Following up on the success of 2009’s Chasing Hamburg, Polar Bear Club vocalist Jimmy Stadt caught up with The Inertia to discuss the band’s forthcoming album, how the Internet is affecting aspiring musicians, and how artists can keep the magic alive in an era of around-the-clock online surveillance. Also, Polar Bear Club is offering up autographed LP’s to two lucky fans. All you need to do is either post this story on your Facebook or answer the following question by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org: Where did Polar Bear Club’s band name come from?
We’ll pick out two winners. Good luck…and don’t forget to check out the streaming music below. [audio:http://www.theinertia.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/05-Drifting-Thing.mp3, http://www.theinertia.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/01-Living-Saints.mp3|titles=Drifting Things, Living Saints|artists=Polar Bear Club, Polar Bear Club]
Having toured on the success of your last record Chasing Hamburg since late 2009, what does the band have in store for 2011?
We are working on our next record now. We’ve taken a couple months off from touring to write and record it and then after it’s done we will hit the road again. The new record is really cool so far. We have never been this excited about a record before.
With the Internet making music more accessible than ever, it seems to me that bands must work harder and longer to distinguish themselves amid the growing pool of musicians. That said, you guys have managed to attract a lot of attention in a relatively short period, having only been together full time since 2008. What do you attribute this success to?
Internet exposure has definitely helped us, but the music community has helped a lot too. A lot of bands like us, so they will talk about us or take us on tour, and we’ve made a lot of good friends in this community and we constantly help and support each other.
Having worked in preschools and done some assistant teaching, your background is pretty unique for someone that ended up playing in a punk band for a living. When were you first introduced to punk rock / hardcore and how did your passion for the music evolve?
I remember when I realized I wanted to be a band person. I was 15 or 16 or whatever. I had tried at it with other bands and it never really worked, so I went to college and studied acting. PBC started while I was studying, and by the time I had graduated we had built up some steam so we just decided lets go for it now before it’s too late. The passion has definitely changed. I’ve crossed the line between music fan and music maker, and that changes things but if anything it’s made me more passionate about it.
In light of the fact that you are a college educated guy, how supportive were your parents of your decision to play in a punk band for a living?
My parents are so supportive. I was studying acting, so it was either shitty life as an actor or shitty life as a musician, so they had already set themselves up either way. I think they wish they had done some of the stuff we do, so maybe they live a little through you. But my parents have supported me from the get-go.
What is your most memorable tour experience?
I don’t think there’s one. But one of many happened on Warped Tour this passed year. We played in this amusement park and they were kind enough to open the water park to us after they had closed regular hours, and there were like 200 people in the wave pool on rafts just wrestling and having the time of our lives. It didn’t matter who was from what band or who was a dick or whatever it was just undeniable fun.
The Internet has made communication pretty open between bands and their fans. In the past month alone, ex-members from Paramore and VersaEmerge divulged their own tales about their band departures that spread throughout fan forums quite rapidly. Is this type of transparency good or bad for the music industry?
I don’t think we know yet. I miss the idea of not knowing. That seems to have disappeared in music. Everyone wants to be behind the scenes 24/7. They want constant twitter, Facebook and video updates but there’s an element of illusion that I think people don’t realize is fun or remember that it was fun. The whole idea of buying a CD on a whim and having no idea what it was going to sound like, that’s gone now. In a way it’s good because it’s consumer information and it’s available instantly, but in another way it draws the curtain back a bit and the magic goes with it. I don’t think people know what they want a lot of the time. Mystery can be fun too.
Off the top of your head, what are your five most influential albums?
God, I hate this question. Here goes:
Pennywise – Unknown Road
Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American
Refused – The Shape of Punk to Come: A Chimerical Bombination in 12 Bursts
The Replacements – Let It Be
The Get Up Kids – Something to Write Home About
I once heard [Social Distortion frontman] Mike Ness say that he wish he had written “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash. Tom Gabel [from Against Me!] said something similar about Crass. Do you ever listen to a song by another artist and get the same type of feeling? What song or songs come to mind?
Yeah, definitely. A lot of Jimmy Eat World songs do that to me. “Bleed American” in particular. It’s an amazing first track but it’s also solid, poppy, ballsy and vulnerable.
What is the best show you ever attended as an audience member?
Andrew W.K. right at the height of his steam.
Bands are increasingly self-releasing albums these days rather than work through a record label. What do you make of this? Do record labels still have a place in the music scene?
I’m not sure yet. We’ve never worked with a major so I don’t understand that side of things. It seems like they still do, at least on an indie level. There’s a sense of family and also publicity there that is hard to imagine existing without a record label in place.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about being in band? Is the lifestyle really as glamorous as fans tend to think?
No, not really. People think it’s a constant party, but in a lot of ways it’s a job. It’s a great job don’t get me wrong, but the only real thing that separates me from anyone in the audience is that I chose to do it. I started out as novice as anyone would, but made the jump and learned everything I know along the way.
Ok, this next question is straight out of left field, but I can’t help but think there aren’t a few fans out there that want to know…what’s your opinion of Taylor Swift?
I really like the album Fearless, but the new one does nothing for me. It got old for me. It’s like, “We get it, Taylor. Boys all want you, but are trapped with someone else, and everyone in the world sucks but you.” Boring.
What’s one thing you think your fans would be surprised to know about you?
Is there anything anymore? I mean, I’m on Twitter and Facebook talking about myself all the time, I think they know.
If you had to send a message right now to all your fans reading this, what would it be?
No Bad Religion song can make your life complete.
Free association time. Say the first thing that comes to mind…
Spine, Treat: Biff
Goober, Goonie: Fat
Yoga, Chestnut: Fork
Apollo, Bee Hive: Tong