Dear Chester, I only realised a few days ago that it’s nearly been a year …
Since their debut EP (Dichtomy, which is actually pretty decent) dropped in 2013, Sydney ‘core crew Polaris have been on a steady—wait, scrap that, intensely fast—rise to the top of the heavy music hierarchy.
Their 2015 EP, The Guilt And The Grief, saw the quintet make a resounding breakthrough: no longer were they the first of ten bands on a regional PCYC bill. Polaris found a solid home in Resist Records and put their music out on vinyl. They cosied up to the legion of bands they once looked up to, and scored more than their fair share of lucrative support slots. And just last year, they made their own dent in the ever-growing Aussiecore landscape with their first full album, The Mortal Coil.
And that’s when shit really hit the fan. This year’s UNIFY Gathering saw them pack out the main amphitheatre in early afternoon of the first day—a feat no less than stunning when you consider how warped the festival’s entry process was—and after a run supporting scene gods Parkway Drive on their Horizons anniversary tour with a set that damn near outdid the Byron boys themselves, Polaris managed to sell out their own headlining theatre jaunt.
Of course, there’s no way the mosh-happy maniacs are gonna let this hype die out any time soon. The brilliantly named Dusk To Day tour is set to hit regional venues across Australia as of next week, rolling through Hobart, Geelong, Frankston, Mooroolbark, Canberra, Newcastle, Miranda, the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast with fellow Sydneysiders (and our pick for the next next big deathcore band) Justice For The Damned by their side.
Polaris are also headlining The Tivoli Young Henrys Stage at Dead Of Winter Festival this Saturday.
In the lead-up to the tour, we had Polaris frontman Jamie Hails run us through some of his all-time favourite albums. Honestly, we’re floored by his choices. Green Day? Slipknot? A recent Bring Me The Horizon LP? It’s banger central right here.
1. Green Day – American Idiot
So this one is objectively a jamfest—there are some big ol’ bangers on this beauty—but I think it’s a brave one to call a favourite album. Why does it hold such a high place in your heart?
I guess this is the album—and the band—that got me into alternative music and heavy music. I got into Green Day through my cousin in England—I went over there with my mum to visit relatives when I was around 12 or 13 years old, and at the time, I was into shit like Eminem and 50 Cent. You’d piss yourself laughing—I used to dress up in a full-on white tracksuit, like, windbreaker material on both the jacket and pants, and I had bright orange sneakers and these silver and gold chains that I’d wear around my neck. I thought I was the biggest OG, hey!
And yeah, I went to England, and my cousin Lorna was listening to Green Day when I went up into her bedroom, and I liked it. I was like, “Who the hell is this?” And she told me, “It’s Green Day, blah blah blah!” I think she showed me Bullet In A Bible—or she said it was coming out and showed me American Idiot, I can’t remember—and I was hooked straight away. American Idiot was the first proper song that I learned on a guitar as well, because when I got into Green Day and I saw Bullet In A Bible, I was like, “I want to do what he’s doing! He looks like he’s having the time of his life.”
So can we go ahead and jump the gun here, and say that Polaris is a direct product of Green Day and your cousin Lorna?
[Laughs] I’m pretty sure Dan wouldn’t argue with that.
What’s your vibe on the sequel, 21st Century Breakdown?
I dug a couple of tracks when it came out, but I was way more hooked in the deep end of a lot more heavy music, to the point where I was like, “I appreciate this and I like it, but I don’t want to listen to it because there’s all this other music that I want to listen to instead.” So I’ve gotta be honest, I still haven’t given the album a proper listen to.
2. Bullet For My Valentine – The Poison
I remember the first time I listened to this—I was on a plane with my ex-girlfriend and we listened to it together, and I was like, “Shit, I wanna start a mosh right the fuck now on this Jetstar 747.” Where were you the first time you wrapped your ears around The Poison?
I believe I was in high school on a couple of bench seats, and one of my friends showed it to me. I think I got shown Hand Of Blood first, and I didn’t really take much of it in because at the time, it was the heaviest music I’d ever heard and I was like, “Yeah, this is cool,” but I thought nothing of it.
