Polar Bear Club

The worst time to interview a vocalist is probably just before they play, but Polar Bear Club frontman Jimmy Stadt was courteous enough to speak with me just before they hit one of their biggest stages yet--at New Jersey's Bamboozle festival, which took place earlier this month.

The band continues to support last year's Org favorite Chasing Hamburg as they play scattered shows and prepare for a two-week tour with Lemuria, Moving Mountains and Living with Lions. They also recently unveiled their first music video.

This is the band's first Bamboozle, right?

Yeah, yeah. It is.

Were you here yesterday?

No, we played in SUNY Canton on Friday, and then the guys stayed in Syracuse and I came back home to New York, which is…close enough. I just chilled at home yesterday, and then met them here today.

What's this environment like for you? I mean, it has to be a little different…

Yeah, it is. I'm not really a festival person, like as an audience member. I don't think I would--personally, I don't think I would come to something like this, just because I'm more of a home-body, quiet kind of person. But playing these sort of things is always sort of…fun and new, I guess, because it's always more like a concert than a show, you know? Which means there's sorta different types of people that respond differently to your music or whatever. But I think our attitude about it is to just have fun. We try not to hate on it, because it's counterproductive. Even mentally, you know, we'll just be grumpy and upset. So we try to embrace it and have fun. But it is new and different, for sure.

Is there anything you try to do differently, performance-wise, or even in terms of picking songs…?

Yeah, I mean… The songs we pick, we generally play--on a tour--the same chunk of songs every night, with little switch-ins here and there. But usually, if there's a switch-in song that's more upbeat or…bigger, I guess, something that would translate well, then yeah, we'd put that into a show like this and take like a more mellow song out. Because we only have a half-hour to play, so…we sort of just want to blast it out. When we play longer sets, we integrate these mellower songs to kinda contrast, but today, there's no real point in contrast, so we just try to hit it hard with every song.

With bigger places like this and barricades, for a band like yours that really plays off that crowd response, how do you try and break down that barrier…metaphorically?

…You know, it's weird, because we're more used to it now than we were, because we've done some barricade tours. We have some of those under our belt. So we're more comfortable there than we were maybe a year or so ago.

You know what I'm finding on the bigger stage also is that less is more. You really don't have to move around as much as you do in a smaller club--which you'd think the opposite. But it really is almost about places like this--it's about how you sound. Because people in the punk or hardcore scene, they go to a show, they'll see a band…people come here to sort of hear a band, I think. And it's definitely different. That's a hard thing to learn, but I think we're learning it a bit…we know it a bit more than we used to, for sure.

Transitioning from something like this to something smaller…is it easy…?

You sort of have this "go for it" attitude, so in that sense, it's easy. But learning the sort of different things, like, "Okay, I don't really have to do this," or, "I do have to try and do this…" "I do have to try and sing this well," or, "I have to try and engage a mass group of people," which is definitely different than engaging 50 to 100, to 200 people. That stuff you sort of just pick up over time. But in terms of comfort level, we're comfortable with a lot of things. We just have a sort of "do it" attitude, and in that sense, it's easy. But the technique things, you just learn.

What do you have lined up after this?

We finish this month with weekend shows--we do Bled Fest, and Skate Fest, and some headliner shows. Then we start a two-week tour with Lemuria, Moving Mountains and Living with Lions, and then after that we start Warped Tour.

What are the benefits of doing bigger festivals like this, or even the ones coming up?

Obviously, you expose yourself to more people, and there's more money at these sort of things, too.

More money?

Yeah, yeah. So that's…obviously, a benefit. But when you're in a band at our level, you can't really take a lot of time off. But with festival seasons like this, you can take the weeks off, do festivals on the weekend, and still sort of make ends meet, a little bit, financially, just because college shows and festivals pay more than a headlining tour, or something like that. But that and the exposure, too--you're playing to so many people who would never come see you at a show, you know? That's really the main thing.

What are the biggest challenges of something like this?

There's a lot of shit to do, I mean, like press stuff…and we're playing an acoustic set later in like a VIP tent or something…


Yeah. I don't even know where, honestly.

Are you guys one of the secret special guests or something?

I don't know. I'm not sure [laughing]. Our tour manager just told me where it was, but I can't remember…and there's another interview today, and there's like…a signing, or something… That sort of stuff is just like, kind of like…I just, sort of want to play, you know? But it's part of it, so we embrace it and do it. But it's definitely different from a normal day of touring.

So the Warped Tour coming up, that'll be your guys' first?

Yeah, yeah.

Are you anxious about it, or…?

I am anxious about it. I'm excited, actually, too. Because a lot of bands that we're friends with have told us horror stories…and what to prepare for. And I think mentally, we're really ready to do it. And we have a lot of friends on the tour, too, and it's just gonna be stupid fun, man. Even if the shows suck, we're gonna be hanging with so many awesome people that we're gonna be having fun, for sure. But it is hard work so that we're sort of like…I'm anxious to learn the regiment. I don't know it yet.

What was one of these "horror stories"?

