Polar Bear Club

author PP date 10/03/09

A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to sit down with Jimmy Stadt of Polar Bear Club, the band that released easily one of the best albums of 2008 in the form of "Sometimes Things Just Disappear", if you haven't checked it out yet, you should be already on your way to the record store. Before starting the interview, however, we had to wait till they were ready with their soundcheck, where they actually played a few new songs. Initial impressions? They sound just like Polar Bear Club, some fast, some slow, and the vocals sounded really good. Looking forward to hearing the stuff later this year. Anyway, Jimmy was quite a vivid guy with plenty of things to talk about, so the interview turned out really well. Enjoy.

RF.net: How are things at Polar Bear Club at the moment, what's new? How have the Gaslight Anthem audiences received you?
Jimmy: They're good. We've been on this tour with Gaslight [Anthem, ed.] and Frank Turner for I think, three weeks now, two and a half weeks. It started out in the UK, then it went to Germany, and then Sweden, where we just finished, and now we're in Denmark. It's been awesome. This tour's kind of like an exposure tour for us, we're playing to a lot of people who have never heard of us before. But on the converse of that, there's also like a core of five to twenty people who are there to see us, you know, so we get to play to our fans and we get to play to new people too. The new people get to see what it's like for our fans, so I think when people see other people liking your band, they kind of say to themselves: "it's okay to like this band" so it makes it easier. It's good, it's more of an exposure tour, but we're still getting to play to some of our fans.

RF.net: So how are the audiences of Gaslight receiving you guys?

Jimmy: They're good. It's a little different here. In the States, us and Gaslight have somewhat of the same crowd, I mean Gaslight is obviously getting really big right now, so not so much anymore, but maybe a couple of months ago, you know, we did a tour with them in the states. The coast.. not so much in the south, but in New York and Boston and stuff, we have a really similar crowd. Over here it's a little different, everyone's very open minded and attentive. In the States if they don't like you when you're playing, they'll just leave [laughs]. But here, no-one's really leaving for our set, so that's all you can ask for I guess.

RF.net: So what else is new? I heard you guys had a little unfortunate incident a couple of days ago in Gothenburg, you guys got robbed?
Jimmy: Oh yeah, Gaslight did. We're in two separate vans right now. It's us and Frank in the red van, and Gaslight is in the blue van. The blue van got broken into. Luckily, nothing was stolen, just the windows got broke, and because of that, we missed our ferry to Finland, so we had to cancel our Helsinki show. As a result of it, we were stuck in Stockholm for about four days because we had travel days surrounding the Helsinki show. So that was kind of weird, you're not used to being in one place for so long on tour. So we were all kind of like "what do we do with ourselves", you know, but I think everyone was just grateful that nothing major got stolen, and everyone was okay.

RF.net: If we look a little back in the history of your band, how did you choose the band name?
Jimmy: Well, in the States, an actual Polar Bear Club is a group of old men who get together in the winter months on days like today, and they'll go swimming in the ocean. For really short amounts of time, because if you do it for too long, you'll probably die. But we got our name from... there's a band called Silent Majority, and they were around in the late-mid 90s, they were from Long Island, and they had a song called "Polar Bear Club", which was just kind of about punk kind of lifestyle. That sort of lifestyle beyond a sense of a trend or a passing phase. You know, people who... that's their lifestyle and it's going to be forever. And it's just a really good song, and the band is just huge for us. Stylistically, they kind of do a similar thing between screaming and singing, you know, so if you don't know them, you should check them out, because they were a major band for me. But that's where we got our band name from, Silent Majority.

RF.net: You mentioned them, but who else have been your major inspirations musically?
Jimmy: Hot Water Music definitely. Small Brown Bike. It's just rock bands, you know, really good rock bands. It's weird because Polar Bear Club kind of walks that line betwen melodic and maybe harder hardcore stuff and punk rock, you know, but we try to walk the line in the sense of actually travelling. Some bands will have singing and screaming, but it'll be like really pretty singing and instantly really horrendous screaming, you know like a switch. Polar Bear Club has tried to kind of make that journey. Sing and scream, but go in between as well. So bands that did that, especially Hot Water Music, Casket Lottery, Small Brown Bike, Silent Majority too... and you know we're all influenced by different things in the band. Just anything from pop music to the Foo Fighters to The Descendents.

