Jamie Hails, the frontman of soon-to-be-world-class Sydney band, Polaris, talks touring with Parkway Drive in 2018, the recording and release of their debut album ‘The Mortal Coil’, their recent sold-out shows as well as the insane amount of hype around his band right now. Have a read:
So, Jamie, you’re in between dates right now for your Australian tour with Belle Haven and friends, and you’ve got Sydney tomorrow night. That’s gonna be wild!
Yep! Sydney sold out and the fact that it sold out completely blew me away. I’m really really looking forward to it. Hometown shows are always amazing for us and playing the Oxford and with it being sold out is nuts. It’s gonna be our biggest headline show we’ve ever played. It’s incredible, just the response so far has been unbelievable. The only expectation that I really wanted for this was to do a little bit better than our last headline tour that we did a year and a half ago and I’ll tell you what, the response to this one has blown that tour way out of the water! The Adelaide and Melbourne shows were absolutely crazy, so hopefully, that’s an indication of what’s to come tomorrow night. It’s gonna be a wild one I’ll tell you that. I hope there are very minimal injured bodies [laughs].
That’s great to hear. For those sold out dates I got Ash’s and Josh’s emails about the shows selling and whenever I did, I thought “Oh man, that tour is gonna be big”. And hey, if you want to talk about tours that will be fucking big, that Parkway Drive 2018 tour is gonna be mental!
Oh yeah! Tell you what Alex, ever since I was a kid, ever since I first listened to Parkway Drive and first got into heavy music, I’ve been waiting for the day that they would announce this anniversary tour just so I could buy ticket. I would be on that shit ASAP man. But the fact that we are actually a part of that tour? I can’t even explain how that feels. When we got that email with the offer for it, it was like “What the fuck? Are you serious?”. I had to pinch myself this can’t be happening there is no way we gonna be touring with Parkway Drive for ‘Horizons’ anniversary tour. It’s literally a dream come true crazy
That Parkway tour has nearly half of the shows sold out already, but I imagine that every night will be an absolute time and a half. In talking about ‘Horizons’ though and what you said about wanting to go to a ‘Horizons’ album show, would you say that that’s your favourite Parkway record or at least one of the favourites?
I think for the whole band, that is hands down our favourite Parkway Drive record to be quite honest. Our band probably wouldn’t even be here right now if it wasn’t for that record. If it weren’t, we’d probably be a completely different type of heavy musical sound. That record completely changed the metal and heavy metal game when that dropped, not only here in Australia but worldwide. So obviously yes! I and the guys are incredibly stoked to be a part of it and incredibly excited to be playing those shows.
Well, with your sound, I find Polaris to be a bit of Northlane, a bit of later Underoath, a bit of Architects and a whole bunch of a lot of the Sumerian metalcore crowd over. Would you agree with that or maybe there are more subtle things that I missed
Oh no, I would one-hundred percent agree with you with there! I first started listening to Green Day and Blink-182 but then Bullet For My Valentine, The Devil Wears Prada and Parkway Drive lead me into the heavier aspects and that’s how I discovered things like breakdowns and all that. That’s also what I mean with ‘Horizons’, it opened up that door for me personally. But yes, I one hundred percent agree with you there with our sound. We all listen to so many different styles of music. Like Rick [Schneider, guitar] and I kind of like the more heavy listeners I guess you could say – I personally like a lot of black metal and deathcore and the like that. A couple of the other boys listen to post-hardcore and metalcore and some more… gentler bands, we all enjoy our electronic music too. We kind of just gel everything together to get what we want out of the songs, but still keeping it this Polaris sound that we are trying to hone in on.
When I talk about that kind of sound and style, all of that more comes from the new album. Because Jamie, dude, this album is such a step up from ‘The Guilt & The Greif’ and I was one of those rare people who didn’t like that EP as much as the rest of the world did. But this album is just a step up in every department; the riffs are better, the breakdowns are better, the vocal interplay between you and Jake [Steinhauser, bass/cleans] is stronger, and the songwriting, in general, is better everything is way more impactful the lyrics hit harder too.
Honestly, thank you so much, dude. It means a lot to me to hear you say those words, thank you. Living up to ‘The Guilt & The Grief’, we were pretty vulnerable and we were still a pretty young band. We didn’t really think that many people out there cared about what we were doing, so we were so nervous. Trying to please the fans we did have, were they going to like this new direction that we were taking because it was different to what the first EP was? And you know, as soon as we dropped the EP it just blew any expectation out of the water. We even charted in the ARIA’s! Every tour that we got since is the response to everything we’ve been doing and it’s been a bit bigger and a bit better every time. So having that leading up to recording this album, there was a lot of pressure on us. We needed to step it up. With ‘The Guilt & The Grief’ we had a standard so we needed to uphold that and go above and beyond.
I think you guys did that, I really do. One thing I do really like about ‘The Mortal Coil’ is that the record sonically and conceptually is summed up with the last track, ‘Sonder’. Something that I personally enjoy about it is that a lot of the lyrics on this record are universal, but not in a sweeping generalised way if that makes sense. Songs like ‘The Slow Decay’, ‘Consume’, and ‘The Remedy’, and ‘In Somnus Veritas’ show stronger lyric writing. Is there anything that really spurned that for you guys – was it through having toured more, grown up since the last EP? Where there any other factors that resulted in those lyrics?
I guess you could say it came from a bit of both, from touring and being on the road to also with our personal, experiences. Daniel [Furnari, drums] he’s the lyricist and we all let Daniel have his own ideas about what he wants to convey in a song. Jake and I always changing little bits here and there to make sure that we connect with what he’s saying as well because it can all relate to a lot of our personal experiences that’s happened throughout our lives. Lyrics come from a very dark place, dealing with self-assessment, self-awareness, depression and mental illness. Conveying these feelings and such into the songs can get very stale because it has been done and dusted one billion times over the years by many, many bands that out there. So Daniel likes to try and convey them in a way that is fresh and is appealing as well without being too out there so people don’t actually understand what we’re trying to say.
