Four minutes and seven seconds. By Polish Club standards, it’s a bona fide epic even before you press play. But nothing prepares you for the heavy soul thrill ride of the Australian rock duo’s new single, Clarity: the first twist in a bold act of evolution in progress.
“It’s still basically just me on drums and Novak on guitar and vocals,” drummer John-Henry says, “but we’ve found ourselves writing music with more layers, more parts. We’re spending a lot more time thinking about songs and about recording. It’s definitely a different process to the last album.”
That one, for those who came late, was one of the rough diamonds of 2017. Acclaimed among the brightest and brashest rock’n’roll debuts in recent memory, Alright Already comprised 14 slam-dunk garage soul nuggets that swept the white-
knuckled drummer and his leather-lunged frontman from Sydney to Vegas faster than you can wring out a sodden t-shirt.
“The last two years have been so crazy I’ve completely lost track of time,” says Novak, the man with the voice seemingly teleported from the vaults of Stax Studios circa ’67, and the chords composted from the sticky carpet of a hundred Aussie pubs. “The Christmas tour of last year was pure insanity. To have over 1000 people reacting to every single thing that you do on stage every night … that’s not the kind of thing that you foresee happening to you at any point in time, so it kinda spins your head around a little bit.”
Hence Clarity, a plea from the churning vortex of modern existence that heralds a slightly more serious phase in the songwriters’ headspace. “Lyrically, the new songs have a bit more darkness and, knowing that, I wanted to work on the melodies and make sure they’re as catchy and danceable as possible,” Novak says. “Finding the right mix of that is challenging, but it’s a lot of fun.”
As yet untitled, album #2 is again taking shape under the steady hand of producer Wade Keighran. This time the tight trio has forsaken the inner-city grind to spread out both creatively and physically: The Grove Studios, situated in the verdant countryside north of Sydney, was originally built by INXS bassist Gary Garry Beers. “It’s a different vibe, that’s for sure. There are pianos and synths and there’s definitely more dancey rhythms coming across,” says John, citing the Stone Roses-inspired momentum of Clarity as an illustration. “We’re trying to push the sound into a new place.”
Part of the push was a handful of recent co-writing experiments in Nashville, in between gigs in New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. While it’s too early to say whether any of those seeds will bear fruit, the drummer sees the experience in terms of reaffirmation of the duo’s fiery two-way chemistry. “It’s interesting, getting involved with someone else’s writing process but we kind of found it slowing us down,” he says. “With me and Novak, it all happens pretty quick. We seem to have our own way of doing things.”
File that under bleeding obvious for anyone who’s been swept up in the hair-parting dance-party maelstrom of a Polish Club gig, whether it be raining sweat from the ceiling of the Corner Hotel or roaring like thunder round the arenas of their 2018 support slot with UK heavyweights, Royal Blood. “That was fucking awesome for us,” John recalls. “It’s not often as a rock band that you get a big support slot where an audience understands you immediately. I feel like we came on and everyone there just got it. They were some of the most gratifying shows we’ve played.”
For Novak, the thrill is equally in the day-to-day ascent of the garage band from Sydney’s northern suburbs taking the world by hand-to-hand combat. “Just being able to tour overseas and write ‘musician’ on your passport control forms — I mean, that’s kind of awesome,” he says. “Every little step like that, to my own childhood mind, it kind of makes it all ‘Real’, you know?” Yeah baby. Polish Cub: Living the dream.
“Kind of. I mean, it’s a very broke-ass dream right now. But we’ll take it.”