Music

Polish Club chats brute force, cutting the bullshit, and how to get cookin’

Polish Club

It’s rare to meet a rock band that’s not only self-aware of its artistic position, but also strives to cut out the excess.

It’s this ethos that’s embedded in Polish Club’s new studio album, Now We’re Cookin’. A precise, fully-formed project that ‘trims the fat’, and replaces it with instantly enjoyable Polish Club-essence.

In light of this stunning project, Happy got the chance to catch up with Polish Club’s vocalist and guitarist, David Novak, to chat about brute force, removing the bullshit, and how to get cookin’.

Polish Club

HAPPY: So, I guess I sort of want to ask, with your… I read the press release, and I pissed myself while I was reading it. I guess I have so many questions about Now We’re Cookin’. And I guess this idea of trying to create a whole album that’s centred around hits, and the idea that you’re trying to sort of bring everything together. Why?

DAVID: It is weird, like I was reading the press release before… I was like, ‘I suppose I’d better read this and see what I’m in for.’ And I don’t know if hits is like the right word. I think we just like focusing on, like, hooks, you know, and like really just being super simple about it, because I guess, you know, we’re signed to a major label, and we both want to obviously grow our audience and grow the band, whatever that might be. And I think, like, a common goal where we overlap is like writing songs that connect with people, and hopefully connect with more people than the last one. So, I mean, the first two that we released, I think suffice to say aren’t hits in terms of like fucking being smash hits that take over commercial radio. I didn’t think that was ever going to happen for a couple of dudes in a rock band.

And it’s not exactly, you know, hit-making material on paper, and like, let’s be real, it’s not exactly hit-making shit on record either. It’s just… what we mean, I guess, when we say that is our songs are written to have as broad an appeal as possible, while still sounding like it’s coming from us. And I think we’ve learned throughout the years that most things that we write together – me and John – will sound like us genuinely, because like it’s only coming from my voice, his beats, and a guitar usually. So it’s like really constrained. There’s a lot of constraints that we were under that kind of allow us to be confident that it’s going to sound like a Polish club song. So we’re less precious about that. And I guess that allowed us to be more confident in… just deciding to search for as many hooks as possible and just brute force them into, you know, songs.

HAPPY: Yeah, well, I guess it’s interesting that you know, that when you two work together, it’s going to sound like a Polish club song. But, can you maybe walk me through that process, especially when you’re trying to create an album that is centred around hooks?

DAVID: Well, I didn’t know… it’s weird. I don’t know if it’s weird, but I suppose it’s not the same way of writing that most other guitar-based bands would have, or just most other bands. Well, we both write together. We lock ourselves in a rehearsal room for three hours, and John will come up with like songs of inspiration. He has like a master playlist that I never see. Yeah, I’m almost paranoid about, like, listening to songs and being like, ‘We should write something like that!’ because I have this, like, weird tendency to become obsessed with, you know, what’s the inspiration, does it sound too much like it, and then like subconsciously I start like just rewriting the song that inspired it. So I like very much stay away from it. But then John mentioned that his playlist of like inspo was 400 songs long or something for this album.

So he just rocks up, scrolls through his phone, just starts playing a beat, and is like, ‘Why don’t we try writing a, you know… do some sort of songwriting idea from another song?’ that I’m never let in on the joke of what that song is. So it’s fun. It’s kind of this, like, unspoken cowriting situation that we’ve always done. It’s kind of like very minimal talk and just kind of like, ‘Oh, yeah, do that more, do this less,’ which I mean, you know, when I say it, it’s not that interesting, but I find I find it funny that John’s got 400 songs, that have kind of, you know, let us down to this path of whatever the fuck you want to call it. Ten hits that aren’t hits. And I’ll never know what they are. And they’re usually like R&B, pop, like it takes about 10 or 20 songs before he hits on, like a rock song that he wants to be inspired by. So I guess, you know, it comes from everywhere. And I can’t… I literally can’t tell you where.

HAPPY: So there’s definitely from what I gather, this is sort of an exquisite corpse of an album essentially.

