In my 2004 Corolla, Ryan Pollie is talking about some of the reactions he has received to the music he’s recorded under the name Los Angeles Police Department. Our conversation turns to beloved local L.A. scene fixture Kevin Bronson, who spun his Buzzbands column for the L.A. Times into its own website—after being laid off—in an effort to help local artists gain exposure.
“I emailed Kevin about my song ‘Waste’, because Seraphina [Lotkhamnga, Buzzbands’ other primary writer] had posted the previous track and I thought they would be into it. I said to Kevin ‘I just put out a new track called ‘Waste’ and I’d love to hear what you think.’ And he emails me back: ‘Hi Ryan—You probably don’t. Cheers, Kevin.’”
Luckily for Pollie, reaction to his work hasn’t been so discouraging of late. Despite the homemade sound, or maybe because of it, the album is a special display of a new songwriter with more ideas than he has time to create. Even with his self-titled debut nearing its release date, Pollie has a second album ready to go.
“I had what I thought were demos that I was making in my room,” he says over drinks at a Miracle Mile cantina on discount whiskey Wednesday. “I used to think, ‘Oh, I’m gonna move to L.A. and get a band together and pay the money and go into a studio and work with a producer and have a record label and that is how it is gonna work.’ But I just moved to L.A. and would write and record in my bedroom. Like, I’ll work on a song in one day. I don’t like to write a song and play it all the time. So I just sacked up and said ‘I’m going to release these.’ And, it might sound like a bedroom project and it might not be in a studio like I wanted, but people have paid attention to it and it has been very natural. That has been very nice for me.”
“The name helped,” Pollie adds. “Los Angeles Police Department. I think in the subject of the emails, people were like ‘what the hell is this?’’’
Raised in Bryn Mawr, a neighborhood outside of Philadelphia, Pollie describes it as “a preppy, popped-collar, cornbread kind of neighborhood. Republican.” While this kind of environment might stifle some creative spirits, listening to the tall, gentle young songwriter describe his upbringing, very little seems like it could stifle Pollie from doing what he loves.
“Just growing up and writing music in a place like that feels like rebellion,” he says. “Everybody is very similar and afraid to act out, and then you get kids that really act out because they are expected to be a certain way. I got in a bit of trouble when I was a kid, sent to detention a lot.”
“I went to college in Maine, at Bates, and majored in music,” he recalls. “I wanted to go to just a music school but my parents wanted me to get a liberal arts education and I think they were right. I had never taken a philosophy class or a psychology class. And, at school, music could be my thing, where if I went to a music school surrounded by people shredding on violin, it might have pushed me out of it.”
Moving to southern California to pursue his music career, Pollie found friends to back him in his band (though the endeavor is very much a singular music vision), friends to play show with (another rising local musician, Avid Dancer, comes up frequently in conversation), and friends to give him confidence to keep at his dream. Pollie is extremely friendly, instantly charismatic and at ease among strangers, a charmer in the purest sense of the word. Still, though making a bedroom pop record wasn’t what he had in mind when he came to California, he has no plans to redo any of what we hear on his debut.
“If I went into the studio, I’d record new songs,” Pollie hypothesizes. “It’s frustrating to me to try to work on old songs. It won’t sound the same. Like, I write the song and often record it the same day. It is all this energy of having just written a song. And then I look back on it and see if I like it. So, if it was workshopping these songs, spending a month in a studio, it would have to be new songs. I think there is going to be a time and a place for that. It’s not like I chose to make this lo-fi and in a bedroom, that’s just what I had. I’m excited for that day, though.”
He adds, “the cool thing about a lo-fi record is that I produced the record and mixed the record and it is all one voice consistently. I think that’s what a good producer does, anyway. There is so much music right now that it is often refreshing to hear something that isn’t from a studio.”
Kevin Bronson might agree. At FYF Fest weeks later, I meet Pollie to take his photograph and later run into Kevin Bronson to watch some Interpol from far away. We both fade into euphoric nostalgia to “NYC” and I tell him the story of the email that Pollie had relayed to me.
“That’s why I shouldn’t answer emails in the middle of the night,” Bronson confesses, before admitting that he gave the track another listen and ended up liking it and thinking highly of Pollie’s album. Like many great lo-fi records, maybe it is a grower. Or maybe Pollie will have to continue sending emails, shaking hands, and hoping people give his record a chance. Either way, success seems to be peering around the corner.