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We Spoke to the People Behind Radiohead's Weird New App

It's called PolyFauna and it creates infinite worlds where fragments of Radiohead songs play forever and ever.

This morning Radiohead released an app. Who'd have thought it? Released in partnership with creative company Universal Everything, the app basically allows you to venture into a wilderness of shapes and sounds taken from the band's King Of Limbs session. Each experience is different, it works in conjunction with the lunar cycle, and you can draw shapes all over it that morph into living pixel animals. We had a little play with it this morning and I drew a phallic shape all over my phone's screen. I'm really mature. Anyway, you can download it here and while that's happening, peep our interview below with Matt from Universal Everything who can explain the app way better than me.

Noisey: Where did the whole idea behind the app come from?

Matt: Well we met with Thom Yorke and Stanley Donwood, who is their album artwork guy, quite a while ago in a hotel in London and talked about wanting to build an audio visual immersive atmospheric thing, not really a traditional app for the band with tour dates and stuff. So the idea came about to bring to life the drawings and sketchbooks and analogue material that Stanley Donwood creates. We turned that into code and grew all of the life; the plants, animals and landscape and placed iti nto an app environment to create this atmospheric exploded view of their music.

Would you say the artist and the band had quite an equal input into how the app was going to work?

Yeah, it was a really nice 3 or 4 way conversation, the band went back into the studio and took apart the sessions from the King of Limbs album and then turned them into these massive long tracks that are blended together to create a hugely expanded version of “Bloom”. They turned it into this really abstracted version, where you hear these little echoes or memories of the album when you’re moving around.

What inspired the name Polyfauna?

I think that was something that came from the band meaning lots of nature or multiple nature.

I’ve only had a quick 15-20 minutes on the app but I was reading that the experience changes each time, how does that happen?

We’ve built this world with different types of terrain and species of animal in different parts of the planet and each time you run the app you land in a different part of the world, and you explore from that point onwards. If you follow the red do,t you teleport somewhere else, you can fly around the world slowly by yourself or take a secret route by following that dot and zooming into it to transport yourself elsewhere.

Wow, okay so THAT’S what the red dot was doing?

Yeah, and In each different area of the world there are different elements of sound playing so there’s lots of sound to discover as well as lots of life, so it’s pretty infinite, you get a different journey each time.

Is it actually infinite, there’s not just like a hundred journeys?

No it’s quite a varied thing, there are lots of hidden things dotted around in that map that people are beginning to discover.

It’s quite minimal, when I was on it I was only seeing one colour at a time. Will the environment ever explode into a rainbow of colours?

There are lots of different environments that are fairly minimal in the sense that they have restricted palettes, almost like different parts of the world where it’s snowy or rainy. It’s trying to keep it feeling as evocative of nature as possible as opposed to venturing into the psychedelic world of super rainbow cities.

Why do you reckon the app is to do with nature, is that the kind of sound that Radiohead evoke?

It was partly because of the really nice organic sound of the music that they’re writing these days and also through Stanley’s sketchbooks. He does a lot of artwork for the band that’s all pen and ink, he goes on a lot of field trips where he’ll go off into the countryside and come back with a load of drawings of trees and bark and nature, so we met with him quite a few times and translated what he had in his sketchbooks into digital form. The other important thing about the app is it’s all about drawing, if the user of the app draws a spine on the screen, out of that spine grows this life that swims and flies around so you can actually create loads of life that fills up the world by drawing.

The app is affected by the lunar calendar, right? How does this work?

There are two things really; one is that when you rotate around there’s a sun that’s orientated to where the sun is in the real world. The other one is that the lunar calendar enables different cycles of how the app changes in colour, in weather and the position of the moon in the sky over the month, so if you use it every day the experience is tweaked slightly. It’s trying to align itself with the real world and real cycles in nature as much as possible.

Are there any plans to update it or add to it?

There might be, now that the world has been built there’s the potential for sneaking some new bits in the future, we could do anything in it really.

The possibilities are endless, the world is your oyster! Thanks Matt!

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @RyanBassil