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Polaris: Life after The Death Of Me

After a wild few years of endless growth both at home and across the pond, it was inevitable that Polaris would end up being dealt the short straw at some point.

Things were looking more optimistic than ever when the Sydney outfit dropped their convulsive second album, The Death Of Me – they’d just come off a whirlwind tour of the States, cracked the Top 3 on the ARIA Charts, and had a full year of stage-hopping ahead (including a fully sold-out run on local soil). But that was in February of 2020, and we all know what happened next.

Polaris were the biggest new metalcore band in Australia, and all of a sudden, their rollercoaster-esque rise to stardom had ground to a screeching halt. 

But then again, if there’s any band that could weave around a global pandemic to keep the flame around them burning bright, it’s Polaris. A year and a half on from their show-stopping album drop, and the quintet haven’t even considered mitigating their explosive momentum. Not only do they have two Australian tours to knock out within the next six months (one a regional stint down the roads less travelled, and the other a towering theatre run in capital cities), but they’re also set to lead the fray at December’s inaugural Knight & Day festival, co-headlining with none other than Parkway Drive.

We caught up with guitarist Rick Schneider to see how Polaris feel to be on the same level as the band they once cited as idols, what to look forward to from their medieval soiree at Knight & Day, and what the latest is on their elusive third album (which, spoiler alert, we might be getting our hands on sooner than expected).

The mere thought of seeing you guys headline a festival inside a fucking castle… Dude, I am so pumped! What’s your vibe on Knight & Day?
I mean for one, I don’t usually get to see someone as sick as Parkway Drive on New Years Eve. Two, I don’t usually get to headline a festival at any point in the year. And three, I don’t usually get to play inside a castle, of all places. So all those things put together – not to mention all the other bands on, and not to mention finally getting to leave my state and see some old mates – it’s like… Man, it’s gonna be mental! I am very excited.

I remember when you guys opened for Parkway on a theatre run a few years ago and it was like, “Oh shit, this is such a massive opportunity for Polaris, I hope they don’t blow it!” And not only did you guys not blow it, but you’re now headlining a festival together. Does it feel surreal for you guys?
It honestly is. I mean, all of the thanks goes to them, whether it’s been through inspiration or what they’ve actually done for us. Like you said, that theatre tour three or four years ago – probably closer to four years ago, but y’know, the last year and a half has just been deleted from history – they put us on that run of shows and took us around the country, and then they took us to the States… They’ve just always been so accommodating and so helpful with us, in every single way that we possibly could imagine. And now suddenly we’re co-headlining a festival with them! To almost be acknowledged at the same level as them, it’s really mental. You can’t even rationalise it in your brain because it’s just like, “Well, I guess that’s what the people want? Thank you?”

Is there a bit of a mentor-mentee kind of vibe going on?
I mean, we don’t really hit them up too often, and it’s not like they’re keeping tabs on us or we’re keeping tabs on them. But any time we’ve ever asked them a question, whether it’s been on tour or via message – I’ve had a phone call with Luke once or twice – all of those guys are really accommodating. And it’s one of those refreshing things to see, because you can go on tour with bands where, y’know, you totally acknowledge that the headliner has better things to do than to sit in the venue all day and talk to the younger band. But those guys, even though they’ll be running from one place to the next all day, if you caught them in a hallway and said a couple of words to them, they’d never give you a cold shoulder. They’ve always given us a really warm welcome and been nice, genuine people. Any questions we’ve ever had for them, they’ve just been super down-to-earth, friendly guys about them – which is all you can really hope for. 

Which member of Polaris is most likely to get in the giant maze at Knight & Day?
I think we’re all at liberty to get a bit lost, at this point. It’s been a while since we’ve all been out of our houses, let alone inside a castle. I’m a bit worried about what it’s going to make of us – I think it depends who gets onto the rider first. It could be a bit of a downward slope, y’know? Maybe I’ll start off doing pretty well and then I’ll be two or three beers down and wind up in some dungeon. I that that’ll be a cautionary tale for all of us, I’m gonna have to keep an eye on that.

I hope they use parts of the castle for the green rooms. Nothing says “backstage at a rock festival” like an actual torture dungeon, right?
Yeah, I really hope we get one of those cool green rooms, whether it’s in a dungeon or the royal hall or something – I don’t know, I don’t assume it’s going to be that glamorous. But I guess we’ll see what we get! It’s gonna be cool either way – I mean, it’s in a castle [laughs].

If you get a torture dungeon and another band gets the grand ballroom, what does that say about where you fit in the metalcore hierarchy? 
I mean, it really depends on what’s in the torture dungeon or the ballroom, right? You could be in the ballroom with a 12-pack of Cokes and a six-pack of beer, or you could be in a dungeon with six slabs and unlimited food. It’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it? We’ll see what happens. If we get our hummus and chips, I’ll be happy wherever I am!

“I mean, we’re not we’re not about to release a single tomorrow and an album the next day, but we’ve definitely got it in the works.”