DAVID: Yeah, we kind of threw a lot of shit at the wall and a lot of it didn’t stick. And, you know, when… we’re still like a very big fan of the idea of an album, even though it’s kind of in a way redundant right now. I mean, we want to… people have to release as many singles as possible before you release an album, and once you drop an album, it’s like does anyone ever really listen to the whole thing, or do they just take the singles or the couple of songs that they at first glance think they like, and put it away in a playlist? And those are the only ones they ever hear. So, I mean, a lot of bands are just are just feeding song song song song, and never getting to the album. But we still like it as like a process that forces us to kind of think on a grander scale of, like, what ties these songs together, and what’s like what’s the milestone that we’re trying to hit, or that kind of moment in time that encapsulates what we’re trying to do – not necessarily successfully do.

Polish Club

But um, I think this one very much was just like, ‘Fuck it, I’m just going to write, like, the best, most interesting songs that we could come up with that satisfy us, get across the line through management, through the label, and then hopefully use it.’ When we combine those three parties, it means that our fans like it, which is still TVC. But yeah, it was… it was very much just like, ‘Alright, we’re just going to try to, like, write as many catchy hooks and like, good three minutes songs on this as we can. That’s why there’s only 10 tracks, even before we decided on what it was going to be. We were like, ’10 songs.’ We don’t want… we don’t want to have fatigue by the end of it. We don’t want people skipping through once they get to like track 9 just to get to the end of it. So it’s very much like just trimming the fat, and just making a lean, mean, shitty rock machine.

HAPPY: I didn’t know that albums were becoming, you know, redundant, per say. Can you explain that?

DAVID: I just… well, it’s not… I just think they’re becoming a little bit redundant in that… we even saw it ourselves. So when you when you drop an album, it now feels, as opposed to being the start of like this cycle of new music, it feels like the end of it, because you’ve released like three or four songs, everyone’s listened to those ones, and then you drop them with six or seven extra songs. Like, ‘Here, listen to all of these and spend some time with it.’ But everyone now is writing to get like, play listed on Spotify, to get on an editorial playlist, to try to get people to take the single values that the label will put money behind, and add it to their own personal playlists. So the majority of your plays are coming from songs that have been pushed by someone – be it the artist on social media, the label with paid ads, be it the radio playing the song on rotation. So once the album comes out, it feels, at least from my perspective, that there’s like this body of work that just gets dumped on people, but doesn’t really get served to them in a way that’s like logical to listen to in 2021.

Because, I mean, even myself, I’m… I’m taking single songs that I like right now – even old ones – adding them to a massive playlist and just hitting shuffle at any time I leave the house. Like very rarely now am I sitting down and putting on an album from start to finish. And I think every aspect of the industry now is geared towards like putting money and attention and focus behind the one song. And I guess that kind of also, without us noticing, led us to trying to treat every song on this album like it was that one song that was getting pushed. And I… we’re going to try and like release as many as possible before the album comes out, I think that’s the plan. So yeah, it’s tough. I mean, like bands like… I don’t know if you’ve heard of Lime Cordiale. They dropped their album like last year or something, and I don’t know if that’s what this is, but someone told me 8 of the 14 songs that they had on the album were already priorly like… released prior to the album coming out as like a single track, or like as dual tracks. So it just goes to show like, you have to kind of drip feed them in order to give those tracks like their fair dues or whatever you want to call it.

HAPPY: Yeah. With Now We’re Cookin’, how does the album flow in that sentence? Because I feel like album flow is so critical to the listening experience.

Polish Club

DAVID: I think like, again, we… all of the songs, like when they were thought up and written, came from very different places. And maybe the only thing on paper is writing them in terms of, like our conscious songwriting, was that we were trying to just make them as like, single-y and as hooky as possible. But like I said before, like, you go away from that, and like when we spend, you know, the three or four months we spent before tracking it with the song and like filling in all the gaps and all the instrumentation or whatever… all the stuff we had after the fact, like on autopilot, ends up making it sound a lot more like us. And like by virtue of just having the, you know, my voice, the guitars that we usually use, John’s style of drumming, it usually makes it a lot more cohesive than we like to think, or even if we’re trying to pivot away from it being more cohesive. But I think also more than that this time, we did the whole album in one go at the Grove and the Central Coast, and we did it with Scott Horscroft who owns the studio. And he kind of took this like a unified approach over two weeks, where we did every song in that period, which we’ve never really done before, or at least the last time we did an album, we were like going back and forth, and like doing them in different sessions, sometimes with different people, or different mixes at least.

