"OK, that is a shit-filled diaper on the ground," announces Polyphia guitarist and co-founder Scott LePage, as he speaks to Revolver from the parking lot of a Dave & Buster's during a tour stop in Jacksonville, Florida. "I always forget how fucking weird this entire state is until I come here and look around a little bit. I'm out here dodging all these bizarre insects, and now I see this. I guess I'm lucky that there isn't some alligator eating my butt cheeks off right now …"
By the time you read this, LePage and his Polyphia cohorts — fellow guitarist and co-founder Tim Henson, bassist Clay Gober and drummer Clay Aeschliman — will have wrapped a five-week U.S. trek to support New Levels New Devils, their third album. Strange-looking bugs and loaded Pampers notwithstanding, perhaps the oddest sight on the Plano, Texas, quartet's tour was typically the nightly carnage that ensued whenever they opened a set with "G.O.A.T.," a single from the new LP. Though the instrumental's angular rhythms and complex, clean-toned guitar arpeggios are almost jazz fusion-esque, the crowd — gleefully egged on by the band — responded to it by forming a pit fearsome enough to put any thrash-metal audience to shame. "With 'G.O.A.T.,' the first thing we do is open up a 'Wall of Death' for the drop," LePage explains. "It gets people going, right off the bat. They gotta know — we're out there to party!"
Welcome to the world of Polyphia, a band of unrepentant smart-asses who take their ever-evolving brand of genre-blurring, technically demanding instrumental shred extremely seriously — and almost nothing else, their own image and stage presence included. "My days of just standing onstage and playing the notes are over," says LePage. "I want to go up there and rock my socks off, and everyone else's."
Onstage as well as off, LePage and his bandmates' defiantly cheeky attitude extends to sporting the sort of flashy streetwear that veers between the highly fashionable and the deeply absurd. "I'm going through this phase where I'll just wear [any] kind of ridiculous thing I want," says LePage. "I'll, like, walk into an Urban Outfitters, and if I see a big pink shirt with green letters on it that says, 'I'M AN ASSHOLE,' I will fucking buy it and wear that shit every single day for an entire tour. And Tim is super into designer shit, so he'll ball out on Gucci …
"When we were doing 'LIT' [the band's EDM-influenced 2017 reimagining of "Light," a track from their 2016 album Renaissance] we were wearing fucking Jedi clothes — like, everything was super-long and baggy. And that was, honestly, pretty lame," he laughs, "but I guess it kind of worked out for us in the sense that people were talking about us. 'Oh yeah, that group of assholes that wears, like, Jedi clothing?' I guess that kind of got people paying attention to what we wear and what we look like. People recognize us and shit, because we post so many ridiculous pictures of us being ridiculous. So I guess it kind of worked out in its own way."
Indeed, Polyphia's social-media accounts are as amusing to follow as their music is stimulating to hear. In September, the band ignited a Facebook firestorm by posting their new video for "Yas," a New Levels New Devils track featuring contributions from Mario Camarena and Erick Hansel of California math-rockers Chon, and introducing the clip with a misquoted Bible message that proclaimed Polyphia to be "not only the biggest, but also the best Christian rock band in the world" and "Yas" as "God's gift to the earth." The ensuing comment-thread chaos was truly wondrous to behold, with Christians decrying the band's blasphemy, non-Christian point-missers expressing their distaste for Polyphia's new religious direction, and fans who actually got the joke mercilessly fucking with both factions.
"We certainly like to stir the pot with our bullshittery," LePage laughs. "I'll just sit there with Tim, and we'll come up with bullshit to do. He'll be like, 'We should totally post this.' And I'll be like, 'Yeah! And while we're at it, we should say this, too.' We'll just go off of each other's ideas, and by the end of it, we'll have the most ridiculous thing we've ever done. A hundred people will unfollow us because of a post, and then another 500 will follow us because our ridiculous post made it to the Explore feed on Instagram. So if we lose a hundred fans, we're probably gaining quite a few more, just because we're being ourselves."
One person who certainly won't be joining the Polyphia fan club anytime soon is Falling in Reverse frontman Ronnie Radke, who took serious umbrage to a Polyphia press release announcing that their "O.D." video was "better than anything anyone else has ever done (especially that dildo Ronnie Radke)." "I don't really have anything against the dude, personally," LePage admits. "I just don't really like his music, so I thought that calling him a 'dildo' would be funny, and I didn't really expect him to say anything or get super pissed off. Because it's like, we're just kids fucking around! And then he posted some shit about his ties with Hells Angels, and we were like, 'Oh, great — now we're actually gonna fucking die, because we called somebody a dildo!'"
The recording studio may be the only place where Polyphia are definitely not "just kids fucking around." With every release since 2013's djent-y Inspire EP, the band's music has morphed and mutated in fascinating ways, expanding to encompass EDM, trap music and whatever else LePage and Henson happen to be digging at the moment. In addition to members of Chon, New Levels New Devils features contributions from singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Cuco, and production by noted hip-hop producers Judge and Y2K.
"We kind of just stay in the realm of music that we enjoy listening to, and recently that's been hip-hop," LePage explains. "When we did [2017's] The Most Hated, we started working with Judge and Y2K. When we first wrote 'Loud,' it was more EDM-based, kind of like 'LIT' — but then Y2K fucking made it just the sickest trap-beat, hard-as-shit thing … to the point where I pulled Tim aside and was like, 'Yo — are we doing this right now? Is this what this EP is gonna be like?' And he was like, 'Yeah, why not?' New Levels New Devils is like a matured version of The Most Hated — we kind of know how to do it a little better. But, I mean, the next album could be country, you know?"
It probably won't be, however. "New Levels New Devils has some darker vibes to it, as far as being hard goes," says LePage, "and I think what we're talking about doing with the next record is just make it as dark as we can, and heavy. We might experiment with more vocal features and stuff — we have a handful of rappers we want to work with — but I really want to get back into writing heavy shit ...
"Just a few days ago, Tim and I were on the bus, just drinking, smoking, doing whatever, and listening to Meshuggah. We were like, 'OK, we need to start thinking about this now — what are we going to do for the next album?' And then we were like, 'Yo, what if we got Meshuggah on a track with Gucci Mane?!' That statement alone is like the epitome of our bullshit — but, you know, we'll do it, and we'll fucking make it work!"