INTERVIEW: Polish Club

Polish Club have aways delivered high octane energy mixed with punchy hooks, a whole lot of heart, and a sense of ridiculous humour. But throughout their musical journey they’ve, like most artists, got a little lost in what they specifically want their vision to be as a band. And their third studio album ‘Now We’re Cookin’ (out now) is a return to confidently honing their sound and vision. 

This punchy and direct 10 track collection doesn’t shy away from delivering bold pop-rock moments that are all anthemic in their own right. Taking on the mantra of “trim the fat” they wanted to make this album consumption as punchy as possible, and they’ve successfully crafted exactly that. With the lyrics quite simply detailing the stories David Novak wanted to explore, the real mission went into making the production of each song as snappy and impactful as possible. Creating a sonic that was truly made to be experience live, this record is one you will need to experience on their upcoming national tour. 

I recently chatted to lead vocalist David Novak from Polish Club about the hilarious fast food imagery behind their new album ‘Now we’re Cookin’, the focus they had on creating punchy hooks, and explore the creative processes behind tracks like ‘New Age’, ‘Getaway’ and ‘I Didn’t Want That For You’. Check it out BELOW;

THOMAS BLEACH: For your new album ‘Now We’re Cookin’ your consensus was to “trim the fat” and focus on what made each song a banger by only having 10 tracks included. What song was the most challenging for you to get that “banger” seal of approval you needed from yourselves? How many different forms did that song take before you got to the final album version? 

DAVID NOVAK: The way we write from start to finish is that we don’t really like to agonise over a particular idea. We almost always settle on a general vibe for a song from the get go. I can’t think of a single song that we had to rewrite too much. We’d rather just move on and come up with completely new ideas. Hence the 90 or so ideas we played around with for this record. So while the process was long and challenging, once we found the 10 ideas we wanted to pursue, the hard part was over in terms of songwriting. It’s getting those ideas to sit together and make everyone happy as they are which is the challenging part. 

TB: ’New Age’ is a song that immediately stands out with it’s slinky guitar riff and smooth hook. Can you explain the creative process behind that track?

DN: Sometimes simple decisions in songwriting excite us the most and make us feel like we’re doing something really different and bold. The falsetto and simple 4/4 beat in ‘New Age’ felt like a real left turn for us, because they’re super simple classic pop things that we have never been able to faithfully pull off in a way that still feels like Polish Club. When you establish that your strength and comfort zone is belting our melodies as loud as possible and pounding drums in the same way, then figuring out a way to flip that and use restraint in a way that’s still got energy and maintains interest is super satisfying. It always comes from a place of asking ourselves “how do we do a Whitest Boy Alive or Daft Punk song that still sounds like Polish Club?” Those are the hardest challenges to set yourself. We know we can’t do a song that actually sounds like those bands. So when we try to, sometimes it comes out sounding like something completely new and fresh to us.

TB: Another track that stands out early on is ‘Getaway’ which has these really cool pulsating piano chords. Can you explain the lyrical story behind this song?

DN: ‘Getaway’ was another one where we finally got something over the line that we’ve been trying to do for ages. JH (John-Henry Pajak) always wanted to have a song with a constant piano chord progression pulsing throughout, but we never could get it to fit with what we were writing. I think the process this time, with its focus on melody and hooks, allowed us to worry less about stylistically fitting in things like that, as everything works with a strong melody. 

It’s a super simple song lyrically. I was always coming back to the sentiment of self-awareness and shielding others from your negativity. ‘Getaway’ speaks to that sense of I just need to take some time dealing with my own shit and be mindful to not let it impact others. I’m just trying to be healthy and not beat myself up for feeling down or dark, and owning that, so you can come through the other end and be a support for others rather than bring them down to whatever it is you have to deal with.

TB: ‘I Didn’t Want That For You’ gives me a bit of Powderfinger vibes. So what were you sonically referencing on that particular track?

DN: Nah, I reckon I sat down and told myself I was trying to write a Father John Misty song. Suffice to say, I didn’t, but that’s likely what I was going for. Open chords, honest lyrics, and self awareness. The thing I always struggle with is finding his particular balance of self-deprecation and bravado. I find that easy to do when it’s a loud, bombastic song, but it’s really hard to walk that fine line when the song is more delicate and more bare. I’m super satisfied with that song though, because JH told me he reckons they’re the best lyrics I’ve written.

TB: Looking back on the creative process and touring cycle behind your last album ‘Iguana’, what was the biggest thing you learnt about yourselves a band that impacted the vision of ‘Now We’re Cooking’?

DN: We had a lot of revelations after ‘Iguana’. Most of which we talked through and realised when we processed the whole period in our podcast Sophomore Slump. After talking about the struggles of that album cycle with guests like Ash Grunwald, we learned to view these moments less like huge statements that sum up the whole band and act as milestones, and more like just another spoke on the wheel, something that adds to a repertoire and lifts a whole catalogue. These releases don’t exist in a bubble, they don’t need to reinvent everything. I think we tried really hard to make a huge statement with ‘Iguana’ and it broke us. The album is great and I love listening back to it, but the process was a lot less dizzying and confusing this time around. We learned to just lean on a couple of things like hooks and melodies, and not worry about the rest. 