RF.net: You guys released an amazing record about a year ago called "Sometimes Things Just Disappear". How do you feel about it today?
Jimmy: Thank you very much. It's hard to say. I still love the songs, but when you play them every night and live with them every day, you kind of move around which one's your favorite. It changes which ones I love to play live. People ask me in interviews like "what's your favorite song to play live?" and seriously from week to week, it changes, because it's so different living with the songs every day than just being a listener. So yeah, I still love the songs, it just kind of changes which ones are my favorite, which ones really get me up and going.

RF.net: The record was received really well by the media and the fans, and you guys made it to a number of top10 lists by the end of the year. Did you expect that to happen?
Jimmy: No, not at all. I think we had a lot of hype around us when we released our EP "The Redder The Better", and we hadn't really done a lot to deserve or warrant that hype. And so when we went to make a full length, we kind of just thought it would be at that same level, of like "yeah there'd be some internet buzz and our fans would like it, the ones who know us, but I don't think we're really gonna branch out and get a lot of new fans and get a lot of press". But then all of a sudden, alternative press was calling us to do a whole page feature, and Myspace wanted us to be the Myspace artist of the week, and all this press started coming in, and it was amazing. It was really kind of the reason why we decided to become a full time band, because we had gotten to the point where we had done everything we could do as a part time band. And so we were getting in magazines, getting on Punknews.org and all this stuff, getting all these interviews, and we were just like "man, we either gotta go full time or just quit". And so we decided to go full time. But yeah, it was completely unexpected, yeah.

RF.net: How did you choose the album title?
Jimmy: It's kind of a funny story. There's somewhat of a theme in Polar Bear Club, especially at that time, to not take anything seriously at all, or take it as little seriously as possible. So we were struggling with an album title. We were recording in this kind of shit town, and the only place to eat was Taco Bell really, so we were eating at Taco Bell every day. The manager of Taco Bell one day came out when one of our credit cards wasn't working, and he took his special manager card and he swiped it, and he said "Sometimes things just disappear", and we got the food for free that day. And we just thought that was so funny and we were all kind of loopy and frenzied from being in the studio for so long, so we were like "that's it, that's the album title!", you know. It's kind of a joke, but it really does kind of speak to the themes of Polar Bear Club in terms of press and in terms of...because we take our music very seriously and we take our shows very seriously, but I don't know if you've ever seen any photos of us or anything like that, we don't take those very seriously. We like to have as much fun as possible. So I think it was kind of along those lines. I don't know if we're gonna do that again this time around, make it kind of jokey, I don't know if we're still in the same kind of mindset, but who knows.

RF.net: Did you ever hear back from that guy then, the manager?

Jimmy: No we never did, I don't even think he knows. I don't even think he has ever even heard of my band or let alone punk rock or anything like that. But if we ever go back there, I will seek him out... I actually live kind of close to there now, so I should go back and thank him.

RF.net: How do you come up with the lyrics?
Jimmy: A lot of different ways. Sometimes it's weird, in songwriting there's no real formula. There's certain things that will help you here and there, but it kind of changes from song to song, so sometimes I'll get the music to a song and I'll kind of write the melodies, and the lyrics will kind of come from the melody. But then there's times when I'll just have a set of lyrics lying around, and I'll just like work them into a song and change them up to make them fit really well, so it kind of works both ways. When I'm on tour, I'm constantly writing things down. I can't really concentrate easily on tour when everyone's around, so I don't really do a lot of songwriting. But sometimes I'll kind of zone out in the van and my brain will just go wherever, and I'll come up with a lyric or I'll think of something that inspires me, and I just write it down. I have all these notes compiled when I get home, and I have really bad hand writing too, so deciphering the notes is another challenge, but yeah, really what's most important for me when writing lyrics is just always being open to ideas and inspiration. But I mean, mainly for me, a lot of my lyrics are personal. I don't have a lot of political, social punk songs. There's a couple, you know, but I was just never really good at writing those songs, so I try to write those songs and they never come out the way I want them to. So most of the lyrics are just personal and from just my life, and my experiences.

RF.net: Yeah, you've got that one song, "Our Ballads", which is about a lawyer - is that somebody you know?