At the time, I didn’t have the internet or anything like that, so I couldn’t just go home and search up the band. And then, I was playing… I think it was Need For Speed: Most Wanted, and it had Hand Of Blood on the soundtrack. It was actually a sick soundtrack altogether—it had Blinded In Chains by Avenged Sevenfold and it had a couple of Disturbed songs and Static X songs. And that’s when I actually remembered, “Oh, that reminds me of that song my friend showed me.” At that time, I had the internet at my dad’s house, so I went home, searched it up and started listening to The Poison, and again, I was hooked straight away.
I started playing the guitar not long after, like I was saying with Green Day, and so it was a bit of a transition from liking Green Day and liking punk and alternative music—y’know, Simple Plan and Good Charlotte, Sum 41 and all that—to being exposed to a whole different world of heavier music. The Poison was a big one for me growing up. Like, I’ve got a Bullet For My Valentine tattoo on my
arm—they were my favourite band for like a solid five to seven years!
As the years have gone on, they haven’t been as relevant in my tastes, but they’re still a band that I hold very close to me. It’s the same thing with The Devil Wears Prada: they’re my my all-time favourite band alongside Bullet For My Valentine. But yeah, when The Poison came out, it was just music that I’d never heard before, and it was kind of groundbreaking in that sense; it was heavy, it had the melody that you wanted, it had the awesome guitar solos… It was everything, man.
3. The Devil Wears Prada – Zombie
Speaking of The Devil Wears Prada, I feel pretty awkward coming up to this next one, which is their Zombie EP. I have a CD copy that I got through work, like, three years ago, but I’m such a lazy cunt, I’ve never actually listened to it. Why should I suss this one out?
Duuuuude! Just listen to it! I’ve followed The Devil Wears Prada since their very first album, which people probably don’t even know exists. When they released the Zombie EP… It’s only five songs, but at the time, it was some of the heaviest, most brutal and most unique music that I’d ever heard. I was like, “Wow, this is what metalcore is! This is hectic!” It’s also what opened me up to the idea of bands doing concept albums.
Obviously it’s not the most game-changing concept—it’s about a zombie apocalypse—but I thought that was cool as well. And y’know, they’re a bunch of Christian dudes singing about their beliefs and everything, but they’re doing it in such a brutal and heavy way. That’s one thing I’ve always loved about The Devil Wears Prada: they’re playing—as my mum puts it—the Devil’s music, and they’re singing about the complete opposite. Like… It’s brilliant! But yeah, this EP is amazing. Honestly, the best way I can describe it for you is, “Listen to it, and you’ll understand” [laughs].
I did like their Space EP! Having them two of them on your list, is it safe to assume we might one day see Polaris write a big, grandiose concept album?
Yeah, I think we’ve talked about it here and there, that it’s something that we might like to dabble in. But at the same time, over the years, a lot more bands have been doing them. It’s like, “Well, what do we want to talk about?” Because a lot of the things that we’ve talked about doing have already been done now. But I guess we’d still like to see if we could dabble in doing something like that—I think it could be fun. Let’s call it a maybe!
4. Slipknot – Iowa
It’s not my personal favourite Slipknot album, but as a critic, I have to acknowledge that Iowa is Slipknot’s best release, just because there’s so much raw fucking talent on show here.
I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, man. I’m probably going to backtrack a little bit again: going from a band like Green Day to some heavier bands like Bullet For My Valentine and The Devil Wears Prada, Slipknot were always popping up in the circles I was starting to hang around in. I never listened to their music, but I was very off-put by the masks and everything. I was like, “Oh God. Satanic music, Satan, the Devil—I’m not interested in that shit at all.”
