POLAR BEAR CLUB
There's no shortage of black-and-white thinking in punk rock but let's face it: Life is a way more complicated shade of gray. It's in this gray area that Polar Bear Club have always worked bestand on their third full-length and second for Bridge Nine, Clash Battle Guilt Pride, the upstate New York quintet deliver an album that's punk in spirit but universal in appeal.
Recorded with producer Brian McTernan (Hot Water Music, Circa Survive) at his Salad Days studio in Baltimore, Clash Battle Guilt Pride finds Polar Bear Club looking back on their past few years of life as a band through the bigger lens of the human experience. "I wouldn't say these are ˜road songs,'" says singer Jimmy Stadt, who fronts PBC alongside guitarists Chris Browne and Nate Morris, bassist Erik Henning, and drummer Tyler Mahurin. "But we spend so much time on the road that it's impossible not to draw from that. For me, the interesting thing is how being in a band and doing the work that comes along with that can affect your life and relationships outside the band. That's where we were coming from with these songs."
Formed in 2005 as a casual, part-time outlet, Polar Bear Club never expected to spend much time on the road, let alone the studio. But after mounting acclaim from fans and critics alike over 2006's The Redder, the Better EP and 2008's Sometimes Things Just Disappear, the band members eventually decided to ditch and day jobs and school commitments to make a go of it. As it turns out, some of PBC's biggest fans were running the show at Bridge Nine Records and in 2009, the band signed to the label, hit the road for some of their largest tours to date (including a U.K. run with the Gaslight Anthem), and released their second album, Chasing Hamburg. Equally informed by the angular sprawl of early-'90s post-hardcore and the gritty, whiskey-soaked sound of Gainesville, Florida, Chasing Hamburg rightfully landed PBC on Alternative Press' 2009 "Most Anticipated" list, s well as dozens of year-end lists to follow.
Of course, every new album means another album cycle, and after Chasing Hamburg, Polar Bear Club hit the road hard. Tours of Europe, Australia and North America found the band sharing stages with artists as stylistically far-flung as Frank Turner, Every Time I Die and Trapped Under Ice. Summer 2010 brought a stint on the literally and figuratively blazing second half of the Vans Warped Tour. But after winding down 2010 alongside Bring Me the Horizon, August Burns Red, Emarosa and This Is Hell on the AP Fall Ball tour, PBC decided to park the van and get their bearings. "We made a conscious decision to get off the road and write," says Stadt, "because we knew we'd never have time to focus on this next record if we didn't."
Six months in the making, Clash Battle Guilt Pride reflects the dedication Polar Bear Club put into writing and recording it. Notoriously perfectionist, the band arrived at Salad Days with 14 songs already in solid form, and whittled their way to an even tighter 11 with McTernan's help. "Brian truly was a sixth member," Stadt explains. "We spent weeks just living in' the songs with him before tracking, which gave us a lot more time to reflect. I think it also helped that he shares a lot of our musical tastes. We could talk with him about some of the bands we had in mind, stuff like Embrace, Rites of Spring, early Jimmy Eat World, and he got that we didn't want to â€˜do' their sound; we were more about getting inspiration from their spirit.'"
From its slow-burning, melodically rich lead track, "Pawner," to the sprawling, reflective "I'll Never Leave New York," Clash Battle Guilt Pride is as much about anthems and choruses as it is the space between notes. The familiar, gritty 4/4 drive of past efforts is there, but it's tempered by goose-bump-inducing dynamics as well as lyrics that make an ambiguous grab for listeners' hearts and minds. "I don't think it's fair to tell someone, "This is what this song is about" Stadt explains. "When I think about the music that's most meaningful to me, I realize it's that way because of what I was able to bring to it. When someone comes up to me and says my song meant something to them, I hope it's because I gave them that same experience."
Even the new album's title pulls from the same theme of giving away just enough to lure you in to something Stadt says was intentional. "Again, not to give away too much," he says, "but those four words “Clash Battle Guilt Pride” that's what it's all about. That's life. It's complicated. It's a struggle. People will disapprove of you when you're doing things that make you happy, and you'll question yourself a lot, too. But those questions are where the interesting stuff happens. That's how you grow."
Jimmy Stadt - Vocals • Nate Morris - Guitar • Chris Browne - Guitar • Goose - Bass • Emmett Menke - Drums