POZ Interview: Polar Bear Club

by Zack Zarrillo - Aug 1, 2012

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PropertyOfZack had the chance to chat with our friend Jimmy Stadt in Polar Bear Club several weeks ago on Warped Tour for a great interview. Jimmy and I discussed the band’s time on Warped Tour, their new acoustic release, transitioning as a band between music and crowds, plans to write new music following the summer, and much more. Check it all out below!

So we’re a full month into Warped Tour now. You guys are at the Tilly’s stage with a great stage-lineup around you. How has it been?
It’s been awesome. The stage itself is amazing. I feel really well suited on our stage. I think when we did Warped two years ago, it was great, but we were kind of thrown into the boy band thing. Not boy band but like pop bands. But this year it’s like Bayside, A Loss For Words, Man Overboard, Senses Fail… It makes sense for us to be here. And it’s been going great. I think it’s the stage just under the main stages and it’s been awesome. We can’t complain. It’s all the same crew guys from two years ago. And we had good relationships with them. It’s really cool.

So I feel like that’s the consensus of the bands, especially the ones that have done this once before. That this seems to be the year where everyone is more comfortable with the bands around them?
Yeah. It seems like we have a huge pack on this tour. When we did it two years ago, we were pretty much hanging with Set Your Goals, Every Time I Die, and Four Year Strong. That was it. This year it’s all of them, minus Set Your Goals, they’re not here, but plus like fourteen other bands. It’s kind of overwhelming, but it’s amazing. It’s like a summer camp, you know? We’ve toured with all these bands before, but they’ve never been in the same place together. It’s kind of scary.
POZ: Probably a little overwhelming.
Jimmy: Yeah. It’s been awesome though. It’s been so much fun. 

So Clash Battle Guilt Pride  has almost been out a year now. You did the one tour in 2011 but this year you guys have been a lot more hands-on with the GK Tour and now this. Nine months later, how has the reception been to the album?
It’s been great. I was just saying this in an interview too: Polar Bear Club is a band that I feel like has always been in the middle of things. We’ve never been a band that would lean too hard one way. So there’s an even mix of people who are like, “I don’t like their new stuff.” But then there’s people that that’s the first record they hear, and they dig it.
POZ: That’s important.
Jimmy: It’s cool but it’s also strange. Because you can never get a grasp of who you’re playing to exactly. It’s really hard for us to pick a set list because a) we have a lot of records and b) we’re not quite sure who’s going to be there. If it’s going to be those kids who are into the newer stuff or older stuff. So we really just try to play an even mix of everything. 

Obviously with Clash Battle Guilt Pride , that was your tour and your fans. But with GK I’m sure that was probably three fourths new faces. And this is going to be a ton of new faces as well.
I’m so glad that we did that tour because every day when we play we’ll do a brief little signing afterwards. You wouldn’t believe how many people come up and are like, “I saw you for the first time on the Glamour Kills Tour.” Nine out of ten people. It’s awesome. 

So now would you say you guys are more open to tours that aren’t necessarily weird, but a little bit more out of the genre?
Yeah. We spent a year doing weirder tours. Bring Me The Horizon… We’re great friends with Every Time I Die and Four Year Strong and Trapped Under Ice. We were the odd band on that tour. We spent a lot of time doing tours like that. They were cool. But tours like Glamour Kills; The Gig Life tour with Set Your Goals and Fireworks and Four Year Strong. Tours like that which are a little bit more uniform but still good. Glamour Kills was perfect because it was so much crossover from band to band, but every band was so different. That really is the perfect tour to do. So would we do a really weird like metally tour again? Probably not. We didn’t really see much growth from when we did the AP tour. It was super fun and we made friends with those bands. But not a lot of people from that tour came back to see us. Where we were a band that was like, “Yes! We’ll do any tour! We want to challenge ourselves and play outside our box! Try and meet new bands.” We might be a little more reserved to do so now. We’ve seen what works. 

