“I like sort of taking it easy for a second. I mean, we’ve been touring pretty extensively and releasing music pretty steadily for the past five years, and it’s been great, but it’s kind of nice to say, ‘Let’s chill out for a little bit’."
Some musicians just seem to click from the moment they first play music together. Polar Bear Club are one of those bands, and after forming in the summer of 2005 and releasing a rough demo, they caught the attention of Triple Attack Records and Luchador Records, who joined forces to release the band's debut EP in 2006, The Redder, The Better – five songs that would put their music careers into overdrive.
With the success of the EP, Polar Bear Club had the chance to break out of upstate New York in 2006. And while it was a no brainer, it still required a fair amount of sacrifice. Guitarist Chris Browne and vocalist Jimmy Stadt, the only founding members still in the band, were studying law and had just graduated school, respectively. With three successful full-length albums to date and another in the pipeline, there's no doubt they made the right decision. But being back in their hometown since September, on their longest touring break to date, only playing the odd show here and there, they can't help but think about the paths their lives might have taken had they decided to stay put. “I got a degree in acting. I knew that I wanted to get into performance in some way, and I always was simultaneously doing bands and doing acting, and then what happened was, the opportunity to do bands professionally came along, and I chose that,” Stadt explains. “It's hard to say what the plan was, because back then I just thought I was going to be an actor. I think if the band thing stopped right now, I don't know if I would go do that, I'm not sure if that's what I would do.”
Soundwave sees the beginning of a busy year of touring, with a US tour with Bad Religion upon returning home, followed by festivals galore in Europe and the UK throughout April and May. “[Soundwave] is such a fun, nice and easy tour to do that it doesn't really matter that it's an outside festival,” he continues. “I mean, if you ask any band if they would prefer playing an outdoor festival to anything else, they're going to say 'no'. Playing an outdoor festival, as fun and as nice as it is, to a degree, does sort of suck. Because, you know, we're built to play in dirty, dark clubs – that's where we do best.
“I remember the first time we went to Australia, we were playing all old songs, and we were playing a couple of new songs here and there off the record we had just released at that time, [2009's] Chasing Hamburg, and the new songs were just killing the old songs in the set. By the end of the tour we were playing mainly new material, because we didn't know... we didn't know what people wanted and what, of us, they expected. So when you're going overseas like that, you kind of feel it out in the first day or two and then make a sort of educated guess from there.”
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Playing a couple of one-off shows during their downtime, they performed The Redder, The Better in its entirety at Fest 11 in Florida in October of last year. Millencolin performed Pennybridge Pioneers in full at Soundwave 2011 and just this year Weezer toured their Blue Album around Australia. The Redder, The Better probably won't make its way onto their Soundwave set, but Stadt sheds his thoughts on why more bands seem to be touring albums start-to-finish. “It's a really tricky thing, you know,” he says. “We've only done it that once, and we tried to keep it as secret as possible. We didn't really want to be advertising that we were going to be doing that, because it was a fun thing, exclusive to that festival, and the reason that we wanted to do it was that festival has been supporting us since those days, and a lot of the people at that festival really do enjoy that record. So us doing that was us saying, 'Hey, we appreciate you and here's this thing that hopefully you'll appreciate as well'.
“I think more bands are doing it now because, to invest yourself in a band is such a personal decision nowadays – to make that choice to come out to the show instead of staying home, or buy the record instead of downloading it. I think bands are just becoming more conscious of how important fans like that are and they're doing things like that to say thank you.”
Being away from home can be hard for a touring musician, especially one of the vegetarian variety. Stadt has no shortage of vegetarian options at home, but things can become a little harder on the road. That is, until he hits Sydney. “You just get so bored so easily because you're just eating the same thing over and over again. For me, on the road, it's like, 'Okay, I had Mexican food and pizza yesterday, I guess I'll have a sandwich and pizza today',” he explains. “Sydney's actually the home to one of my favourite vegetarian restaurants in the entire world, and I actually just did an interview for this food blog and we talked about it a little bit. It's in Sydney, and it has a really generic name, Green Thai Palace. Last time I was in Sydney, I ate there every day – one of the days I ate there three times, and the next day I just ate their once and decided I needed to eat something else. But I love that place so much that sometimes when I'm home, I'll just search it on Google and do the street view, just to look at it in my apartment,” he laughs. “I'm very excited to be eating there again.”
With an album release roughly every two years since 2008's Sometimes Things Just Disappear, it would be reasonable to expect another release this year. But, as mentioned earlier, they've crammed as much touring into 2013 as possible, which leaves little time for penning album number four. “We're working on it, but we're just really taking our time and we were thinking about it – I think we'd already thought about it coming out this year – but we were thinking about it, and with the way our schedule sort of worked out and what tours we signed on to do and when we sort of envision ourselves in the studio, we were like, 'Oh, man, our record might not come out until next year'. And that doesn't bother me; it kind of excites me, to be honest. I like the idea of sort of just laying back for a little bit.
“I like sort of taking it easy for a second. I mean, we've been touring pretty extensively and releasing music pretty steadily for the past five years, and it's been great, but it's kind of nice to say, 'Let's chill out for a little bit'. Polar Bear Club doesn't need to be in your face as hard as we have been for the past five years. We're working on other stuff, and when it's ready, we'll be back in your face, don't worry.”
Polar Bear Club will be playing the following dates:
Saturday 23 February - Soundwave, Brisbane QLD
Sunday 24 February - Soundwave, Sydney NSW
Monday 25 February - Factory Theatre, Sydney NSW
Wednesday 27 February - The Auditorium, Brisbane QLD
Friday 1 March - Soundwave, Melbourne VIC
Saturday 2 March - Soundwave, Adelaide SA
Monday 4 March - Soundwave, Perth WA