But one day I was on YouTube, just going through all these metal playlists, and… I think it was Wait And Bleed, which I believe is on the release that came out before Iowa (ed: correct, it’s on Slipknot’s 1999 self-titled debut!)—that came on, and I was like, “Oh, okay, this is kind of cool…” I think the first song I heard off Iowa was People = Shit, and it was on a live video that I was watching on TV—it wasn’t Rock Am Ring, but one of those kinds of massive festivals overseas somewhere—they came on from their intro and went boom, straight into People = Shit, and I was like, “Woah! There’s nine dudes on this stage losing their absolute freaking minds, and this is some of the most aggressive, angriest, heaviest music I’ve ever heard,” and yet again, dude, I was hooked. Straight away, I was hooked. And to this day, I still blast this album continuously.
It’s just an incredible album—I mean, all of their albums are incredible, but this is the one that really got me into Slipknot. As I said with the past three bands that we’ve talked about, it opened up another gateway to a lot more heavy and aggressive music. And just while we’re talking about Slipknot as well, it honestly amazes me how big that band got, especially in the era that they came up in. Because, like, the heaviest bands that were around at that time were AC/DC, Metallica, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Guns N’ Roses—they were all heavy bands, but they were never to the point that Slipknot were.
I dare say that 70, 80 percent of Slipknot is screamed vocals, and it’s heavy—it’s not pleasing to the ear at all—and yet, they’re one of the biggest bands in the world. They never should’ve gotten that big, if you really think about it, and it’s amazing how they did. And Iowa was that album that got them to that stage, or at least helped them get to that stage.
Nothing about Slipknot should work, and yet, they’re selling out stadiums around the world!
It’s incredible. Being in a band myself, the thought of nine people onstage is an absolute nightmare. And seeing videos from over the years, like, it has been a nightmare for them—y’know, you see them like beating each other up onstage and destroying each other’s shit. It’s absolute chaos, but at the same time, the fact that Slipknot is such a unique band is what’s kept them such an important part of the heavy music scene.
I don’t want to draw comparisons or anything like that, but the first time I saw Polaris live—at Bubafest in 2013 when I still thought it was pronounced ‘polar-iss’—I looked at the way you performed and I was like, “Yep, Corey Taylor.” Do you see old mate as much of an influence?
A little bit! My biggest influences as a vocalist were—I will admit—Corey Taylor, Mike Hranica from The Devil Wears Prada, Oli Sykes from Bring Me The Horizon, and, rest in peach… Rest in peach? Jesus Christ! Rest in peace—Mitch Lucker from Suicide Silence, and Dave Stephens from We Came As Romans.
5. Bring Me The Horizon – That’s The Spirit
We’re ending on a bit of a curveball here: That’s The Spirit by deathcore-turned-teenie-boppers Bring Me The Horizon. It’s a divisive one! I love it a lot, but of course, this interview isn’t about me. Why do you froth this album so much?
The album is just amazing. All of the songs are incredible, but my favourite song would have to be Doomed—there’s just something about that song that I just froth big time. But the first song they released, Drown… I remember when I first heard that and saw that music video—I don’t remember who I said it to, but I called someone and said, “This band is going to be the heavy metal version of 30 Seconds To Mars, and they’re going to become a stadium band.” Next minute, they drop this fucking album, and that’s exactly what they are, and I was like, “Woah! I kind of called that!”
The album is incredible from start to finish, and the thing that I think I like about it the most is that, like… Let’s put it this way: my mum has obviously seen me go through all my different… Not phases, but all the different styles of music that I’ve liked and listened to over the years, she’s heard it blasted upstairs in my bedroom and she’s heard me screaming along every day and night to all the songs that I loved. She’s heard nearly every single one of Bring Me The Horizon’s songs, and I showed her Follow You—I was like, “Guess who this is,” and she was like, “I don’t know, who is it?” And I was like, “That’s Oli Sykes, this is Bring Me The Horizon,” and she was like, “Get the fuck out! Are you serious? He’s not screaming!” I was like, “Yeah! He sings! This is Bring Me The Horizon’s newest album,” and I told her that they’re practically like a stadium rock-ish alternative band now, and she dug it!
If you go through and listen to all of their albums in order, when you get to this album, it still has the heavy elements that you want, but either in a newer way or in a more modern rock-y kind of way. It still has that edge that Bring Me The Horizon have always had. But at the same time, if you listened to Count Your Blessings or Suicide Season and then went straight to That’s The Spirit, you’d be like, “I recognise that voice, but this is a completely different band!” And I think that’s what I love about it—it shows that Bring Me aren’t a band that has ever been scared to grow, or to push the boundaries and break the mold of what is expected from a band in the heavy music scene.