Are you guys happy about that? That you’ve reached that level?
Yes. Very happy. No regrets of course. There’s definitely people that saw us on those weird tours and came back. But they were just fewer than say the Glamour Kills Tour or the Gig Life Tour. Or the tour we did with Bayside, definitely more uniform but still diverse. 

So you guys announced this acoustic live EP a few weeks ago. That’s coming out in a few weeks. Have fans seemed excited about it?
Yeah. Bridge Nine put up this Instagram contest where if you come out to Warped Tour and get a picture with us or of us playing and post it to Instagram, you enter this raffle. I thought for sure that no one would do it, but so many people are doing it. Which is straight. So many people do seem… Well I think that since we announced that there was a Saves The Day and a The Weakerthans cover… I think people are really into that. But the vinyl version is like nine songs and then the iTunes version is like thirteen or something like that. We did that really because we wanted to make the pre-order package for Clash Battle Guilt Pride a little more interesting so we included the 7” version of that record and we also wanted to be more comfortable doing that kind of thing because it scared us. We were getting asked to play acoustic things more for you and in-stores overseas. It scared us and we thought, “If we do a whole show and record it live, we won’t be scared of it anymore.”
POZ: Can’t screw up.
Jimmy: Exactly. We will do the scariest acoustic thing we can do and everything we do from there will pale in comparison. It worked. We are definitely more comfortable playing acoustic sets and I like it in the sense that it sort of brings the subtext of a song to the foreground a little bit. You get not necessarily a new prospective to a song but maybe a prospective that you were missing in the full-band energetic version. 

So what are we looking at after Warped Tour? Do you still want to support the record for quite a bit?
Well, roughly our plan is: this ends. Then we do a brief little UK tour, like two weeks, around Redding and Leeds and a couple other festivals. Then the fall we have completely off just writing. Is it the best move? No. We have a lot of material out there. We don’t really need another record. But that’s just a big part of us; of our band. We start to feel that itch when we haven’t been writing and haven’t been home for a while. So we’re going to go work on it. Who knows when it will get recorded or released, but we are really itching to go write some new music. 

You guys have several records that have progressed nicely. This record has really opened a lot more people up to your music and a lot more people have given you guys a chance and latched on to this record.
That’s the idea.

Obviously you don’t want to write with a preconceived direction, but will you follow where Clash Battle Guilt Pride left off?
I think our growth from record to record has been natural. I think it really is just a result of trying to become better songwriters. Whatever that means. That’s a weird mix of following your heart and also following your head. Finding that balance is something we are always trying to do. I’ve said this a million times in interviews, but the only thing we’ve ever set out to do when we write a song is: Do we like it? Are we proud of it? To show to people? That’s what we’re going to keep doing. And that changes when you get older and that’s where that progression comes from. Will it pick up where Clash Battle left off? Yeah, you bet. Which direction? I don’t know. It will be Polar Bear Club, but it will be also something else too. 

When you guys were doing the weirder metal-core tours, I’m sure it was good to try to get new fans but I bet it was also head-against-the-wall. Are you guys more excited now? Considering it’s been like three full, good tours in a row?
Yeah. Some kids come up to me and say, “You were the first show I ever saw and I’ve been listening to you since I was a kid.” To that I say, “How old are you?” You know? Then some come and say, “Wow, I’ve been following you since 2006.” Or some say, “Wow. You’re such a new and up-and-coming band.” So it’s like there is two factions of Polar Bear Club listeners. It’s cool. Come one, come all. It is kind of strange though because you never feel like you have a grasp of who’s listening to you. But at the end of the day just make the music that you want to make and whoever is onboard is onboard. You really can’t expect anything else. 

So writing in the fall and you will see where that goes? Whether that leads into touring or more recording?
Yeah. The only tour we have planned right now is we are doing Gainesville Fest again, and that’s it. That’s all we have planned. Whatever comes, we’ll see if we want to take it. But we really just want to do some new stuff and get some new material going. 

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