When bassist Jake Steinhauser and drummer Daniel Furnari of Polaris bonded in high school over a love of heavy music, they had no idea that they’d be playing a European metalcore festival with their bandmates some five short years later. Indeed, although Polaris are set to head overseas this year to play the Never Say Die! Tour with an array of metal heavyweights, including Deez Nuts and Chelsea Grin, they still haven’t really wrapped their heads around their career to date, and they are, as one might expect, more than a little nervous.
“We don’t really know what we’re expecting, but it’s something that we’ve been looking forward to for years now,” Steinhauser explains. “We’re anxious and wondering what it’ll be like living with other bands – but we’re equally excited to get to know them and make some friends with people we wouldn’t have otherwise. A few of those bands we respect quite a bit, so it’s exciting.”
Steinhauser is unusually well equipped to deal with the rigours that come with hitting the road, and he doesn’t shudder when phrases like ‘tour van’ and ‘six shows in seven days’ get mentioned – yet. “I think my mum and dad really tried to instil the love of travel in me. It doesn’t come naturally for everybody, but it does for a lot of people.
“From a young age, I saw music as a potential means for travelling to places that I wouldn’t be able to normally. Even though a tour like this will be about hopping between cities very quickly, it’s all very exciting being around so many places in a continent that I’ve spent very little time in. I guess it’s a shame that we won’t be able to do a bit of sightseeing – but travelling around with the band is its own special thing.”
Steinhauser isn’t alone on that front either – his bandmates feel exactly the same way. “I’m just really excited to hear everyone’s accents, and soak up as much culture as I possibly can. Ryan [Siew, guitar] was actually saying the other day, ‘I’m really interested to see what they’ve got on different Macca’s menus.’ So we’ll probably be eating out as much as we can on the time schedule we have,” Steinhauser laughs.
The Sydney quintet have slowly but steadily been kicking goals over the last few years, winning over fans with their DIY mindset – they independently released 2013’s Dichotomy EP, and have a no-nonsense attitude when it comes to the bullshit inherent in the music industry.
Having laid the foundation for their signature sound – one that combines brutal breakdowns, introspective lyrics and melodic undertones – the group really began to strike a balance last year with their second EP, The Guilt & The Grief, which was acclaimed by critics, and won them a shedload of new admirers.
Releasing the EP on vinyl in March also inspired the band to build up their own collections. Pulling the top records off his shelf at home, Steinhauser reflects on “listening endlessly” to Northlane’s Node and Foals’ fourth album, What Went Down, before pausing on one particular album.
“Rüfüs’ 2013 album Atlas was a huge one for me. I fucking love it. I’d spent a lot of time in Cronulla that year, and was stoked that these three dudes were coming out of there and writing this really chilled out, fun-drenched music.
“I actually never got into my parents’ musical taste.” Steinhauser laughs. “My mum was very much into things like Kasey Chambers, which never really struck a chord with me. I was more into punk music.”
Indeed, it was largely guitarist Rick Schneider’s influence as the band’s “predominant heavy music listener” that drove them to inject further aggression into their debut release The Mortal Coil. However, the time they spent gearing up to record was stressful for the band, and they deliberated whether or not to put Mortal Coil together overseas, before eventually choosing to instead fly out American producers Carson Slovak and Grant MacFarland to oversee the process.
The group also took a sizeable risk in creating a makeshift studio out of a holiday house in Mollymook. “We probably get ourselves into situations a bit haphazardly. Doing this was really stressful, because we didn’t know what was and wasn’t going to work. We were worried that we were going to get shut down because we were making too much noise and flying the guys over was also a huge stress.
“We were filming music videos for the last two days, and there were lots of little road bumps where we had to think on the fly. We didn’t anticipate them, probably because we didn’t have enough foresight in the beginning … We knew it was going to be expensive to go overseas and work with the guys, and it wasn’t going to be much cheaper to bring them over here to work with us in the studio. So we were really pulling straws when we thought about hiring a place, because we weren’t sure it was going to work. But we’re very lucky that it did.”
While being tucked away on the South Coast for three weeks allowed the group to focus on recording, the combined work and home environment also became a little stifling. “It did get a bit full-on and hard to relax in the evenings. We’d go for walks and stuff to try and get a breath of fresh air. It was a love-hate relationship with that house. It was a hard pack up, but once it was gone and we’d reset everything up in the rooms that we’d used to track, I was like, ‘Okay, I’m ready to go home’,” Steinhauser chuckles.
Not that you can sense any of that hesitancy on Mortal Coil. The record is astoundingly self-assured, with tracks like ‘The Remedy’ showing off the full force of the rising group’s impressive range.
“That song actually came about very last minute in the recording process, lyrics-wise. I remember Dan [Furnari, drummer] was writing the lyrics the night before, and it was something that he really wanted to write about, because I think there were a few things that we were apologetic to each other for. That was a song that we all connect back to, and it was another cathartic thing for Dan, putting all those thoughts to paper.
“During the writing and even after the recording process, we’d been dropping the ball with emails and getting things that had been scheduled done on time. I think that was something where we kept trying to tell ourselves, ‘Oh we’ll get better at that’. But then when things got a bit hard, we ended up lapsing again.”
A stabilising force for the group has been their ten-month strong relationship with Resist Records, one of the labels that they aspired to work with growing up. “Signing with a label, you almost think that everything’s going to change about your band from the ground up,” Steinhauser says. “But we’re the same five dudes, except we’ve just got another guy with his head screwed on – who’s been in the game for a while and knows what he’s doing – to give us advice.”