This time, it was like ‘We’re co-producing with Scott, he’s going to mix them all in one go.’ And that… the virtue of doing that in one like concise process, it all kind of sounds way more cohesive than I thought it would. And we weren’t… we weren’t necessarily even going for that. Like, I was kind of… I don’t know if we even articulated this at any point, but we cut all of the transitions as short as possible, while still making them listen, with the kind of broad idea of having it be like a little bit of a mixtape, and like have like jarring changes to songs that don’t necessarily have as much of a stylistic consistency as before. So I was kind of super into that idea of just like giving the listener a bit of a whiplash, like there’s the slowest of slam jams on track five I think, and that’s followed up the only song that’s like a real hard out rock song and whack, and it’s quite a jarring thing. I think when we got the mixes back and we got it mastered in the States by Dave Cooley, it all just kind of… even now, and I’m like, ‘Oh, it’s all still kind of like my voice, and it’s all still, for the most part, guitar, bass…’ So again, it’s the same old thing where I get a little bit frustrated with myself because I’m like, ‘We’re doing something like super different now, just wait!’ And then it’s like ‘Yeah, rock music, cool,’ which is fine. Like I mean, we like to play to our strengths. It’s nice to know we can do it without even thinking about.

HAPPY: Yeah. You’re very transparent I feel like, about the process behind it. I think a lot of artists are very secretive of the process that goes into making an album. Is that authenticity important to the band as a whole, or is that something that you just sort of like have gone with, and developed over time as an artist?

DAVID: I… I think we drive ourselves crazy if we tried to pretend it was something that’s not, or put it on some sort of weird pedestal like we’re this… some process that other artists aren’t, you know, able to achieve. Like it’s just spending money to rent the studio and record music, especially if you like a guitar bass band. It’s the same shit I assume it always was, you know, except now the computers are a bit faster, I don’t know. I don’t find it romantic to like, force this sense of grandeur. And a lot of it is really shit, you know, before you get to the studio. You have to… we brought, like, I don’t know, almost 100 ideas to the label and to management. And, you know, most of them get turned down. So it’s… it is now more than ever, it feels like a compromise as well, because as I said before, we’re all trying to, like, grow this thing, and we’re all trying to find, like, the best version of this pop rock band that we’re trying to be – whether we’re succeeding, I don’t know. So it’s super satisfying when stuff comes out, and you’re like, ‘That’s exactly what we were going for!’

Polish Club

But like, there’s a lot of lead up that’s like really shit and unromantic and not at all sexy, and to pretend that it’s like, ‘Yeah, we slaved away on like lyrics, you know…’ Like we’re not fucking… we’re not changing the world. I don’t think any rock band is changing the world. I don’t know that any rock band really ever did change the world. So, like, it’s… it’s… it’s fun music. It’s really simple. We didn’t necessarily do it in the coolest way, or like the most DIY rough-and-ready, or in the world… like somewhere in between, right. Because like, we have funding from a major label, which is like, probably better than like 99 per cent of other bands in Australia, and we are never going to underestimate that and underappreciate that. But also like, we’re not, you know, Dean Lewis or fucking, I don’t know, Tame Impala. There are a lot of constraints beyond creative constraints. So it’s… it’s great that we were able to do it. It’s super satisfying that it was done. And I think the achievement of just getting it over the line, and being happy with 10 songs, and have everyone be happy with 10 songs – myself and John included – is like enough of a worthwhile thing to talk about, even though it’s not really at all interesting at all. But it’s like, it’s not worth lying about. It’s like, ‘Fuck, that!’ So, like, I’m happy that we got it done, and I feel good. I hope other people out there – it doesn’t have to be heaps. I just hope, like, a solid amount of sane people think it’s decent as well, and that’ll be enough of the story for me.

HAPPY: Well, very succinctly put.

DAVID: Thank you.

HAPPY: You mentioned the fact that you’ve really cut everything down… cut out all the horseshit, even from what you’ve told me before, there’s no horseshit in this album. I think that’s also very good in regard to digital appeal. With streaming services, you know, where you need things shorter. Is that something you were thinking of at the time as well?

