Building A New Community; An Interview with Channy Leaneagh

On a cold February night in Berlin back in 2016, Kate Nordstrum of the “Liquid Music” project conducted an introduction of Minneapolis-based electronic quintet POLIÇA and European orchestral collective s t a r g a z e.  With the backdrop being conductor André de Ridder’s living room, the camps discovered about their similarities and mutual friendships that both have together.  Soon after that, the bands began to improvise music with one another in perfect harmony; skeletons of songs began to form with the accompaniment of strings, brass, and woodwinds.
From that night in Berlin to eighteen months later, POLIÇA and s t a r g a z e musical partnership has blossomed to the release of Music For The Long Emergency via Totally Gross National Product/Transgressive.  Crafting the album via emails, video conferencing, occasional meet-ups, and mp3 file sharing, both groups engineered music that offers they say is “both mournful and hopeful reflection of the politically and culturally dark times we are all trying to find some happiness in.”
We were fortunate enough to catch up with POLIÇA’s own Channy Leaneagh to chat more about the band and the new collab album.
Were there any doubts from either group that this ambitious project would ever see the light of day? 
I don’t think we imagined it would lead to a record and more shows. Initially, it was just to create a collection for a show in St. Paul, MN last year.  Shortly after we began working together, PEOPLE music festival in Berlin started being formed. The experience of PEOPLE music at Funkhaus; the support from that time of creating and playing together and being surrounded by the community is when the real music came together.
The primary focus of this collaboration was to not have POLICA songs with s t a r g a z e pasted on the top.  During the recording process, were there times when this conflict popped up? 
Philosophy over physical representation I guess; if the song needed a more traditional placing of strings here and there around a vocal melody, the important thing was that we were all in discussion together about it and in play mode from the beginning. It was everyone’s conversation to have, but in general, the personalities are too strong and rebellious amongst all of us for anyone to sit easily with taking a back seat and just being a string pad or an accompaniment.
At the end of the creation of Music For The Long Emergency, what influences did both groups take out for working together? 
The first night the two bands were together was the night Donald Trump was elected office.  The single “How Is This Happening” symbolizes perfectly what the feeling was for everyone regarding the win.  What was it about Trump winning made everyone collectively worried about the immediate future?  It was a signaling that the pendulum was swinging back to darkness; as it goes in history. All the building worries many of us have had since Gore lost and Bush won (the year 2000, which was the first elections I could vote in) that gerrymandering worked, dark money/corporate take over/citizens united worked, that movements, like occupy, can make only small dents in the face of greed. 45% of America voted; So we are being ruled by a white supremacist fascist that the majority didn’t vote for or couldn’t show up to vote against or didn’t care to vote against. Facts are “fuzzy” and self-identity over the community; profit first/people last. Worries to the moon and back.
While President Trump continues his run in office, we are seeing people stand up and take action.  Do you feel as a collective that you need to come out and express your frustrations with the outcome? 
I think we just feel we need to keep making music to feel things and be felt; that’s as important as anything right now. Feeling emotions besides fear and anger…so you can be angry and fight after a little rest.
As POLICA and s t a r g a z e embark on their project, do you feel that other artists like yourselves will go about following your blueprint? 
I hope to never spend time thinking about that. To each their own.
For POLICA’s most recent album United Crushers, you said that you wanted it to be the best work you have written because you didn’t know what was going to happen next.  What were you thinking was going to be happening?
I am the opposite of some artist who says “I was made to be on the stage.” I feel confused and grateful every day that I have made as many songs as I have with such uniquely amazing people. I love them all, and I feel I have lucked out to do the things I have done and sang the places I have. But also I’m never expecting it to be there tomorrow and so always want to make the best work I can as that may be my final statement.
Do both groups want to explore doing more joint works later down the road?
We will just have to see; no plans on the horizon.
You are a classically trained musician.  Do you ever see yourself expanding more on that side of your music in the future?
Classical music is the foundation of my musical history, but it’s a distant memory now that is just a nice place for my ears to rest and be inspired by others who do it well. In my 80s I will pick up the violin again.
POLIÇA and s t a r g a z e Music For The Long Emergency is out now.