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Interview: Polar Bear Club (Issue #1)

January 11, 2010

I did this interview in the spring of 09 with Jimmy right before they headed into the studio to record their latest full length “Chasing Hamburg”, which is out now on Bridge 9. A lot has happened since this interview so this is a little outdated but I figured that it should be put up on here in its entirety. Go and pick up their new record, you will not be disappointed.

To start this off id like to say congrats on signing to Bridge 9!
Jimmy: Thank you very much.

Tell us a little bit about polar bear club.
Well, we are a five piece from upstate NY. We’ve been a band for about three and a half years and we play rock music.

You guys have been around doing other bands way before polar bear club, who all was in what bands and how did you guys meet and eventually start up this band?
This could get confusing so I won’t name absolutely every band. Nate and Emmett were in Marathon before PBC, I was in a band called the Disaster, Chris played drums in Achilles and Goose was in some Syracuse hardcore bands one being Merrimac. Those are the major ones but we all have been in at least a dozen others. Chris and I were in a band together and new Nate just from going to shows. Nate was our connection to Emmett through Marathon and Emmett was our connection to Goose ‘cuz they were friends. The band originally started with Chris and myself and some other guys who have since left. It really started out as a side project for Chris but as it gained momentum it sort of took the front seat in everyone’s lives.

Who all recorded on the demo? What did you guys set out to do when you began to write and record those songs? Did you guys set out to sound a certain way and to differentiate yourselves from other bands?
The demo was Me, Chris, Josh Dillon on bass (from Achilles) and Bob O’neill on drums ( ex-member of Another Breath). I think we really set out just to be a band we wanted to hear. Maybe incorporate some of our influences into modern music that weren’t being represented as much these days.

Unlike most bands you guys have been around for a while working hard playing locally as a part time band. What made you decide to keep the band going full time?
I think we really did as much as we could as a part-time band. We started to get all this undeserved press and attention all around the world and we got to the point where we either had to break up or go full-time and we sure didn’t want to break up.

I know that being on the road can be stressful at sometimes, what do you do to keep yourself in check on a long boring drive to the middle of nowhere?
There is only so long that you can listen to an ipod or play a nintendo DS. So when those things stop working I usually start annoying everyone else in the band. Or we make fun of each other.

Your guy’s last album on Red Leader Records “Sometimes things just Disappear” was a very anticipated record. I know a lot of people were very excited to hear it, did you feel any pressure when writing and recording the record?
No not really. At that point we were still a part-time band and so there really wasn’t much riding on the album to be honest. I think our newest album that we are working on now is a bit more anticipated and there is some more pressure this time around but it doesn’t really effect our song writing. We want to write the best record we can and not the record we think people want to hear.

How did you guys come up with the name for the record?
It was a quote from this really young and sly manager at a taco bell. He gave us free food one day while we were recording and it made us all laugh so we thought that was a pretty good representation of our time spent recording the album.

How do you go about writing lyrics? What influences you to write the lyrics that you do?
Anything can influence my lyrics. Books,movies, other songs. They are mainly based on the emotional experiences from my life. There is no real trick or formula to doing it, every song is written a little bit different and if there is a formula that’s it. Knowing that there are a lot of ways to write a song and staying open minded to them all.

How do you guys go about writing the actual music? Is there one particular member of the band that writes all of the songs, or do you guys all sit down and work on a tune together?
Me, Chris and Nate write a lot of the parts but we all come together and hash out the structures as a band. No one really sits out on song writing we pretty much work on it all together.

You recently went on a Full European Tour with Frank Turner and The Gaslight Anthem, that is such a huge tour to go on being your first time over there, how did everything go? What were your favorite places to play and hang out?
We really were very lucky to be on such a big tour our first time overseas. It went really well. Germany was really good to us. In terms of hanging out, Stockholm was awesome. The cities are so nice in Sweden and I can’t wait to go back.

What new and upcoming bands have you been getting into?
Let’s see. Defeater is awesome. Hour of the Wolf is pretty cool. Dead Swans. I’ve been listening to that band The National, not sure how up and coming they are but they are really good.

What is the most important record in punk and hardcore in the past 15 years?
That is a really difficult question i think American Nightmare’s Background Music was really important. It opened up a lot of doors that hardcore had not seen before. At the Drive-In and Glassjaw are in there as well. This question is too hard. For me personally, it’s Kid Dynamite self titled. The timing of that album was perfect. I was just starting to get a little sick of saves the day (what was wrong with me?) and Kid D made me sing along like i did with STD but it also shredded my face off in exactly the way I needed when I was in High School. All my closest friends, we listened to that album thousands of times together. A lot of good Kid D memories.

I’ve alway wanted to ask this and Im sure many people are curious also, where did the name “Polar Bear Club” come from?
Polar Bear Club is the name of an awesome Silent Majority song of the album “Life of a Spectator”  and this album could easily go into your question about most important punk record of the last 15 years. This band was hard, melodic and emotional and these were things PBC wanted to be since the get go so we thought it was the perfect place to pull a band name from.

What bands do you feel have been overlooked that are currently active today?
It depends, because most hardcore and punk bands are overlooked by the masses so you could say all of them. But then there are the bands that hardcore and punk kids overlook for whatever reason so I’ll answer for both categories. An awesome punk band that is overlooked by mostly everyone is Attack in Black (although they are more of a rock band then anything). Their album “Marriage” is incredible. Nowadays they are pretty quiet and folk-ish but still worth checking out. Now, a band that punk and hardcore kids overlook, Thrice. This band rules and it’s incredibly uncool to like them in the punk hardcore community. Whatever, I love ’em and “Vheissu” is amazing. Secondly, MGMT. Most kids into punk and hardcore completely dismiss this band ‘cuz they dress like goofs and are adored by hipsters everywhere, which is all true. But if you listen to the album “Oracular Spectacular” and listen in the context of like The Doors or The Beatles when they got wierd and you really listen to the lyrics, this album completely earns the hype.

You guys have been oversees to Europe and the UK twice now, how is different over there? Is the same vibe relevant at a show in the UK as it is in the States?
It’s a little different. They don’t get to see us as much as the kids in the states (even though we are going three times this year) so they appreciate it a little bit more I guess. We love going over there.

You guys are hard at work writing new material, how do you feel everything is coming along? Is the new stuff on a different level as the last record or have you guys mainly just progress forward as a band?
It’s hard to say. I think PBC has always been a band that’s hard for people to classify. Somewhere between, punk and hardcore and indie and rock. Those elements are definitely in our new songs but there are some songs that play the ends of the spectrum more. Some songs are a bit harder or a bit more punk rock. I’m interested to hear what people have to say about it when it’s all said and done.

Any news on where you guys will be recording this new album?
We are recording in Seattle with Matt Bayles. He did Minus the Bear and Mastodon and a lot of other stuff. We’re all really excited.

Thank you for doing this interview, any closing comments/shout outs?
Squints baby Squints

– Demo-2005 – Self-Released
– The Redder, the Better -2006 CD Luchador Records/Triple Attack Records
– Sometimes Things Just Disappear -2008 CD Red Leader Records/LP Bridge Nine Records (2009)
– Bridge 9 Summer 2009 Compilation – Bridge 9 Records
– The Summer of George E.P. – 2009 Bridge 9 Records
– The Redder the Better Re-Release – LP Bridge 9 Records
– Chasing Hamburg -2009 Bridge 9 Records


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