With one foot dragging through the hazy past and the other dangling over the precipice of bad decisions, Polish Club welcomes you to Iguana. Named in part for the infamous Kings Cross bar, where the only guaranteed upside was ending your night facedown, the Sydney duo’s hard-won second album boasts a more expansive, adventurous sound already showcased on singles ‘Clarity’ and ‘We Don’t Care’.
‘“I want to preface this by saying this album has been the most challenging creative thing I’ve ever done in my life,” says drummer John-Henry. “I never understood why bands struggle with second albums, but now I totally get it.” Polish Club put more than just their mental stability on the line for Iguana. The record, which equally takes in new electronic sounds (‘Sun’) syncopated dance-rock (‘Iguana’) and hip-hop-inspired beats (Let’s Pretend’) also sees each of them testing the breaking points of their musical ability.
“The beats that John is playing, they’re so far removed from his grip-it-and-rip-it tendencies that he’s having to think about what he’s playing and do it consistently,” says singer/guitarist Novak, who in turn pushed his melodies to an almost ‘unsingable’ range on nearly every track. So, why do this to themselves? After all, Polish Club already has legions of devoted fans across the country. Are they masochists?
“Having been in this band for 5 years, I think there’s less time for us to faff about. That’s why we put heaps of pressure on evolving the sound; we haven’t got time to bang out three similar albums,” says John-Henry. “It’s the tightrope of doing what you do best and what attracted people to you in the first place, but expanding it and not rehashing old habits,” adds Novak. “I think we’re forcing ourselves to do something that isn’t our first instinct but it is creatively something we want to do.”
And so, to Iguana, inspired as much by nights out as nights alone. “I’m still getting my head around it, but it’s named after Iguana Bar, both in a fond way and also in ‘I’m fucked up and I don’t know where my life is going’ way,” explains John-Henry.
“The whole concept of loneliness is a really tangible thing for any musician,” adds Novak. “You go on tour and it’s often just the two of us. There’s not much to bounce off and so you go out and meet fans, or you meet stranger, you go on Tinder or whatever. It’s a very different interaction with people.”
This sentiment is echoed across the record’s searing 12 tracks, which once again utilise the dual talents of longtime producer, bass player and honorary third Polish Club member, Wade Keighran, who has helped the pair realise their wildest pop fantasies from within the confines of a rock and roll band. “On the first album, people thought Dave and I were like old soul music connoisseurs, which isn’t really the case,” laughs John-Henry.
From the loping, N.E.R.D-esque swagger of ‘Time Crisis’ to the pummeling, synth-like guitars on ‘2 Scared’, it’s clear that Polish Club has sacrificed none of their bark while going back in for a bigger bite. “You need to be conscious of what people will enjoy, but also try to expand and find ways of hooking in new people,” muses John-Henry. “But you gotta be in it for your own enjoyment. When it gets to all business and no fun, it’s over.”
As difficult as it may have been to bring into this world, Iguana defiantly remains the sound of a band having fun. You can hear it in the gleefully multi-tracked 80s toms of ‘Goddamn’ and the festival-ready chorus on ‘Breakapart.’ It’s even there on the album’s most unlikely highlight, the bruisingly bit-crushed ballad, ‘As Low As It Goes.’ “There’s only so much we can do with [our original] palate. The constant of my voice and John’s drumming is way more freeing than if we were another band. We can still add to it and it sounds like us. It’s unmistakable. I’m 1000 times less precious about it now,” says Novak.
Welcome back to Iguana, the only place where you can move forward and back in time simultaneously. It’s the sound of looking over your shoulder through rose-tinted Ray-Bans at the flaming dumpster fire of the past. A night owl’s haven where you can buy illicit substances from behind the bar, but have nobody to take them with and the queue can be cut as quickly as your ties to reality. An appreciation that growing up doesn’t necessarily mean growing out of the music you loved when you were young. Oh, and hey, you might know these two guys playing in the corner.
They’re called Polish Club.