Polar Bear Club: No Glitz, No Glam

"We wanna be who we wanna be, but we want people to come to us and relate to it in their own way." Jimmy Stadt

Polar Bear Club has made a career out of not fitting in. Their music exists somewhere between the realms of hardcore and pop, but neither of those genres really describe any aspect of their sound. Their fanbase ranges from teenage Warped Tour attendees to 30-something post-hardcore hangers on, still longing for the glory days of Hot Water Music. They have toured the world with bands as diverse as roots-punk heroes The Gaslight Anthem, metalcore veterans Every Time I Die, pop-punk powerhouse Set Your Goals and emo revivalists Moving Mountains. Polar Bear Club is also one of the hardest touring bands in any scene of the greater punk rock spectrum, and their willingness to take chances on tour packages and musical style has garnered them a stronger and stronger following since they began touring full-time in late 2008. During a rare period of Polar Bear Club downtime, SLUG had a chance to chat with vocalist Jimmy Stadt.

Even though it’s easy to compare Polar Bear Club to post-hardcore bands  like Small Brown Bike and The Casket Lottery who melded pure emotion with punk energy, it doesn’t really do the band justice. “For the most part, we don’t like to pigeonhole ourselves.” Stadt says, “I think collectively the bands that we all come together on and think of as an inspiration or an influence are the bands that bridge gaps and have their feet in a few different scenes.” Stadt mentioned Refused, Jimmy Eat World, At the Drive-In and The Get Up Kids as examples of the genre-transcending acts who have influenced his band. “You just don't meet someone who doesn’t like those bands, and if you do it’s weird,” Stadt says. By not adhering to any specific genre, Stadt hopes that the music created by Polar Bear Club can be interpreted more broadly and enjoyed by a wider audience. “We wanna be who we wanna be, but we want people to come to us and relate to it in their own way,” he says.

Polar Bear Club has a lot of experience as a tour oddity, sticking out in lineups that otherwise feature sonically similar bands, so they weren’t entirely unprepared for this most recent venture.“We’ve done a lot of things where we have been the odd man out, and we’ve learned little things here and there that help us out in those situations.” Stadt says, “Things as simple as smiling on stage can make a world of difference when you’re playing an arena where you’re kind of a weird band.” This past summer marked Polar Bear Club’s first time on the Warped Tour, the annual package equally loved and despised by a wide variety of music aficionados. Even though Polar Bear Club was once again a bit of a lineup oddball, they played to largely receptive crowds and even surpassed their own expectations. “At first I was honestly very nervous about how it would go and how we would translate to a new, younger audience, but Warped Tour was amazing for us,” Stadt says.

Though the tour packages that Polar Bear Club end up on may not make sense to outsiders, their rising popularity can’t be denied. More and more people sing along and get crazy every time the band plays in Salt Lake City, so they must be doing something right on those weird tours. “We like playing outside of our comfort zone because if you can get good at that, you become a better band and a better live band.” Stadt says, “We want to be a band who is able to be accepted in the hardcore scene and the [punknews.org] scene and the pop-punk scene, and even the radio rock scene.”

After their stint on Warped, Polar Bear Club returned home to New York, spending  their time writing a new album. Stadt says, “That’s my favorite part about being in a band. I love touring and playing shows, but writing is so rewarding—it’s amazing to see your ideas come to life.” Though Stadt was responsible for the heavier songs on Polar Bear Club’s previous album (2009’s Chasing Hamburg), his approach has changed for the batch of songs the band is currently working out. Stadt says, “The songs I’m bringing to the table this time aren’t really that heavy, but I don’t know how to describe them. I’d say ‘poppy,’ but as soon as you say that everyone’s instantly thinks, ‘Oh god, I’ll hate this album!’” Polar Bear Club’s new album should be released some time in 2011.

This fall once again finds Polar Bear Club as a tour package anomaly as they hit the road with This is Hell and three teen-appealing bands I’ve never heard of as part of the Alternative Press tour. “We were reluctant [to take the offer] at first. The tour with Every Time I Die was awesome and all the bands were great, but we didn’t really go over as well as we thought we would.” Stadt says, “Warped Tour really restored my confidence because of how well it went for us though. We’re gonna play the best show we can every night and do Polar Bear Club every night, like it or leave it.”

Polar Bear Club will be performing at In the Venue on October 22