DAVID: In the back of my mind, probably, but like, that changes so much. And I think, we try to… we try to boil it down to the things we can control, which is like the power of melody. And like, we think that that is something that will always connect. That’s something that’s like, almost always needed in a song that is listened to by many people, and liked by many people. It’s usually like, there’s an undeniable melody, so everything needs to back that up. And when I say we cut out all the horseshit, we had a lot of other bullshit, like multiple guitars and, you know, fake orchestras and whatnot. Like there’s a lot of stuff underneath the, like, bare bones of the songs in most of them. And I think everything we added was… the simplicity comes in adding a lot of stuff, probably more than ever on the track.

But to support a really simple idea, which is just making the melody shine, or making it more memorable and just letting it do its thing. And I think, yeah, it’s important. So, like, it’s still as important to get to the hook in like 30 seconds if you can, like, just have it be as undeniable as possible. And if that means it needs to like, shine in a 15 second Instagram story, and you can just snip a little bit there, then fuck it, I’m alright with that. We didn’t like… we didn’t do that purposefully, but I’d be lying if I said we weren’t aware that that’s how things usually tend to work, or you’re better off by, like, you know, at least, knowing the case because then you’re like, ‘Fuck it, get to the hook!’ Just get to something that someone can sing, because ultimately, once you release the song, it’s not for me, it’s for someone else who enjoys humming along to it, so if I can get that person to… if I can make it as easy as possible for them to hum five seconds of it, and have that stuck in their head to the point where it’s annoying, then that’s great.

Polish Club

HAPPY: You’ve actually answered all of my questions brilliantly. Thank you so much. I did just have one more, in this case. I guess, like, what’s one song where you’re like, ”Yes! Yes! This is it.’

DAVID: One song from the album?

HAPPY: One song from the album.

DAVID: Fuck, I can’t even choose from the singles, like we work back and forth. So there’s like there’s… there’s one song I’m not going to say that this is like, the best song, or even like the most interesting. But there’s one song that we wrote that we’re like, ‘This sounds like a lot like a Polish Club song. It sounds like we’ve kind of made an amalgamation of everything that we think we do… not well, but everything we think connects in different songs.’ We kind of shove them all together in one song by accident, but once we kind of had a rough idea of the song we’re like, ‘Oh, fuck, that’s like a really Polish Club song, and it’s Baby, We’re Burning… It’s the penultimate track.

HAPPY: Oh!

DAVID: And it’s got like, everything that… if I was trying to describe like real basically what we sound like, it’s got everything there, like really kind of vague and saccharine lyrics, me screaming at the top of my lungs, and the chorus… just like really, like distorted guitars, and like John doing a lot of hard snare-hits and a lot of hard high-hat work. It’s just like everything about… it’s just like everything about it… whether or not that’s a good thing, I don’t know. So I’m really excited to see if literally anyone gives a shit about that song when it comes out, because I wouldn’t be surprised either way, which probably means some people will think it’s sick. It’s usually a happy medium, which is great. Yeah, we survive on happy mediums. That’s good. So that’s the one. That’s the song.

HAPPY: It’s a song.

DAVID: It’s undeniably a song, you know. So that’s good. Tick that one-off.

HAPPY: Yeah, I guess, is there anything you want to comment on, or anything that I haven’t asked that you think it important?

DAVID: Oh yeah. I’m just really happy we got it over the line. And as far as I can tell, everyone’s happy. And none of any of the stuff I said about it being difficult and being shit is to say that it was a bad process. It’s just that is the process – at least for us now. Like it’s still… if it wasn’t worth doing, we wouldn’t do it. Yeah, I’m just I’m very, very satisfied with what came out of it, especially considering, like, the context of, you know, everything…

Polish Club

HAPPY: COVID?

DAVID: And music in general right now. I mean, I’m just… I’m just happy that we were able to make something we were happy with, and hope people are happy with it, too.

HAPPY: Yeah, fuck me up! Thank you so much.

DAVID: Thank you. I really appreciate it.

HAPPY: Yeah, it’s been lovely. Make good choices. Have a good day. Be safe.

DAVID: You too. Stay safe! Take care.

 

Interview By Mike Hitch

 

Photos By Charlie Hardy