There is a lot to be said about the US band Polar Bear Club. Some people call them a breath of fresh air to the punkrock/hardcore-scene, others go further and claim the band is pure genius. One thing is for sure, the band has managed to release a demo, a 5-song EP and a full-length album in little over 3 years. Being considered a part-time band by the members this is an incredible performance in itself. I decided to ask frontman Jimmy Stadt some questions about their past, their future, and most importantly… pizza.
Hey Jimmy, tell everyone who I’m talking to in this interview. My name is Jimmy Stadt and I sing in Polar Bear Club.
Polar Bear Club has been around since ’05 and you’ve got two releases under your collective belt already. Do you think things are going fast for you guys? I wouldn’t say fast, but definitely as fast as possible considering our part-time status when those recordings were released. We are all pretty happy with the rate at which we are writing songs and recording.
Did you guys have any musical experience, prior to Polar Bear Club? Previous bands perhaps? Yeah we all do pretty much. I have been doing bands since I was fifteen some more serious than others.I think that is generally the case for all of us. Nate and Emmett were in this band Marathon that was pretty serious for a time. Chris played drums in the band Achilles that actually toured Europe once. And our bass player is like 19 but he’s been in some other bands locally.
You don’t really play out a lot, except for a couple of small tours here and there. Do you think you achieve more if you guys were to play out more? Definitely. I think we are getting to the point where we have done all we can as a part-time band.
What is holding you back in not becoming a non-stop touring machine? Nothing now. We actually just made the decision to go full-time. Check our Myspace page ‘cuz we will be posting tour dates soon.
I think Polar Bear Club was one of those bands that just was there all of a sudden. I think a lot of people had never heard about you guys, and all of a sudden you released The Redder, The Better (TRTB) and you guys won over hearts and minds all over the world. How does that make you feel? We all feel really privileged and a little proud too. I think it’s a special thing that our music alone as gotten a lot of people interested in us. Shouldn’t that be the way it is?
While recording TRTB, did you feel like you were writing a good record? I don’t know. Recording is such a wierd thing. There is a lot of work to get done and sometimes not a lot of time to do it. Sometimes you just have to do it and judge it in the end when it’s all done and all put together. But we had faith in the songs so that was kind of our foundation.
Maybe the succes comes from the fact that it doens’t sound like the average punkrock-record, if I can call it that. It’s actually hard to describe the Polar Bear Club sound… I agree. When people ask me what we sound like my reply always starts with “Well…”
Is this a deliberate choice? Do you guys purposely try to create a special and unique sound? No. We don’t try to be different for the sake of it. We all just have very high-standards when it comes to song writing. We make a deliberate choice to write songs that sound good by our standards.
As soon as I heard about the new record I started browsing the web for information, and I could see a lot of people had high expectations for the new record. Did that pressure the band in any way? Naturally yeah. You think about it along the way. You just can’t help it. But while we were writing the songs it never was an issue and we knew that it couldn’t be. We gained two new members going from The Redder, The Better to our new record so things were giong to be a little different naturally and we were all for it.
After the release of Sometimes Things Just Disappear (STJD) people started discussing which release was the best, this one or TRTB. That’s something people do with bands like Metallica or Slayer… How does that make you feel? Hahahah well any comparison to Metallica or Slayer is always good. But I like it. I think it’s great to have two releases that people can discuss and formulate an opinion on and not just blindly swallow it down without question.
Do you think there is a big differente between TRTB and STJD? Yeah definitely. Like I said before, we replaced a drummer and added a new guitarist between the two records so their input was going to change things here and there and we totally embraced that.
Writing new music always is hard, what was the hardest for you guys as a band? Was it hard to come up with new songs? Sometimes song writing can be really hard and sometimes not. But in the end I’d rather be working on that than stuck in and office all day.
How did the actual writing process go? We are a really collaborative band. There isn’t one of us just kind of pulling the strings and writing songs and telling everyone else what to do. We are all song writers and we work together really well. You have to be kind of thick-skinned and be ok with your ideas being bashed down.
Did STJD come out the way you wanted it to? At the time yes. But listening back now I will always be able to find stuff I wish I could change. That’s always the case but there is nothing you can do about it except try to improve on it with the next record.
Let’s talk about the lyrics for a second. They seem to be heavily inspired by events and actions that happen in your own life. Do you write lyrics as an outlet for your daily frustrations? Yeah but it’s not just frustration. It’s an outlet for anger, joy, longing, unrest, or really anything. On the converse though, I have never written a song and afterwards been like “Well, there is that problem solved.” So it’s not the only outlet I guess, but it’s one.
I also noticed you used a Vinnie Paul Quote (“Those magic clothes don’t play music, we do”). Why is that? Is it a comment on other bands who seem to have more to do with fashion than music, or was it like Paul, a comment on your own band? It’s a comment on bands that are more concerned with fashion than making quality music. It’s from the Pantera “Behind the Music” and as I was watching it I just thought it was perfect.
“Our Ballads” is about a lawyer you dealt with? What’s the entire story about that? The song is about this friend of mine who happens to be a lawyer. He heard our EP and was trying to look at it from a marketting stand point and he mentioned that women would not be able to enjoy the album and I was just so struck by that. The song is about the gender divide in punk music I guess, but from and outsiders perspective.
Another thing that stood out to me was a reference to a certain “Dr Howe”. Is this a reference to The Miracle Worker, or am I looking to far into this? You’re looking too far into it. Hahahah. It is referencing a counciler I was referred to by my doctor.
After STJD was released, Greg (Odom) left the band. How did that effect the band? Well we were all sad because he is one of our best friends and still is. He’s a great guy to play with, tour with and record with so we were all bummed to see him go. But it just wasn’t in line with where is life is going and no one has any hard feelings about it at all.
I can imagine it being a bumout to have something like this happen right after the release of a new record. Yeah but we all understood.
So how did you hook up with your current bassplayer? He was just this guy who lived near us who we had seen in other bands and kinda new and thought was a cool dude and so he started filling in for us temporarily before Greg officially left and when he did we just decided why not stick with what was working instead of trying to find someone new and teach them all the songs.
Was it hard to have to look for replacements so early on? No, Goose (new bassist) was a natural fit.
So with a new album comes a tour. You guys are going out this summer. Are you excited? Well those plans have kind of changed to fall but are still tentative. Hopefully it will be all posted this month.
What are you expecting from touring? Just to meet new people and go to places we have never been.
Since I’m European, I have to ask. Are there any plans to come to Europe in the future? Yes
One more, when visiting the States, what’s the best place to eat pizza? I like Mark’s in Rochester. But Brooklyn is supposed to be the pizza capital of the world.
Thanks to Jimmy Stadt for taking the time to answer my questions, and the rest of Polar Bear Club. I “borrowed” the pictures from their myspace, they are all credited to their owners. I hope they don’t mind me using them here.
Polar Bear Club’s “The Redder, The Better” and “Sometimes Things Just Disappear” are out now and still available for purchase. Get into it.