Jimmy: Yeah it is. And that song is actually kind of a rare example, it's a bit more like a social commentary song, and that's rare for me. But yeah, that song was about a guy I knew, he is a lawyer, but he's also an old band guy. He's been playing in bands forever and touring forever, and he heard our EP. He wanted to hear it, and we gave it to him, and when he listened to it, he kind of was listening at the marketing angle. He was kind of thinking "what's the demographic here, how can we sell this", and we'd never really thought of that before, or cared to think about that. And so when he heard it, he straight up said: "yeah, it's okay, but just girls will not like this at all, no girls will like this", and he started talking about a Green Day album, you know, they've got their punk songs but then they've got their ballads too. And so that's how the theme came up, this is our ballad here. I don't fault him at all, he's just an older guy with no frame of reference to our kind of scene and community today, but it just really interested me, that statement, "girls won't like this". Why is that? And so I had to write that song, and you know, it's funny because as of late, a lot of more girls have gotten into Polar Bear Club, I've noticed from going from town to town. I don't know, it really inspired me. I was angry and I was nervous that it was true, and yeah, I was overflowing with emotion so I had to write that song.

RF.net: Correct me if I'm wrong, but I've read somewhere that you said, I don't know if it was a press release or another interview, that you said Polar Bear Club saved his life. Did you ever say that?
Jimmy: Polar Bear Club saved my life. Did I ever say that? [looks confused]. I mean, I don't know what I'd be doing right now if it wasn't for Polar Bear Club. I'd probably be working some shit job. So yeah, it saved my artistic life, definitely, I'd probably be miserable without Polar Bear Club, for sure. Did it literally save my life from death? No [laughs], but that would be a good story. I wish I had some made up story about how Polar Bear Club got me out of some murderous scenario, but I mean yeah, I don't know what I would be doing right now if not for Polar Bear Club.

RF.net: You guys have recently signed to Bridge 9. What are your thoughts on that?
Jimmy: Yeah. Excited. I think right now, people are kind of wary and confused by the signing, but I know that it's such a good fit, that I'm just waiting to get something out with them, and just have everyone see how great a fit it is. At the time, we were talking to a lot of labels, and when we met with Bridge 9, we just knew in like the first two minutes of the conversation that we wanted to work with them. Just the guy, his name is Carl, who is at Bridge 9, he was just such a straight shooter, and just a really nice guy, and just so smart. He sat us down and he said this is what I wanna do, this is what I think we can do, this is what we can do for you, this is what I think you can do for the label, and he really just impressed us. And so that was it, it was completely all across the board everyone in the band was like "yeah, that's it. That's for us".

RF.net: Yeah, you guys are recording a new album in April. Do you feel any pressure from the debut album because it was well received?
Jimmy: Yeah, I do and I don't. I do in the sense that it's natural. Sometimes I read interviews or see interviews where that same question is asked, and people just flat out say "no, not at all". And I just cannot imagine that's true. So yeah, naturally, there's a little bit of pressure there. But when you're songwriting and then you're recording, you really don't think of it, and you really can't think of it. Because then you're gonna start writing an album that you think people wanna hear. I don't think any of the great albums of our time were written with that sort of thing in mind. When we wrote and recorded "Sometimes Things Just Disapepar", we just wanted to make the best record that held up to our standards in the band. That's all we can think about when doing the next one. Because then it's just going to get muddy and it's gonna get... who knows, but it's not healthy. But naturally, it's there, you can't escape it, everyone's human, so.

RF.net: If we compare how you changed from the EP to the full length, you got a little bit slower I would say. So can you give us some clues of how you'll sound on the next record?
Jimmy: Yeah, that's something people have said. We spent the last month writing all the songs, and it's weird. It's like we're playing the ends of the spectrum a little bit harder, you know, the hardcore songs, the harder songs are a little bit harder. And the punky and poppy songs are a little bit punkier and poppier. And then there's a lot of songs kind of in the middle. I think the difference is that the spectrums are being played a lot more extreme. But it's still Polar Bear Club. It's a very natural progression I think. But yeah, going from the EP "The Redder The Better" to the full length, we had gained two new members, so just naturally we changed a little bit in the writing process. But I think now we're a lot more confident in our songwriting, and just write the songs we want to write make the album we wanna make. So I think that's the main difference I'm noticing. We're kind of less in the middle and more on both ends of what Polar Bear Club does, I guess.

RF.net: So will it be one of the great records of our time?

Jimmy: [laughs] That's not for me to say. That is for the audience to say. We're gonna work as hard as we've ever worked on anything, and we're gonna make the record that we're most proud of. And whatever that means to the audience, it is what it is.

RF.net: That's all from me, thanks for the interview. Good luck recording your new album and everything. Do you have anything you wanna say to the fans, the readers?
Jimmy: No. I'm trying to think.. do you know, everyone always asks me that, and I never have anything to say. So after this interview, I'm gonna go upstairs and I'm gonna think of something to say when I get asked that. So next time you interview me, I'll have something to say, so stay tuned for next time. That's what I have to say. Thank you!

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