Horns up for Polish Club

It’s a few days shy of a Polish Club headline tour announce. The lads are in Melbourne to support Royal Blood, and their team are keen to link us up for a chat ahead of the ‘PC With Horns’ run of shows. I don’t have too much info handy, and I make the rookie error of admitting exactly that to the band, David Novak and John-Henry Pajak.

“I know pretty limited information about what’s actually happening.”

The response is comforting, amusing (not a surprise when you’re chatting with two #content #lords) and sets the tone for the rest of the chat.

“So do we. Maybe we can figure this out.”

It’s our round of drinks arriving that sets up the first anecdote of our hour-long conversation. John points to a drink on the table: “Is that just a beer with an orange on top? In America they’ve got that beer, Blue Moon, and they put an orange on top. We had it all the time and I feel like I had my fair share of vitamin C. By the end of a session I feel like I had a whole orange.” 

Novak nods, “It’s a healthy way to drink beer.”

It’s this story which starts the ball rolling on a wild, tangent filled chat. Hayfever, themed tours, tracking songs for a new album and setlists on everything except a blank sheet of paper. We bloody well cover some ground.

Are you a fan of the novelty gig? You did a Christmas tour, after all.

JH: We’re just dickheads. 

DN: We did a tour, and it was Christmas. Christmas is fun. We didn’t do it because it was Christmas, we just did it and it was Christmas.

JH: Mainly because we didn’t have a release. It’s kind of weird, because it’s like ‘why are we doing this’ [laughs]. 

DN: It’s a sense of occasion. It’s more fun to show up to something where there’s little bells and whistles. It’s easy to do and it’s fun. 

JH: It’s easy to build content around it as well. Like a theme. 

DN: Covers too, all that shit. This tour is just an excuse to have a brass band really. It’s not cheap, it’s not easy to plan – we don’t play the instruments so we gotta get someone else to do it. We had space for a couple of shows… A perfect time to do a one off thing where we can afford the time and money to do it. It’ll be fun. I’m looking forward to it, so no one else has to. 

JH: We have to find a sweet 5 piece horns section. My mate is in Winston Surfshirt, he’s the trombone player. I grew up with him and he went to The Con in Sydney. They’re a legit horns section, some of the best. Which costs… money. 

DN: Put it this way, we’re not at all, ever going to make money. So it has to be fun. 

JH: I was thinking about it, I’m a bit worried that I’m not good enough to play with it. This could ruin us actually.

DN: Financially, emotionally, physically. Reputation wise. There’s a lot that could go wrong. It’s like going to the circus and watching the trapeze guys. There’s a feeling it could crash and burn at any moment. 

You’re a two piece – are you excited about the fact you can expand your sound in such a substantial way?

DN: Yeah. But we’re very particular about keeping it a 2 piece. The Black Keys and all the other fucking 2 pieces eventually add something. I think you kind of have to earn that. It takes time. So to be able to do that as a one-off, that’s great, because there’s no attachment to it. You bill it as a one-off, people don’t expect it from now on. You’re not setting a precedent. We can’t make it too good because then we really shoot ourselves in the foot. 

JH: I think it’s good timing though. I think we’re going to step up our live show by the end of the year. 

DN: We’re writing our second album now, so naturally we’ll put more stuff in it. We don’t know it yet, but there may be cause for a bigger band when we play live. Who knows. I’ll never be anti-that, but as I said before it’s a progression thing. You kind of have to establish what it is first before you start doing too many variations. I guess people aren’t too precious about that really – no one cares as long as the songs are good. But we care.

JH: We’re a two piece, with a horns section. We’re not adding anyone, we’re not adding a bass player or anything.

DN: We’re just adding 5 people. 

JH: Playing brass. 

You mentioned before that you’re working on another album. According to social media you’ve been demoing?

DN: We spent 5 days in the studio, up until Sunday. So yesterday my voice was a bit [sound similar to a-woo]. It was fun. Ah, fun is a strong word. It was good. But that’s fine, it’s not supposed to be fun. 

JH: It was an interesting demo session. We came up with some pretty different sounding stuff. 

DN: It was essentially like recording an album. It was in the same place we recorded the first album, and th same time spent in the studio. 

JH: So they’re quite finished songs.

DN: Some of them are fuckin’ weird. The thing I realise is, it’s kind of weird for us but they’re not like off the wall or anything. 

JH: They’re not weird at all, they just sound different for us.

DN: More melodic vocals, some RnB stuff. Some pop stuff. A bit of disco? 

JH: We did like 20 songs and every song is a different direction. So we gotta pick one and go that way. 

DN: It’s cool, the brief we kind of gave ourselves was ‘darker and sexier’. Though it’s a fucking ball-lick of a process. Because we probably won’t actually record it for a little while, yet. It’s the kind of scenario where you throw as much shit as the wall and see what sticks. 

JH: We definitely want to do something different. 

DN: I think they sound great, the ones we have back so far. We kind of have to narrow it down into what it’s going to be. That takes a lot of recording. It’s exciting, but yeah. Fun is a strong word.

JH: Recording is tough. Especially for you [Novak] – you have to do heaps of stuff. 

DN: John does a lot, but he only tracks drums and percussion. 

JH: I did piano.

DN: That took a while.

JH: I’m not very good. 

DN: It hasn’t really been cleaned up properly. We exported a few songs just as are – not mixed, not fucked with, out of the desk. The one with the piano on it, there’s a middle eight where it’s [sound akin to clunk, clunk]. Turn it up, it’s fucking great. We tracked drums and guide guitar for the first two days, then you check out basically. 

