestra of classical and rock musicians behind him.
Because record sales failed to live up to expectations, The Polyphonic Spree was dropped from their label 679 Recordings in 2003. Ironically enough however, The Polyphonic Spree was only on the brink of their commercial appeal. Lead single “Light and Day/Reach for the Sun” began to attract major attention with spots in commercials for Volkswagen, iPod, and the NFL and was also featured in the TV comedy “Scrubs”. The band was invited to open for David Bowie on his “Reality” tour and performed at South by Soutwest that same year for the second time. The band’s second LP Together We’re Heavy was released in 2004 to more commercial appeal and more TV crossover spots. The Polyphonic Spree went for a much darker sound on their third LP, 2007’s The Fragile Army than was expected from the band and to reflect this, changed their uniforms from immaculately white robes to gritty militaristic shirts and pants. The record found the band exploring similarly psychedelic territory as Tripping Daisy along with the flamboyant influence of Queen’s Freddy Mercury on Delaughter’s vocals. The Polyphonic Spree are currently on hiatus, though their songs continue to be used in commercials and retain a spot in the echelon of mid 2000s pop rock.
So as another Tim Delaughter project goes on hold, the singer/songwriter has proved that he is just as ambitious and restless as he has ever been with the announcement that he is currently working with a new band known as Preteen Zenith. The band comes as the product of solo demos Delaughter had been working on as far back as 2009 that were being used purely to document Delaughter’s ideas that would not fit in with the Polyphonic Spree. Around this time, Delaughter invited friend and former Tripping Daisy/Secret Machines member Phillip E. Karnats to record improvised sessions with him before Karnats got a hold of Delaughter’s demos from the singer’s wife Julie Doyle. Karnats reportedly fell in love with the demos and the two began recording songs for Preteen Zenith’s soon to be released first album shortly after. Delaughter and Karnats decided the recordings should work as an entirely new band rather than a Delaughter solo project and invited Polyphonic Spree members Jason Garner and Dylan Silvers to fill out the group’s live line up.
After almost a lifetime of playing and recording in bands, Tim Delaughter faces his most anticipated moment to date as Preteen Zenith will make their debut appearance in their slot at the Gorilla vs. Bear Festival next month on July 23. Tickets for the festival are on sale now as we all eagerly await Tim Delaughter’s return to what he does best.