Interview: Purling Hiss
"If you think you stink": Mike Polizze's lo-fi jams are half-baked and brilliant
Words Jazz Monroe
Mike Polizze, aka Purling Hiss, says, “I’m into the sort of first take, move from your gut, whatever comes first, if there’s an idea don’t wanna overthink it, if you think you stink, you know… The frequencies fight over each other, and you have fun with it.”
It’s just passed 11am in Philadelphia and, because today is his day off and he has no better plans, Mike’s only just got out of bed. His current job helping local metal label Relapse Records move warehouse is temporary and sporadic, and with his Purling Hiss project and its eight-year-old progenitor Birds Of Maya still going hell for leather, he makes like a man who would sooner relinquish all earthly belongings than sideline his music for a nine-to-five.
Now backed by a two-piece band, the history of Purling Hiss (no spoonerism intended, apparently) is propped up by a network of friends and acquaintances. Early Birds Of Maya CD-Rs were picked up by Holy Mountain and archivecd.com (run by occasional Sunn O))) artist Scott Slimm, who would later release the first Purling Hiss record), and led to gigs with the likes of Wooden Shjips, as well as helping establish a certain “camaraderie” with fellow Philadelphians, including Kurt Vile.
Ever furrowing a niche of his own, Mike’s solo jams caught the eye of Chicago’s Permanent Records and, most recently, Mexican Summer, who are putting a new EP out this month. Though initially nothing more than “ideas to put down so I could remember them”, he quickly learned these brazenly rough hewn wig-outs had a yellowing charm of their own. Indeed, all three Purling Hiss releases to date were dragged arse first through profoundly low-rent recording techniques, and their frayed stitching remains plainly in view.
“Coming from Birds Of Maya, that’s just a product of the environment,” he reasons. “We recorded in the basement — it’s just what we were used to. When I met [Birds of Maya’s Jason Killinger and Ben Leaphart] I was 22, I’d been trying to get into a band for years and that’s where I really nested and made my home. I feel like that’s who I became as a guitar player, and a person in a band.”
Of the three Purling Hiss albums to date, 2010’s Public Service Announcement is the most song-based and accessible. A flailing assault on the arch dullness of by-the-book rock’n’rollers, it’s a distorted diorama of cheap MC5 licks and half-baked song structures brilliantly antique and positively worthless in equal measure.
“People say, ‘These are unfinished ideas.’ But making that conscious decision to wrap up the album and put it out, that’s the statement, or whatever you wanna call it. That’s the idea that’s completed.”