TB: The hilarious album artwork sees you being sandwiched inside a burger while a woman goes in for a bit bite. What was the concept and thought process behind this cover, because it’s SO fun!

DN: I have to give 100% credit to JH for everything visual in the band, including the aesthetic style and visual concepts for this album. He came up with the whole cooking and burger thing after I jokingly said “NOW WE’RE COOKIN’” in the studio while recording. It was as simple as that, but it started making all the sense in the world when you really start to lean into the whole product side of it. A tight album of ten pop rock songs made with a major label, intended to sell to the masses. Just like a big dirty fast food burger! And I say that in a positive way. 

All of our team just want to reach as many people as possible who can enjoy our music. I don’t make it for myself, I find great fulfilment in creating things that people from all walks of life can enjoy. That’s the whole point of music. A lot of people get caught up in the concept of mass appeal and success. I think a lot of that comes from people being afraid to say to themselves “I want this to succeed, I want a good reaction from people and things that are completely out of my hands.” I love that challenge.

TB: What other food options did you have for the album cover? 

DN: JH literally just came up one day and said “the cover is a burger, but we’re the meat patties.” He had a sketch of it and everything. That was it. I’m sure knowing JH, that he had a million other ideas on his computer but he was 100% when he let it be known, and we didn’t argue.

TB: The music video for the addictive lead single ‘Stop For A Minute’ is a bit of a 80’s homage with its filtered green screen aesthetic. Was the video shoot as straight forward as it seems or did anything weird or funny happen while on set? 

DN: It’s literally a shot for shot remake of Michael Jackson’s ‘Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough’, which I don’t think anyone got. With that in mind, it was a pretty straightforward shoot as we had a lot of reference to fall back on. The hardest part was making it look like I could dance like MJ, which, I fucken can’t. But I have rhythm and that’s gotta count for something. 

TB: You’re taking this album out on the road in September and October for some big headline dates. So what song are you most looking forward to playing live? And what one do you think will be the most challenging to bring to the live stage? 

DN: We always have to think in the back of our minds, which songs are we going to be able to do best live, and are there any that absolutely cannot work live? When we write, it’s very much with a view to play the songs in the flesh to people. And I think that was way way easier when we were just a live two piece. We’d have to write simple songs that can work with just us two. Fortunately now, I hope, we can just about afford to tour as a four piece. So that means, we can do more on record and for the most part, faithfully replicate it live. With Dan on bass and particularly Kirsty, who is able to pick up a sax, sing backing vocals, and do any keys, we have so much in our live arsenal. 

I think a song like ‘New Age’ will still be a big ask live as it’s all falsetto, and when you’re playing 3-4 shows a weeks, the first thing to go is my upper vocal range. So that one might not see too much live time. But the easiest and most fun ones are always the simple, loudest ones. So to that point ‘Whack’ will obviously be a fun time.

TB: You’re both known to not hold back and say whatever you want onstage. Like recently at your Brisbane show JH told the crowd that the band was nearly late on stage because you were taking a shit. So has there been a time you’ve said something onstage and walked off later and gone “we really shouldn’t have said that”? 

DN: Yes. But also no, because who cares. When we toured with Royal Blood, we were playing to more people than ever, and to people that weren’t necessarily fans of, or even familiar with Polish Club. So of course JH was cracking jokes left, right, and centre. In Melbourne, in front of thousands of people, JH proclaimed “We usually play a cover of a local band in each city we play in, but there’s no good bands in Melbourne, so here’s a Powderfinger cover.” Which cued thousands of boos. It was sick!

TB: Let’s play a quick game of rapid fire questions, you ready? 

DN: No. Just kidding, yes!

TB: The emoji that best describes our new album ‘Now We’re Cookin’ is…

DN: Burger and the Flame

TB: The strangest hobby or obsession I’ve picked up during lockdown has been…

DN: My stupid Twitch channel. I try my best to stream live videos of me playing dumb games like Euro Truck Sim 2 to a handful of mildly interested gamer fans. 

TB: The colour of my toothbrush currently is…

DN: Green and some gross black stains that I’m hoping are my girlfriend’s makeup.

TB: The weirdest heckle we’ve received during a show has been…

DN: No one’s that clever. It’s all just edgelord shit. Which is easily shut down by me retorting “Nah u take off your pants first. Show me YOUR dick!”

TB: Pineapple on pizza is…

DN: Fine.

‘Now We’re Cookin’ is out now!

Polish Club Australian Tour

Thursday 28 October – The Tivoli, Brisbane

Friday 29 October – Miami Marketta, Gold Coast

Thursday 4 November – Torquay Hotel, Torquay

Friday 5 November – Croxton, Melbourne

Thursday 11 November – The Gov, Adelaide

Friday 12 November – Badlands, Perth

Wednesday 24 November – Uow Unibar, Wollongong

Thursday 25 November – The Cambridge, Newcastle

Thursday 9 December – Roundhouse, Sydney