Polyprop, a collaboration between four University of Texas at Austin students—Connor McCampbell, Elizabeth Dubois, Aaron Chavez, and Julio Correa—have released their first album, entitled “The Get-Together.” The album tells the story of how relationships and friendships develop as six characters move in and out of each other’s lives.
Story by Max Friedman
Photos courtesy of Polyprop
What comes out in the end is a fun, somewhat linear narrative about the adventures of a group of college-aged pals. The name Polyprop is unique in the music world, and it has very specific implications for both the story and the aesthetic of the album. “It’s the shortened version of polypropylene, which is the plastic used to make those blue and yellow chairs, the kind that you’d find in an elementary school,” says UT english senior Elizabeth Dubois, who plays bass, sings and helps write the majority of the songs with guitarist and co-Vocalist Connor McCampbell. “We were really inspired by Kathryn Davis’ novel ‘Duplex,’ and the name comes from a passage in that book where she describes these polypropylene chairs. We liked the passage a lot, and the image she evoked perfectly summed up what we wanted our album to feel like.”
The pair describe the sound of the album as plasticky and campy, a vibe that the characters in the narrative embody. Comparing their aesthetic to Mike Nichols’ 1967 film “The Graduate,” they see the characters as having a flamboyant energy, often causing them to act ridiculously in normal situations.
Dubois and McCampbell recall that after sharing a few songs with each other, something clicked in the creative process. “Four or five songs in, we decided that there were a lot of similar themes throughout the music we had written so far,” McCampbell says. “We realized that it would work as a longform narrative project. So then we went back, got a whiteboard, and mapped out this story. “We revised the lyrics of the songs we’d already written, and then wrote new songs to fill in the gaps of the story.”
Inspired by their mutual love for character-based narratives, the songs tell a story, with the song titles serving as major plot points. 10 of the 12 songs titles are actually full sentences, like “Emma Watches Her Friends Willie and Irene on the Playground” and “Irene Moves to Los Angeles, Leaving Willie Behind to Write Letters."
"Starting out innocently, the narrative gets tumultuous when some of the couples come together and fall apart, swapping lovers and exacting revenge. In “Dave’s Tie Ends Up on Suzume and Willie’s Couch, Willie is Not Pleased,” they’re making these horrible, absurd pieces of art for each other because they need to find a way to express themselves. The characters become ridiculous, justifying why they go on to do crazy things, like slash each other’s tires and burn down each other’s houses. “It’s about people getting together at different points in life, but it’s also about delusional artistic aspirations,” McCampbell says.
While the narrative inspiration comes mostly from their love of Kathryn Davis’ novel, they also see a few other bands like Frankie Cosmos and Eskimeaux also doing similar things stylistically. They also cite Porches, The Moldy Peaches and Vampire Weekend as groups they were inspired or influenced by. “We were listening to Frankie Cosmos a lot, for sure,” Dubois says. “She does a similar thing where she’ll have different characters and personas in her songs, and a narrative where the characters interact with each other.”
The instrumentation is fairly stripped down and doesn’t feature excessive production. Dubois and McCampbell typically write the songs on bass, guitar and vocals, making them sound good in that basic capacity, and then build the percussion and synth parts off of those compositions. The combination of unique production style and a sustained overarching narrative helps differentiate Polyprop’s sound from other indie pop acts. “I don’t think anybody is exactly doing what we’re doing,” McCampbell says. “We didn’t use any reverb in the production, which is pretty unique. We also do a lot of staccato instrumentation, and four-part writing between instruments and voices. That’s a unique enough combination of factors to make it feel like we’re doing something special.”
Both Dubois and McCampbell sing on each song, a decision which has specific narrative implications. “There are moments where we’re together, and moments where we’re separate, and it’s important to the narrative,” Dubois says. “If you follow the voices, which are consistent with the characters in each song, you can understand what’s happening in the story.”
The album ends with a dreamy, all-instrumental synth song, which sounds almost like a lullaby, and adds a nice finishing touch. “It’s a moment of space without the characters,” McCampbell says. “The narrative is still going but you’re not focusing on any of the characters anymore. It’s just a taste of the world that they inhabit.”
"The Get-Together” is available on Spotify and Apple music. Polyprop will be performing at a few SXSW shows in the coming week at the McCampbell house on March 13 and at the French House Co-op on March 16, and are in the process of writing an EP. They’re trying to keep the project mostly under wraps, but they did divulge that it’s about a girl named Cantaloupe.