Do you think Polaris could ever pull a Bring Me and just do like a big, synth-y stadium rock album?
Phwoaaaaaaah… I don’t know! Maybe! I want to say yes—I want to be ambitious and say we could, but it’s out of my control how the music scene and how the other bands would react to our music if we ever went in that kind of direction, so… I want to say we could probably do that, and I feel like we could get to that stage where it’d be an option one day, but I’m trying not to have a big head about what we do with our music.
It’s not only Bring Me The Horizon that’s grown in such a way, either—look at Parkway Drive with their newest album! Listen to Horizons or Killing With A Smile and then listen to Reverence. It’s like, “Who the fuck is this band!?” That album has completely solidified to me that they are that stadium-worthy heavy rock band, just like Bring Me The Horizon have been, and even Slipknot—Slipknot are still doing heavy music, but they’re one of the biggest heavy music bands in the world, and they’ve got a stranglehold on the mainstream in a really interesting way.
I knew a concept record would be realistic, but I have to say, I’m surprised you didn’t draw the line at Polaris making a stadium rock album.
We love our rock! With our new album, The Mortal Coil, we’ve added a lot more rockier elements and vibes to our music. We do like the way that our music is going, while still holding the heavy, riff-y, kind of bouncy element as well. I guess we’ll just have to see what time tells and which musical directions we head in from here.
Hypothetically, you’re the Greek God of music, and you’ve got the power to make a supergroup out of members from all five of the bands we just vibed on. What is it called, and who plays what?
Well, it’s called Polaris [laughs]. Man, I don’t know! There’s too many options running through my head.
When I asked Alex from Drown This City, she had the idea to have all of the vocalists do a heavy acapella kind of thing. I feel like your list would be especially great for that concept.
That would be all kinds of fucked up, let’s just admit that right now [laughs].
And just to wrap it all up, your own band is heading off on this massive regional tour next month with Justice For The Damned. What are you most excited to get up to on that run?
I’m just really excited to be playing to a lot of fans that have potentially never seen us before. It’s not the biggest regional run, but we’re playing in some places that we’ve never been to before. We’ve never been to Tasmania and we’re playing in Hobart; we haven’t been back to Canberra or Newcastle for quite some time… We’ve only mainly played on tours in the main cities—Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth—so this tour is giving us a chance to actually get out there and go to a couple of… Not smaller cities, but some of the more suburban areas of Australia. We’re excited to play for some people that probably haven’t seen us before and hopefully make a hell of a lot of new fans!
We’re still kind of recovering from the Mortal Coil tour a little while back, to be honest! These are obviously going to be some very different shows, venue-wise, do you think the set itself will change much as well, or are you squeezing your theatre show into this setting as well?
That’s the idea—we want to take The Mortal Coil and just downscale it a little bit. Obviously, these venues and shows aren’t to the same scale that they were on the Mortal Coil tour, but we still want it to have that same vibe and atmosphere, while being a lot more of an up-close-and-personal show.
Polaris play Dead Of Winter Festival this Saturday with Frenzal Rhomb, Ocean Grove and many more epic bands, limited tickets still available here.
Polaris are touring Australia this July with Justice For The Damned. Catch them at the following dates:
Thursday July 12th – Brisbane Hotel, Hobart (18+)
Friday July 13th – Barwon Club, Geelong (18+)
Saturday July 14th – Pelly Bar, Frankston (18+)
Sunday July 15th – Mooroolbark Community Centre, Mooroolbark (AA)
Friday July 20th – The Basement, Canberra (18+)
Saturday July 21st – Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle (18+)
Sunday July 22nd – Carmens, Miranda (18+)
Friday July 27th – Solbar, Sunshine Coast (18+)
Saturday July 28th – Shark Bar, Gold Coast (18+)
Tickets on sale now via polarisaus.oztix.com.au