Badass Band 94- Polaris Rose

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Photo Credit: Unknown Frames

BBB is going veer into a “mellower” realm for you this time, and that is not to be taken as a bad thing, obviously. We just like to shake things up. This next Badass Band is male-female harmony heavy and sports a range of melodies that are so pleasing to the ear, you won’t be skipping any of the tracks on either of their EP’s.

Polaris Rose came to my attention through multiple sources, but namely another Badass Band, thatwasthen, whom they are friends with. I finally got around to checking them out, and was insanely impressed. Their songs are far from the mindless-zone out tunes that one can sometimes associate with the alternative rock genre. You’re going to hear strong duel vocal harmonies and intensely metaphorical lyrics, along with instrumental elements exemplifying a variety of genres. It is rare to come across male-female harmonies that complement each other quite so well.

Polaris Rose released two EP’s in the last year, and though the EP that hooked me was The Moon & Its Secrets, I think its best maybe to pick a couple standouts from their newest release, OceanSongs. As I stated earlier, you’re going to naturally want to listen to the entirety of these, but my favorite tracks currently are:

1. “Ocean Endings”- Peter’s vocals take the forefront on this track with Maddie’s vocals helping to add depth to the track overall. The instrumentals themselves are a mix of sweet guitar melodies and a solid rhythm section. This track is really standout to me because of the lyrics, the words paint a picture so well, for example, “We will find a true God, in the ocean water, in the Van Gogh oil drip sun.” This song is very nearly a miniature vacation.

2. “Hurricanes”- This track is quite the mix of genres, keeping the duel vocals highlighted with just some simple drum beats. This lasts until the chorus comes in when harder, almost metal-like guitar riffs enter to pack a punch to the listener.  In fact, if you think about it the make up of the song itself- lyrically and instrumentally- resembles the title, calm and then intense.

Basically, whether you pick up either of their EP’s you’re going to get something you’re going to like, especially if you’re looking for a band that takes the time to truly craft their songs to be impressive in all aspects. Don’t let a simple genre title fool you, this band dips their toes in all of ‘em.

Recently I had a chance to grab coffee and chat with Peter Anthony (Vocals/Guitar) and Maddie Elyse (Vocals/Bass), so read on to find out how they met, why the name Polaris Rose, and what they’re doing to try to build a stronger music community in LA.

When and why did each of you start playing music?

Maddie:  I don’t remember not playing music. My dad played bass and we grew up with a karaoke machine, so I was singing Meatloaf when I was like six, and it was a blast. I remember taking piano lessons when I was like four or five, because I lived in Japan at that time, and if you made a mistake and the teacher caught you, they would hit you. So you learned how to play piano really good. So yeah, I don’t remember a time that I wasn’t playing music.

Peter: When I was a kid I was all about MC Hammer and Michael Jackson. Yes, that was my jam. Then I would get my dad to make little like tracks so I could do my rap songs. I have those rap songs still from when I was like ten, its like a really high pitched voice rapping about trains.

 So, how did you two meet?

Peter:  We met in Boston. We were in separate bands and we had a lot of mutual friends and then we just happened to meet each other one night. We hit it off and we started working together over the next couple months and then we chose to move to Los Angeles to keep rocking out.

Maddie:  It was fun.

Peter: Yeah. We met at a venue called Harper’s Ferry in Boston.

Maddie: But we’d been in like the same places a couple times, like I’d gone to a couple of his shows.

Peter: She didn’t like my band.

Maddie: I loved your band. It was like one of the really cool bands in Boston. It was them and, what was the other band at the time? They had that really awesome CD that we liked to listen to … with the old man sleeping on the bench.

Peter: Oh, Kid Napkin.

Maddie: Kid Napkin. It was him and Kid Napkin. It was fun. It was a really cool little music scene and I’d always known about him, but didn’t know him. I thought his name was Johnny; it’s not.

If there’s a good scene in Boston, why L.A.?

Maddie: Because Boston sucks.  No actually, I love that city. It’s amazing.

Peter: We kind of felt like there’s a lot of music students there for Berkelee, and because there were so many students, I don’t know, we just didn’t feel like it was  a fun scene. It’s not a scene you could really grow in, and L.A. has a lot more industry around. We actually did make the mistake of moving to San Diego first. But we were only there for three months before we moved up here. San Diego’s beautiful, but there is not much music aside from like DJs and stuff.

