Join the Polar Bear Club

The hard-buzzing upstarts put recording on hold to hit the road with punk vets Bad Religion.

click to enlarge Join the Polar Bear Club - Mitchell Wojcik
Mitchell Wojcik
Join the Polar Bear Club

They say that no two bands have exactly the same album-recording process. Sure, most touring acts tend to fall into a cycle of hitting the road, coming off the road, writing the songs, recording the songs, and hitting the road again. But the elements of that cycle can vary wildly. Some bands spend months holed up somewhere in pre-production, basically doing a trial run on recording the album. Some bands write so well on the road that they’re ready to enter the studio “for real” as soon as the tour is over. And everything in between.

If you’re an up-and-coming punk act, however, one thing is certain: When the legendary Bad Religion taps you to open its current tour, where you are in your recording process no longer matters. You go.

“It’s good and bad,” says Polar Bear Club vocalist Jimmy Stadt, via email, of juggling the creative and performance sides of the band-life coin. “You get a lot of good ideas on highly caffeinated overnight drives. But you don’t always have the [time] to really hammer stuff out, so you end up sitting on ideas, losing inspiration, just waiting around to work on something when you get home.”

Upstate New York quartet Polar Bear Club is still enjoying-slash-taking advantage of a period of its career in which EVERY point is a critical one. The group’s third full-length, Clash Battle Guilt Pride, was released in 2011 and cemented PBC’s status as an act to watch, earning comparisons to perennially popular forbears like Hot Water Music and Gaslight Anthem. Stadt and company cleverly followed its success with an in-concert acoustic one-off, last year’s Live at The Montage, which further secured Polar Bear Club’s reputation as something more than just another catchy survivor of punk’s mainstream emergence.

“We always wanted to do an acoustic release but not have it sound too stilted, so naturally we thought to just do it live,” Stadt writes. “It still feels like PBC to me, where a lot of acoustic records by loud bands feel like a departure. We didn’t want it to be that, we wanted it to be us.”

Since getting as close to settled down as a group built for satisfying its growing cult fanbase from the stage ever does, Stadt says he and guitarist Chris Browne, bassist “Goose” Henning and drummer Steve Port have built up a raft of rough material for the next album. Their process has been altered since the departure of friend and longtime guitarist Nate Morris back in November, but Stadt isn’t worried about its effect on the eventual finished product.

“We’re kind of used to lineup changes at this point,” he says. “They bring about some slight stylistic changes, sure. But the core of the band is the same.”

First, however, comes the welcome interruption of that slot supporting Bad Religion. It’s a tour that brings Polar Bear Club back around to play in front of some of the group’s most loyal fans — the ones here in Florida, where PBC was welcomed early and enthusiastically, particularly by the scene that spawned and nurtures Florida-punk institutions like Gainesville’s No Idea Records and Fest.

“All of a sudden we started doing well there, and it was surprising to us,” says Stadt. “It’s one of those places other bands had complained about, so we really never expected it. It’s great … it does seem to be blossoming there for bands like us.”

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