With sold-out national tours, a triple j Hottest 100 single (Clarity, #76) and a blossoming European fanbase, Polish Club had a banner year in 2018. So it stands to reason that they’d do a number on themselves, pushing their band to breaking point on a record that wrangles their expansive influences and crunches them down through sophisticated slabs of sound. Enter, their second album, Iguana, which dropped last week and is a record that boasts a more expansive, adventurous sound already showcased on lead singles Clarity and We Don’t Care. To commemorate this long-awaited follow-up, Polish Club will tour the nation on a series of capital city and regional dates this June and July. We chat to Polish Club’s vocalist and guitarist David Novak ahead of the tour.
Congrats on your second album. It seems to really expand on that Polish Club sound. How did you guys go into this album, were you thinking about evolving that sound from the beginning?
I think we had to. I often think could we have gotten away with just writing another retro rock and roll album. It does feel like it would have been disingenuous. The first album was very much us figuring out what we could do within our ability and playing to our strengths and just feeling it out and seeing what feels real and genuine. This one was like, ‘okay, we know what our wheelhouse is, we know what people expect, and we know what our strengths are, but how do we kind of reconcile that with what we have always wanted to do and the kind of music that we listen to and want to make, how can we make that a reality with just the two of us plus our producer Wade’. I think it was freeing because we’re confident in what we can get away with and we’re confident that as long as it’s me singing and playing guitar and John on drums, everything else is open to whatever we can pull off and actually replicate live.
We threw a lot at the wall. Some of it worked, some of it didn’t. I think what we came up with, hopefully people will still think it sounds like us, but also it doesn’t sound too similar. You want it to be a little bit surprising, but you don’t want it to be alien for the people that liked the first album. I hope it’s a logical progression.
In saying that, was there a line that you guys drew when creating the music if it went a little bit too far? Did you have that in the back of your head?
I think we did have it in the back of our head, but we don’t really know what that is in terms of writing it on paper – like we need X, Y, and Z for it to sound like us. I think as long as I’m singing, as long as John is on drums, and as long as there’s guitar of some sort… I’m still kind of not even that precious about needing full-on distorted guitars. Because what we started with was so simple, we were able to make sure that we keep those key ingredients and add anything else that we can try to make sense of. Usually, if it’s fun for us and if it’s satisfying, if it’s got that energy, it will sound like a Polish Club song.
You mentioned that with your music, to replicate it live. Is that something really important to you guys?
It’s everything. I guess a lot of people enjoy being in a studio, a lot of people enjoy the writing part of it all, but for us it’s always been that direct connection with an audience and being able to kind of be like, ‘All right, this is what we do, and you can see us doing it in the flesh’. If that’s not up to scratch, if that’s not true to everything else that we do, which is tracking stuff to a record, it’s kind of pointless. The thing that allowed us to kind of go away from that simple rock and roll two-piece thing was being able to still be true to it live, which means now we can tour with Wade, have an extra set of hands playing bass or doing little synth bits. It means we can do more with our live show, which then, in turn, means we can do more on the record.
Last year, you guys did a live show with horns which absolutely went off. Did you pull any of that into the album with the brass? The brass seemed to really lift the sound on the live show.
We’d never played with anyone else onstage besides the two of us. Adding five other people, regardless of whether it was horns or whatever, was a bit of a revelation for us. I think that allowed us to be like, all right, we need someone else to help us carry the load of the bare bones of the song so John and I can go for it with the guitar solo or do extra percussion or we can throw in a bit of synth there. I think being able to re-contextualize the old songs and find harmonies and counter melodies and all that stuff really made us see that we can input that extra level of musicality to new Polish Club songs.
When we came to write all of these ones, it very much does still start with me and John, drums, guitar, but once we settle on a structure and a hook we’re like, all right, screw it, let’s add a little synth line or an extra hook there that we are now comfortable having someone else play. We don’t put any limits on the amount of stuff in a song. As long as it still sounds like us. I think having five extra people onstage at those shows playing our songs and having it still feel these are the same songs, this is the same band allowed us to do that with confidence.
You only wrapped up your Get Some Clarity tour in December, you guys really have been busy!
We like to be on the road and play shows because it’s just, simply it’s the most fun that we have. Every time we do it, it’s got to be something new. That’s where the horn thing came from. The Clarity tour was with Wade for the first time. Now this one is going to be a completely new set with new songs. We don’t want it to be the same shit every single time. We feel like we need to earn the right to have a whole tour and we have to have something new to give that isn’t necessarily a gimmick. The horns thing definitely was a gimmick, but the way it was executed, I think gave the songs a bit more value and was a new way of doing it that was fun for us and hopefully fun for the fans. I’m super excited about this tour, to be able to feel like, all right, this is new. You guys have probably never heard these before… it’s not just the same old shit.
Absolutely, and it’s a massive tour too, you’re heading to almost 20 places.
Yeah, it’s pretty crazy. We’ve never really prepared like we’re preparing right now because we have to. We’re starting this month in the studio just rehearsing and trying to see how we can pull all of this off live. I guess the good thing about all these songs is they do work with just John and me, drums and guitar, but we don’t have to do that. It’s kind of finding the happy medium between what’s on the track and what works and is fun live. This month is very much about live experimentation. By the time we get on the road, hopefully, we don’t kill ourselves over these 20 shows because it’s quite a run. It’ll be super fun. I can’t wait.
What’re plans after the tour, do you guys just chill out for a little bit?
I don’t think John knows how to chill out. He’s already spitballing stupid ideas for the next album or whatever it might be. I think he really wants to mess with the format of an album. I guess it’s kind of irrelevant now; people don’t consume an album like they used to. We’re trying to think of different ways of doing the next thing, whatever that might be. I daresay that as soon as we get back from this tour, it will be in full swing because we’re not getting any younger and we just want to get stuff done. We don’t want to be that band that takes a five-year break between albums. That’s just a waste of time.
Do you have that mindset because you guys are a relatively new band as well?
I think we just want to be as prolific as possible and not die wondering. I think we can be too precious about what we put, and bands in general can be too precious about what they put their name to. We just want to try to see how far we can go and make it genuine and fun for everyone. That just means doing as much as physically possible.
Polish Club’s second album Iguana is out now.
When & Where: Barwon Club, Geelong – June 29 & Karova Lounge, Ballarat – June 30.