You get to seven years as partners and certain things don’t require much conversation. Such is the nature of the relationship between Polish Club’s Novak and JH, who found themselves pumping out songs like a well-oiled machine with perhaps a tad too much gusto during last year’s lockdown. “We ended up writing about 90 songs,” Novak says, throwing back his third whiskey soda in the loudest Sydney bar since restrictions were lifted. “30 the first time, and our manager didn’t go for any. Then we changed tack the second time and got a few more in, and by the last round…” “We were just writing straight hits,” JH offers. “Dave would bring something in and I’d be like ‘it needs more hooks.’ We were ruthless.”
Now We’re Cookin’ sparkles with immediacy precisely because its ten songs have undergone such an intense period of crystallisation. “Just trim the fat,” says Novak of the process. “There’s no excess, there’s no fuckin’ two minute outros.” The band remains unabashedly proud of treating their demoing like a production line. “I’m constantly pinging away, trying to find a way to write a hit,” JH admits. “By the end, all my references were pop and R&B. The Weeknd was in there. It was 400 tracks long and a wild ride.”
Novak says that for a group whose most beloved songs by the numbers are actually ballads, imagining Polish Club as pop writers was a big leap for some audiences. “It’s a visceral reaction when we write pop, because there’s still guitars there,” he says. “There’s no guitars in a Weeknd song.” Nonetheless, the chart giant wouldn’t feel out of place on fresh tracks like New Age, a nihilistic Nile Rodgers stomper that sees Novak leaning into his falsetto like he’s rocking a barmitzvah at the end of the world.
“I won’t beat people over the head lyrically, but I’m more than happy to do that stylistically,” Novak laughs. “We realised when trying to take a left-turn genre wise, people would come back saying ‘Good job, rock band.’ Nobody gave a shit. Nobody cared.” The duo opted to focus instead on what made each song a hit, rather than where it was supposed to fit. Opener Stop For A Minute revolves around an instantly memorable melody, while Fix Your Heart leaps from the ‘90s alt-rock radio with jangly earnestness. It’s a frankly glorious mess, held together by the undeniable aesthetic of the two Polskis playing it.
So refined was the writing that by the time the boys rocked up at The Grove to record them with the venerable Scott Horscroft the music was pretty much fully formed, leading them to their first co-production credit. “Scott brought efficiency to the project,” says JH. “We’d never met him, we were kind of scared of him. But he’s a real mushy sweetheart when you knuckle down.” Novak recalls finishing his vocal takes and Horscroft asking if the band needed a few extra days to work on the album. “I was like, ‘No man, it’s one more chorus,” he grins “‘I’m gonna nail this and we’re done.’”
It’s an impressive late-round conversion; have everyone you know on your arse about a hit and then produce an album so tight that almost every song could viably be one. At the time of writing, half of the tracklisting is being bandied about as a contender for lead single, which isn’t helped by the fact that genre-wise, there’s at least three different avenues sharing finite space. “If you look like our Top 10 most played Spotify tracks there’s no consistency at all,” JH interjects. “There’s one really shiny one, one slow jam, one punk track.” In the case of this record, that includes synth-flanked neo-pop number, Baby We’re Burning and all-in ballad, No Heaven, which surges with layered guitars and washes of crash cymbal towards its final climax.
Now We’re Cookin’ is arguably this inconsistency incarnate, a Polish Club for all seasons. According to Novak, that’s awesome. “If we did the same bluesy-soul shit album after album, it would be much harder to take inspiration or satisfaction from that. Repeating yourself doesn’t somehow mean you’re being more true to yourself. I think it’s the opposite; you’re just being lazy.”
The record also sees Novak slowly leaning into an unofficial role of calling out bad behaviour in the music world, a stance he’s repeatedly expressed across social media and op-eds, but one that now filters subtly into his lyrics. “Stop For A Minute is about men in our industry,” he says. Meanwhile, the frenetic Whack “is a general ‘don’t be a dick’. I find more value in saying that outside of the music; like ‘Hey, don’t be a fucking rapist.’ Much stronger than trying to sing it.”
It may have taken them a bit longer to find the gas, but listening to the finished product, there’s little doubt Polish Club are back firing on all cylinders. “I remember saying to someone ‘writing this album was really easy!’ and Novak was like ‘Maybe for you!’” JH deadpans. “But if you can have ten cracking songs out of hundreds, you’ve done as well as anyone, really.”
“At what point do you decide to back yourself and be like ‘this is it?’, jokes Novak. “Because I’ve been wrong before.” He signals the same again as JH heads back to the bar for a final round. “Anyone can write a song. It’s easy. Writing a song that connects with people is hard.”
NOW WE’RE COOKIN’ OUT FRIDAY JULY 23, 2021