Rad. I also think you should tell drummer boy that this line in ‘The Slow Decay’ is amazing: “we’re only killing time until time kills us”.
[Laughs] Yeah, that lyric is dead on the money! Daniel came up with the lyrics to that like two nights before we recorded it and I was just reading that over. I was like “First up, yes. Secondly, where is that in the song” and he said just before the breakdown and I said, “Fuck yeah, that’s perfect!”
It works so well within the context of the song! When I was listening to the record earlier today, that line just jumped out at me; it’s the kind of sick lyric that you put on the back of the shirt or something.
Oh, dude, I’ve already got that idea in the works when we release the album [laughs].
One thing I did want to ask about was you guys working with Carson and Grant and renting out this beachside Sydney home. I imagine that would’ve been a bit costly for you; to fly those two guys out here and then obviously hire this place in Sydney on the beach no less?
Yes very, very costly. But it was worth it! When we first started working with them [Carson and Grant] it was for ‘Unfamiliar’ – they mix and mastered that single and then they mix the mastered the EP. We wanted this to be better in every way and that’s we wanted to record with them as well as mixing and mastering it. We originally did want to go over to their studio in the States but it just wasn’t really gonna work, and of course, it’s extremely expensive going over to the States. They seemed really keen on the idea of us flying them out here and they were down for it. So then we started looking into housing, like are we going to rent out a studio here and then we couldn’t really find the right studio that we wanted. I think it was either Jake or Daniel, but one of them suggested that why don’t we try and find like a really big house that we could turn into a studio that’s not going to annoy neighbours nearby. We found a house that was out of the way down the south coast of Sydney, just this really big, really old school sort of house that we turned the downstairs area of into a guitar studio and we used the master bedroom upstairs and walking wardrobe as a vocal booth. We shoved a shit tonne of mattress quilts and pillows in there to deaden it and it turned out perfectly. Carson and Grant flew over their gear as it was very different for them to be recording an album in this kind of studio, but it has this really fresh, really positive experience about it. Going back to the main part of your question, yes, it was very costly. But in terms of what we wanted to do in the first place – going to America – we saved a lot of money by doing it here.
Whatever you can save when doing an album these days is often the best option, mate. It’s also funny that you point out doing the walk-in wardrobe as a vocal booth because that’s one of the best shots that Sabian [Lynch, Alpha Wolf] got in that album studio diary. That was another question I had with that: was that the weirdest or maybe even the coolest vocal booth that you recorded in? Because that shit looked so cosy!
Definitely. We’ve recorded vocals in some pretty weird places. We did some recordings at Jake’s old houses that was literally just a cupboard under the stairs with a tiny little light and I had no room at all. Usually these days we do preproduction in a spare room that he has at his house that we turn into a headquarters just record out in the lounge room. But yes, that was a first when we started building the studio spaces. We wondered whether it was gonna work acoustically – was it going to be too dead or not dead enough. As soon as Grant and Carson came in and checked it out, they thought it was perfect. Also, the backyard of this place was the edge of a cliff with the ocean below. I’d get very hot and sweaty doing all the vocals takes and whenever I got stressed out trying to get just the right take, I’d walk outside, being all frustrated and then boom – I got this massive beautiful ocean view. It worked out so well in helping us clear our head.s
That’s awesome! That’s with this setup: if you go overseas, you’re probably staying at the actual studio or somewhere near nearby, you’re pulling really weird hours whereas, in a situation like this, you can choose your own hours and have those mental breaks.
Exactly. We used to go for walks to write lyrics and stuff, just to clear my head when I was a little bit stressed. Even just like waking up in the morning, I’d go into the kitchen have a coffee and like a bowl of cereal and I’d go sit out the back and look at the ocean near this cliff edge and just waking up like that every morning made for such a relaxed state. We had just enough flexibility for this, like we’d all be sitting around after dinner and one of the boys will be playing the guitar and suddenly think, “how about we do it like this instead of this” and I’d go quickly dial it in straightaway instead of having to wait till the next day if we were in a normal studio set up.
See, this just makes me wonder why’d you even want to go to a “proper” studio environment to record your album when this sounds like the perfect setting? Anyway, one final thing I wanted to ask was about the hype surrounding Polaris right now. And not just Internet hype, but the real tangible hype you guys are building – triple j supports, selling out headline shows and so on. How does that make you feel? Does all of that only add to the pressure of the album’s success and actual release does that do create a self-imposed weight upon yourself of “Oh shit we need to make sure we deliver because there’s a lot of people paying attention now”?
Oh, of course. We are all perfectionists we always like to give it our all 110% with our live performances and of course, the fact that we’ve had so many sold out shows come up to this tour adds to the pressure. But it gives us that little extra bit of nudge to really give this our 110%. Because people actually do care, especially with the way that the music scene is these days; fans are so dedicated but at the same time, you have a lot of people out there that are very judgement that if you do have that one little bung note, that could be a detriment to your band straight away. Like I said, we are all perfectionists, no matter what the show – I wouldn’t really care if I were performing in front of 10 people or 100 people or 10,000 people, I still give it my 110% and so do all the other guys in the band. You could say that we do feel a lot of pressure, as we’re right on the brink of releasing our debut album and the response of us announcing it now has so many people out there waiting for us to drop it on November 3rd. But we’re ready to get out there and step up.
‘The Mortal Coil’ drops this Friday, November 3rd via Resist Records. Read our recent review of this solid new record here.