Maddie: We met a really cool rapper in San Diego called DocPop, and it’s nerd rap, and it’s the coolest thing ever.

Peter: Do they call it nerdcore?

Maddie: Nerdcore, that’s right, nerdcore.

Peter: He’ll rap about video games and like comics.

Maddie: It’s so cool.

Peter: He’s really cool., We haven’t seen him for a while, but we keep in touch with him.

Maddie: He’s awesome.

Peter: He’s a really nice guy.

Maddie: If you’re ever interested in nerdcore, you should check him out.

Peter: It’s super different. To me it’s really endearing to see somebody who’s just like, he’s a very nice person and he’s really talented. His flow is great, but he’s not like pretending to be something he’s not. He’s just, “I’m a nerd. There you go.”

Maddie: That was the best part of San Diego.

Why the name Polaris Rose?

Peter: Well, it’s not a great story. I was just in the apartment and we had a song called “Polaris” that I felt like really summed up the songs that I was writing at the time. I think I just had too much coffee and I was like, “Polaris Rose!” It just popped into my head, so that’s it. That’s the only thing. I think I was hanging up laundry; really rock star thing to do. Just hanging up laundry.

Maddie: Doing the dishes.

Peter: Yeah, doing the dishes; killing cockroaches. But it just popped in my head and it seemed to fit the whole vibe of the songs that we were writing at the time; in a nerdy grammar kind of way, I liked that you could interpret it two ways. That is was either ‘polaris’ was the noun or it was the adjective. If you think about it like that, so that was that.

How does your creative process typically work?

Maddie: Peter writes and I critique is kind of the way it goes. We’re very yin and yang to one another. I do like the business-y side of things and set everything up and he does the more artsy side.

Peter: I drink the coffee.

Maddie:  You drink the coffee. But I do get to come in as a producer and be like, “Hey, I don’t like this here, let’s switch this up,” and then Peter goes, “No, you’re dumb,” and then I go, “No, you’re dumb.”

Peter:  Our last EP that we just finished, “Ocean Songs”, we weren’t planning on recording an EP at all. We went to Kitchen 24, I remember, so we were drinking mint gelatos, and Maddie says, “I think we really need to record a single next. We need to just release one song that’s really radio friendly and try to get one some more radio stations.”

I was like, “Okay, I have this song ready.”

Then she’s like, “That’s great.”

Then I was like, “It’d be really cool to do like an old fashioned like B-side too, like an A side to B side so we have two songs.”

And she said, “Okay, fine.”

So she heard the B-side and she’s like, “That’s even better than the other song, so now they don’t fit, so now you have to come up with another one.”

So I wrote another one and she’s like, “Okay, I like those two songs; let’s add two more.”

We recorded all four of them and then we’re sitting there and she’s like, “We need a  more upbeat rock song, write that one,” and then after that, “No not this one.”

In the last EP she was really calling the shots the whole way, but then she would just tell me to go write a song. I’m always thinking, “That’s easier said than done, Maddie.” But yeah.

Maddie: It works.

Yeah, It seems like it! You just released this new EP, and so what is going on for you guys the next few months?

Maddie: Oh my goodness. We’re going to release a full length, so we’ve been actually demoing like this whole month, well since last month we’ve been demoing about forty songs that we’re going to cut down into probably like twelve and twelve and like get rid of the rest. We’re going to do it bigger and better, we’ve got some really cool people working on it with us, so that’s always exciting, and we’ve got some really cool support coming in, so it’s going to be good. Super exciting.

Peter: We’re just, we’re knee deep in that right now.

Maddie: But yeah, that and the show in June. I’m really big into this music community and building a music community, because I think it’s so important because, come on, there’s so much going on. Our goal is to do a show every two months at different locations, with different local indie bands that we love and want to support. It’s so important to support one another and be part of this community. You can’t just be in your band. It’s so much more than that.

Peter: If I can toss in, when we first moved here we went to the Viper Room, and I remember watching a band play and then the whole audience disappeared, and then a new audience came for the next band. And it was like, “Wait.” That was weird to us, right? Because when we would go to shows, we would go all night.

Maddie: That’s not Boston. Boston you go all night, and L.A., I’ve never seen that.It’s the craziest thing. And it’s like, “Wait a minute, I just spent $15 to get in here, why am I going to leave?” That’s my big thing. I want to start working on these nights and getting them to be free nights, because I think that’s really important.