JH: I tell you what to do and stuff. 

DN: Just saying, psychically, that’s on me.

JH: Good thing you love making music and want to make a career out of it. 

DN: I do love it, but it’s you know, peaks and troughs. And everything in between that it’s a trough. I have wild ups an downs within an hour. 

JH: Oh my god, yeah. It’s a real emotional experience with Dave. 

DN: It’s like spinning plates, you gotta have the creative oversight of it all, then you have to think of ‘What are the chords?’ ‘What is the strumming pattern?’ ‘What is the song structure?’ ‘What are the words?’ ‘What melody are the words sung in?’ ‘What’s the bassline?’

JH: It also takes him four hours to wake his body up in the morning. It’s like a staged process. Just take some Pseudo and let’s get going. 

DN: For context, I had hayfever. I’m allergic to everything, so mornings are not great at the best of times. Especially in between seasons. 

JH: He’s a sensitive soul.

Why did you start the Polish Club fan club, club?

JH: Our manager told us to. Our manager Quincy is from the Myspace and street team days.

DN: To his credit, it’s gone a lot better than I thought it would. 

JH: He’s really into fan engagement.

DN: I didn’t really see the point at first because I didn’t think people would be sharing stuff, that they had taken or that they had done for other people. I thought it would just be people wanting to interact with us. But it’s turned into something that’s fully self sustaining. We’re barely in it anymore. I used to check stuff every day, but it’s not about me or him anymore. At the beginning I was like ‘why would we do that?’ because if we get a Facebook message I’ll respond to it, there’s no need for a fanclub. There’s a direct line. But now its like it’s own ecosystem. 

JH: It’s people who like our music so they have something in common, automatically. 

N: I really want the subreddit to take off and it has not. I upvote every single thing.

Reddit is also a bit of a trash fire though.

DN: Oh it’s the worst. I love it. It is a cesspool.

After some time of your back catalogue not being available to fans in certain territories, it’s now available across the world?

DN: Well, it’s coming out. We’re basically doing what we did a year ago, but hopefully quicker. We are with Universal Music across the world. We’re just trying to get our first album out for everyone as soon as possible without being like ‘here it is’ and then nobody give a shit. You need to slowly build up to that. 

[Their self titled EP has been released worldwide but due to logistics the debut album is not out yet].

I noticed that you’re pushing the American profile building with touring, etc. 

DN: Fuck knows how that works. It’s super hard. But we’ve got an agent there, so we’re slowly but surely mirroring what we have here in terms of a team to do it, and do it right. It’s always going to take a bit of time. Long story short, by album two we just want it to be ‘here you go’ everyone has caught up, everyone know what’s going on. I have no idea when. But everything is happening, and by album 2 I’m hoping everything will be available for everyone. 

You kind of figure out really quickly how much of a bubble Australia is in terms of, we’ve been growing and growing for three years, and you go overseas and no one knows who you are. Obviously, because we haven’t really released any music over there. So it’s like starting all over again, which is super exciting because we’ve got the resources to do it. But also we’ve got to spend time doing it. It’s going to take a few trips I think. Which is great for us, because we get to go. It’s nice to be able to do that. 

JH: You can’t just expect anything to happen, especially in rock music. You’ve gotta be in these places doing it. You gotta get in people’s faces.

DN: We’re starting to get radio plays and premieres. It’s those little things that make the difference, so in order to do that there has to be progression. Then we’ll leave for overseas and never come back. 

A lot of bands have moved overseas. Australia has some of the worst tall-poppy syndrome.

DN: Everyone fucks off at some point. You don’t bite the hand that feeds you. Australia is the best. You get to make an hour flight for cheap and play a show in a sold out venue in front of people who know all the words. Why would you move away from all that, permanently? I think it’s going to be a thing of going over here for a while, then going over here for a while. Being wherever you need to be at the time. 

It’s always interesting hearing people’s takes on that, because so many bands think that they have to go? That their market isn’t here?

DN: I think people realise that there is a ceiling here. I guess once you reach Gang Of Youths level, you kind of turn around and go ‘what do we now?’ We did it, we have to go overseas. That can work out in a lot more terrible ways than it can in good ways. You can’t blame them for doing it, but I’d never complain about having to stay here. 

JH: You have to have a crack at overseas because that’s where the real money is.

DN: It’s also where your money goes, and stays. 

JH: There’s a big risk to going all in.That’s part of the fun I guess. It’s also awesome travelling with a band, it’s such an amazing thing to do. 

DN: Business trips. My first time I went to America, I ticked the box that says ‘what’s your purpose?’ Business

JH: I never expected to be in a band and travel overseas. You got to take that while you can.

You’ve had some iconic set lists over the years. Tell us about them?

JH: Last night I wrote the setlist on a roll of toilet paper. 

DN: We had a chip packet in Sydney. Someone caught it after the show and they framed it. 

JH: Yeah, I wrote the setlist on a pack of chicken chips. At the end I opened the packet and yelled ‘don’t forget to share’ and chucked it into the crowd. Every setlist I’ve written on some crap. 

DN: My favourite was the sugar packet in Perth.

JH: half a packet of sugar.

DN: It broke It was like ‘what’s the next song’ and [sound of whooshing] – there was fucking sugar everywhere. I reckon The Capitol has got an ant problem now. 

JH: He chucked it into the crowd and there was sugar everywhere. 

Catch Polish Club with bonus brass.

Saturday 7 July – Corner Hotel, Melbourne VIC
Saturday 14 July  – Factory Theatre, Sydney NSW