Prior to this interview being set up, Polar Bear Club was unknown to me, but when I saw they were coming through town with a favorite of mine, American Steel, and The Gaslight Anthem I asked if I could write something on the show. Shortly thereafter an interview was set up and I marked the date on my calendar. What follows is a short interview conducted in Polar Bear Club’s van with lead singer Jimmy Stadt following an amazing opening set by the band. They really worked the crowd at Bernie’s that night, and it was one of the more crowded shows I’ve been to at the club in recent memory, a true testament to the band’s appeal. For the record, the crowd was nowhere near as densely packed or rowdy for the headlining acts, even if they did receive higher billing.
RacketLuke: Racket is sort of known for not asking typical interview questions, and my editor wouldn’t want me to ask too many, but I have one because I honestly hadn’t heard about you guys until I found out I was going to be interviewing you. So I looked you up a few weeks back, and I wouldn’t say this if I didn’t mean it, I really liked what I heard.
PBC Jimmy: Thank you.
RL: It reminded me of Hot Water Music and a little bit of Piebald.
PBC: Yeah, we’ve gotten Piebald before. We hear HWM a lot. People say that a lot, which is awesome to us. And we’ve gotten Piebald maybe once or twice, so that’s interesting you heard that in there too.
RL: Moving on
RL: You guys are from Rochester/Syracuse right?
PBC: Yeah, that’s correct.
RL: Someone at the show said Buffalo and I didn’t think that was right.
PBC: We’re close to Buffalo. Three of us are from Rochester, and two of us are from Syracuse.
RL: Okay, you’re from up north and you are called Polar Bear Club. Polar Bear Clubs are those old dudes who jump in the cold water up there.
PBC: Yes they are. It’s not always old dudes. Um, it’s a club of people who like to jump in cold water, but we actually got our name from… there’s a song from a band called Silent Majority from the ‘90s. They were from Long Island and they were a kinda punky, hardcore band, but really emotional. They were a really important band that went under the radar in terms of the bigger picture and they had a song called Polar Bear Club.
RL: So it’s kind of a tribute to them.
PBC: Yeah, but we actually got approached by the ACTUAL Polar Bear Club when we played in Long Island and they asked us to come jump in the water with them the next day but we didn’t go ‘cause our van broke down. We were setting up our stuff on this stage in Long Island and this old man walks on the stage and he says “I’m from the Polar Bear Club, you guys are a bunch of pussies.”
He was kidding you know, but he said “you could prove your manhood by coming down to Coney Island tomorrow and jumping in the water.” And we were like “oh yeah, we’re going!” but the next day we ran over a railroad crossing with the van and trailer. We went over too fast and it ripped the trailer off of the van so we couldn’t go anywhere.
RL: What time of year was this, was it the heart of winter?
PBC: It was LATE winter; winter was just kind of ending so it was gonna be cold. Some of us didn’t want to do it, but as a group we decided we would. We were all going to go and get a picture and everything.
RL: I’ve watched some videos on those guys and they’re stereotypically older, not all of them are, but a lot of them and they talk about how it restores your vitality and stuff, but I have to wonder jumping into water that cold, maybe it has some adverse effects as well.
PBC: Maybe on the brain, I don’t know. Well, the Coney Island Polar Bear Club is huge, it’s hundreds of people ranging from young to old. People come and go, but it’s just crazy. Kids at the show were like “yeah, we’re going tomorrow, we go every year!”
[Emperor’s note – the cold sucks. ]
– Luke Toney