Peter: I would go to so many more shows if they didn’t cost fifteen bucks at the door.

Maddie: We were just talking about this to one of our friends. There’s all these Battle of the Bands, get your friends to buy a ticket, vote, etc. Screw all that. Let’s start a community and let’s all support each other, because if you have 100 people and you can take these 100 people to all these different locations, where’s the power? It’s in your hands.  If 1,000 fans spend $100 on your music a year, you can be a full-time musician. That’s not that much. People have thousands and thousands of Facebook friends. You’re only asking for 1,000 of them to spend 100 bucks. One hundred bucks over a year is nothing, it’s nothing. That’s a CD, a shirt and a couple shows. Okay, so let’s do this. Let’s make this community happen, let’s make it grow.

When people ask you what your music sounds like, what do you tell them?

Maddie: I like to say that we are a combination of the Foo Fighters with a little bit of Fleetwood Mac, and slightly a little bit of the Pumpkins and Steely Dan.

Peter: I just say alternative rock.

Maddie: Or you could say that too … it’s boring. I feel like you don’t want to categorize yourself and pigeonhole yourself.

If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?

Maddie: Oh my gosh, so many things. I think it’s changing in a good way. I think taking the power out of the major labels and putting it into these major indie labels is great. I think that indie labels should trust their artists a little bit more and they say, “Hey, here’s this money, go do it. This is what you want to do, this is what you believe in; we’re behind you, we’re supporting you.” I get that it’s a lot of money, they’re probably not going to do it. At the same time you don’t need a lot of money. We recorded both our EPs for under a thousand bucks. Yeah, literally, and it’s great. We can easily make that money … I think we’ve actually made most of that money back now at this point, but you can do it. There’s no reason I have to spend $100,000 on a recording, there’s no reason I have to spend $100,000 on a video.  I mean, I think that was the biggest thing we learned from the first EP to the second EP. That we didn’t need to spend so much money,  and what did we spend, like $2,000 on videos?

Peter:  Two videos, we did two videos for our first EP. It was two grand.

Maddie: It was two grand, but then we did three videos for this EP for under $500. It was like, well if we would have just used our brains last time around we could have, you know? But we learned.

Peter: We didn’t trust ourselves. That was the major thing. We didn’t trust ourselves. I also wish that the music industry wasn’t so focused on singles, which I understand why, because people are, but I wish that it was more focused on albums.

Maddie: Well that’s iTunes’s fault.

Peter: I don’t blame iTunes, but people were given the option like, “How do you want to listen to music?” And they said, “I want that song.”

Maddie: I feel like that comes from the fact that iTunes gave them the option, the choice to do that. Where back in the day you didn’t have a choice, you had to go to the Amoeba or Virgin records, and you had to pick up a CD.

Peter: What I’m saying is I understand how it got to this point and I’m not trying to blame anyone, I just wish that it wasn’t.  Like, for us it’s on occasion been tough when you’re trying to put out something or release something and you really feel it’s worth listening to, and the response is, this isn’t on the radio, that’s not a hit and you like I don’t want to write that type of song. I don’t need that right now.

Random Portion:

Best live show you’ve ever gone to.

Maddie: Red Hot Chili Peppers in Boston. It would have been…2006 is when we went. They were amazing. Out of this world.

Peter: I saw Steely Dan at the White River Amphitheater in Washington and I thought that was amazing. It was great.

Favorite things to do not musically related.

Maddie: Yoga.

Peter: I like to write books I’m really into science fiction, fantasy, and those kind of big books and stuff. I like to listen to lectures about writing and then I like to write. I’m a nerd.

This is right along with the nerd status, so if you could be a fictional character, who would you be?

Maddie: Daenerys.

Peter: I’d want to be Joffrey, because then I could be a little punk and get just ushered right into royalty. Maybe Tommy.

Maddie: You would die though. I haven’t died yet. Who knows if I’m going to, but I haven’t.

Peter: Yeah, but you’ll …

Maddie: Don’t ruin it.

If you wrote a Badass Bands Blog, what are some bands that you would feature?

Maddie: DocPop. He’s just awesome, you’ll have to check him out. Handsome As Sin is a really cool band. Who else? Paper Trails.

FIND POLARIS ROSE HERE:

Web: polarisrose.com

Twitter: @polarisrose

Facebook: facebook.com/polarisrose

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