So in addition to Knight & Day, you’ve got a bunch of your own shows coming up – some that you’ve had in the pipeline for way too long. Do you almost feel that because of how many times these shows have been knocked back, and how long everyone’s had to wait, these could end up being the biggest or most insane shows you’ve ever played?
We’ve got the regional shows in Victoria still planned for November, and that’s something I’m crossing my fingers for every day. But it’s also something I take with a grain of salt. As far as the summer run goes, though, I’m so excited for that. Because we got to play our album tour, but that was during the week of release, so people were still getting their heads around the songs and still choosing what their favourites were. So to get to this spring tour, which is now the summer tour in February next year, it’ll be the first kind of “true test” of the album. And that’s always the most fun – you’re in the swing of it, you’ve played the songs before, you get to play one or two songs that you didn’t play before, everyone is finally just all amongst it and into it, and you get to make a really special night out of that. So I’m so excited for that. 

We were supposed to get all the regional dates on the ‘Vagabond’ tour out of the way to get us warmed up [for the summer tour], and we got to a total of six out of 13 – so we almost got over halfway with those! But hopefully we’ll still get to the rest of those, get the people who bought tickets the show they deserve. Y’know, we’re just taking every day as it comes and hoping that the next show happens. But I’m very optimistic with Knight & Day. I just got my second dose of vaccine yesterday, so I feel good about that! I’ve just gotta cross my fingers and hope that everyone’s doing the right thing and that we all get to go and have a good time!

What have you guys been up to in the past year? I know you’re still in the Death Of Me cycle, but with the time you’ve had in this unplanned hiatus from touring, have you been working on any new tunes?
Yeah, we’ve been spending pretty much all of our time writing. We’ve been fortunate in a sense, because in the past, every time we’ve gone to write it’s been that looming thing of, “Oh, time’s running out, we’ve got to get this album done.” But not being able to play [The Death Of Me] much at all, it’s actually given us some time where we’ve been able to go, “Okay, we have some time off that we can’t do anything with, so let’s spend that time writing.” We still have an album with a bit of life in it – we want to be able to play Europe and America with this album, if we can help it – but we’ve been able to spend our time off working towards the next album. It’s not like as soon as a tour ends, or as soon as the deadline hits, we’ve got to gun it out. For the first time ever, it feels like we have a little bit of leniency as to when [the album is] going to happen, or when it’s going to get recorded. It’s a bit liberating in that way! 

Can we get a status update on LP3?
I would say we’ve been working relatively hard. A couple of us have been getting together over some online sessions, which is a bit different for us – usually we’d write in person – but it’s coming together slowly, and hopefully next year is the year. I mean, with the amount of tours that we’ve got penciled in for next year, hopefully we can get it all nice and buttoned off this year so we’re comfortable with it. And then next year could just be about locking in the time to record it. I mean, we’re not we’re not about to release a single tomorrow and an album the next day, but we’ve definitely got it in the works. And yeah, hopefully it all goes smoothly with the rest of the process.

What does the new stuff sound like?
We never want to stir the pot too much, but at the same time, we never want to retread any ground. So we’re kind of walking this fine line where it’s like, we all like metalcore, but metalcore is such a broad genre at this point that you can kind of get away with anything. But at the same time, we don’t want to do an album where it’s nine of the same song – we don’t want to do nine songs that sound like ‘The Remedy’ or nine songs that sound like ‘Vagabond’ – we don’t even want to do two songs that sound the same, in most cases. So it’s kind of a tough one – we want to we want to push ourselves, but we don’t want to rock the boat too much or make people disillusioned. But at the end of the day, the biggest thing is that we just write stuff that we enjoy, and whether that’s to our benefit or our detriment is for other people to decide. Because if we’re happy with the stuff that we’re releasing, at the end of the day, what else can we do?

2022 also marks ten years since Polaris formed – do you guys have anything special on the cards to celebrate the milestone?
We’ve toyed with the idea of doing a tour in that timeframe. At the moment we’ve been focusing mostly on trying to get things sorted for Europe and America, so we can finally get over there for this album run. But it’s definitely something we’ve spoken about – it’s just a matter of what form that will take, and how we’ll make it work. Will it be a show? Will be a group of shows? Will be a whole run? We’re not really sure about any of that at the moment. But it’s definitely something we’re talking about – Jake especially has been talking about it for, like, three years now. I mean, we’ll see how this year pans out, and then we’ll get that underway, I guess.

>> KEEP READING: BLUNT listens: Polaris – The Death of Me <<

Knight & Day 2021

Parkway Drive
Alex Lahey
Bakers Eddy
Diamond Construct
Hellions (performing Opera Oblivia in full)
Justice For The Damned
Make Them Suffer
The Beautiful Monument
The Chats
The Getaway Plan (performing Other Voices, Other Rooms in full)
The Gloom In The Corner
To The Grave
Trophy Eyes
Void Of Vision

Thursday December 30th – Friday December 31st
Kryal Castle, Ballarat VIC
Tickets: Official website