Tim Henson, one of the two guitar players in the modern prog rock band Polyphia, revealed a somewhat unexpected inspiration for the group’s music. While appearing in an interview with Trivium’s Matt Heafy, done for Fishman’s YouTube channel, Henson said that one particular Justin Bieber song sparked an idea or two for them.
Reflecting on the band’s 2017 EP “The Most Hated” (no, Bieber didn’t inspire the title), Tim remembered the creative process for this material, offering (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):
“This was probably our biggest jump shift in sound where, on the guitar side, what I wanted to achieve was being able to carry the song with one guitar.”
“So essentially chord melody, right? Just like a Polyphia take on what chord melody is, where you’ve got your root nodes and your top line playing at the same time. So that was the main thing.”
“From then, you can pretty much take a single guitar apart from one of our songs and just have it stand by itself, and it’s still the song.”
“And I just really loved the idea of that simple… I remember Justin Bieber’s song, the one that’s like, ‘My mama don’t like you, and she likes everyone,’ that one. It’s so simple. It’s just him and the guitar, yet it’s such a great song.”
The song in question is “Love Yourself” from Justin’s 2015 album “Purpose.” It was written by Ed Sheeran and Benny Blanco and was initially intended to be a song for Sheeran. Although it’s not exactly certain who exactly played the guitar on this one, Blanco is credited for instrumentation on “Love Yourself.”
Going more into the matter, Tim explained how they used this simple idea to make their new music:
“It’s just in its most simplistic form, and I was like, ‘Dude, we got all these billions of layers and sh*t. What if we made it stand on its own?’ And so we did that, and then added billions of layers after that.”
What was also a game-changer for Polyphia at that time was that they started working with people who weren’t from the usual rock and metal sphere of things. Of course, Polyphia were initially a prog metal and metalcore band, only to shift towards a softer trap-inspired prog-rock style. And for them, going even further on this particular release was an important moment. He continued:
“And the cool thing about that EP was that it was the first time that we started working with producers outside of our genre. So we teamed up with Y2K and Judge, and they’re hip hop producers, so their way of doing things is so different than ours.”
“And they’re so quick, just like wizards with the MacBook keyboard. It was such a drastic change of how to do it. That kind of forced a growth in the sound. It was like, ‘Oh, I didn’t even know we could do that.'”
During the same interview, Henson also discussed all things guitar, including how important it is to be present while practicing or performing in any capacity. To play any piece of music right, you have to be there and experience it. Tim offered:
“The human experience is about experiencing it, you know what I mean? When you’re not there, when you’re not present, that’s when I’ll be f*cking sh*t up.”
“I’ll just think about something else for a second, all of a sudden, [it’s like] Guitar Hero when you fuck it up, and it’s got this sh*t sound. That’s what it sounds like.”
“And it’s because I’m literally not paying attention,” Henson added. But what’s the solution here? Are we all doomed to be victims of our modern-day collective ADD? Well, here’s how he does it:
“And the way that I found to get out of that is to sing every note as I’m playing it — as it’s happening — so that I’m with every single note.”
“It’s made me so much more able to… Let’s say I’m coming up on a really difficult part. I can feel the adrenaline pumping up. I can feel my heart rate rising because I know it’s coming.”
“Love Yourself” isn’t the only Justin Bieber song to feature noticeable electric guitar use. Earlier this year, we also reported on guitarist and composer Tom Strahle who co-wrote and recorded “E.T.A.” for the 2020 album “Changes.” And it was all done using a cheap Squier Strat. You can read more about that here.
Polyphia’s latest studio release is their full-length album “Remember That You Will Die” which came out in October 2022. In November 2023, they also launched their first-ever live record called “Live at the Factory in Deep Ellum.” Featuring a total of 16 songs, it was recorded on April 14 during the band’s live show in Dallas, Texas.