It's just like…weather, of course. Rain. And heat. It's either raining or it's incredibly hot. And you gotta be there at--however early, 8 or 9 in the morning, but you can't leave until, you know, midnight or 1… So that's taxing. That's like…a 24-hours-a-day thing. Just drive all night, get there, do it again. Drive all night, get there, and do it again. And the weather and shit? That can be pretty taxing.

So you guys are writing new stuff now?

We are. A little bit. We have like one song pretty done. And then we have parts flowing between all of us and stuff. But we're gonna actually do a lot of writing on Warped Tour, I think, because we're gonna be on a bus too, so we'll have the space to do it acoustically. And then in the fall we're gonna take some time off to do some serious writing. Hopefully--I wanna be in the studio this winter. If that'll happen, I don't know. But that's what we're sort of shooting for.

Do you have any producers in mind?

You know, we've talked a little bit. Of everyone you can even think of. We haven't really buckled it down yet at all. I mean, all the…good guys, we've talked about a little bit. But we'll probably start thinking about it more seriously in the fall.

I know the way you hooked up with Matt Bayles apparently was a straight e-mail…

Yeah. We're just kinda seeing where we want to aim our attention. Everyone sort of has a different opinion, so we just gotta talk it out and make our sacrificies to meet in the middle. But we haven't had that discussion too much, yet.

Is there any sort of direction you see the new songs taking?

…I think they're gonna be a bit more spontaneous than Chasing Hamburg. You know, it's funny--I'm kind of finding that every record you do, you're sort of rebelling against the record before. So I don't know where that's gonna take us on the new one. But I think the choruses might be bigger, and I think it's gonna be more fun. And spontaneous. But who knows, I guess. We're in such preliminary stages right now, that could be completely wrong. I remember saying things about Chasing Hamburg early on that were completely off, once it was all said and done. So who knows.

All these experiences of making the shift to being a full-time band, do you think it'll influence the songwriting, lyrically?

I think that was huge on Chasing Hamburg. I think there will definitely be instances of that on the new record, just because that's just my life now. And you write what you know. And that's what I know. I think consciously, I'm gonna try and get away from that a bit, because I don't want to rehash the same sort of motifs over and over again. But so far I've been writing lyrics here and there and it's relationships; it's touring; it's all that shit.

Are there any new musical tastes this time around that might influence the songwriting?

…I don't know. I've been listening to newer bands and getting into different bands. But they all have kind of an older sound to them--like Tigers Jaw, Title Fight, and [nodding to my shirt] Balance and Composure. There's something new and old about that sort of thing.

I know what you mean.

You know what I mean, right? Yeah. I've been listening to a lot of sort of stuff like that.

It almost seems like the scene that's coming up just behind you guys…

Yeah, yeah. It's cool, and exciting. But honestly I've been listening to a lot more hardcore lately? But the songs aren't really going there, I don't think. I mean…there's three sort of songwriters in the band, and it's me, Chris, and Nate, and I don't know much of what their songs are sounding like, but mine are kinda sounding like…I don't know, almost like Weezer-ish, fun choruses. But, with my vocals on them [laughing], you know what I mean? But that could change drastically. I could show them those songs and they could just be like, "No." [Laughs.] But I think we're gonna have more fun this time around. And kind of be more…not experimental, but…spontaneous. That's the only word I could think…lighthearted, maybe.

Are you sharing the bus with anyone?

We actually aren't. We're renting it out to a couple vendors and stuff--a tattoo artist is coming with us as well, and a journalist too, I think. So we're not completely alone, but there's not another band on it.

So the cost is split a little bit…


…because I've heard how expensive they are…

It is. We're actually saving some money because we're not using a trailer, which actually saves you crazy money--$6000 or something like that. But yeah, I think right now, we have maybe one or two bunks open that we might just leave open for random people to kind of come with us. But yeah, it's gonna be financially scary as well, but we're ready for it. That's like, what I find the hardest--is when you go into a situation that you didn't think would suck, and then it sucks. And you're like, "Fuck." But if you kinda set your expectations low, you can mentally kind of overcome it more so than if you didn't.

How is it being with Bridge 9 right now?

It's great. It's awesome. They're a really awesome and strong label. And I feel like there's a buzz around them right now that I like--I like being a part of.

It's almost like they're building up to a level of someone like Epitaph where they can carry a stable of full-time bands…

Exactly. And I like being one of the first-ish bands to sort of…that they dip their foot out on. And that sort of sounds cocky, but when they approached us, it was a mutual sort of need almost…us probably more than them, I would say. They'd definitely be gettting on without us… But they were stoked to sign us, and we were stoked to sign with them. And sometimes that can be rare. I didn't feel like just a number with them. I felt like a band they wanted to work with and were excited about.

Where do you see things going from here, basically?

We're just gonna keep staying the course, honestly. I hope to be playing to more people. That's the hope. But who knows. We gotta see where the next record takes us. We're just gonna keep touring and taking what we can get and hopefully--the goal is to just not tread. To constantly be going forward. Until we can't anymore. And I don't think we're there yet, so just keep pressing on.