I had the chance to ask some questions of the UK’s Polar, a band with a hardcore-based sound yet which adds some melody and moody atmospheric passages to the usual punk fare of fast loud guitars and screaming. I was very intrigued by their varied sound, as well as the theme of their latest album, No Cure, No Saviour, which deals with the topic of homelessness.
In fact, in April, Polar toured in support of Crisis, a charity providing services to single homeless people in the UK. Band frontman Adam “Woody” Woodford said, “For us it was a great honor to work alongside Crisis, a charity that is close to our hearts. The shows and turnouts were fantastic, it was an incredible feeling to have so many people come and support a truly great cause.” The shows were held in “unusual venues” such as a record store and band practice room, which Woody said “helped make the shows special for everyone who attended as they saw our band in places that you would never really see us play.”
The issue of homelessness has been a concern to the band for some time. Said Woody, “When we were on tour in November last year, we saw a homeless guy being treated like dirt and that was really heart breaking for us. It really speared us on to use our album as a platform to highlight the ever growing issue of homelessness.” The band doesn’t just talk the talk, but walks the walk as well. “We are extremely conscious when we are on tour and at home to help people who are less fortunate than ourselves,” Woody said, “whether this is just having someone to talk to, or using our rider to make food so we can help feed people in worse situations than ourselves.”
One of the most striking things I got from the band was the emphasis on talking and interacting with people who are experiencing homelessness. Besides the physical deprivation, deprivation of human contact and being ostracized and dehumanized must be among the worst aspects of homelessness. It sounded like the band had touched a lot of lives, just by acknowledging that they are people.
The cover of their new album No Cure, No Saviour shows a tattooed hand reaching down to shake hands with another hand in a dingy gray sleeve. I thought this might be a shot of a band member interacting with a person experiencing homelessness, and sure enough Woody confirmed:
“The cover of the album came about on tour last November. We had used our rider to take food out on to the streets to help feed people and we met a gentleman called Brian and talked to him about his life and what his future holds. You can hear the dialogue over the interlude ‘No Cure.’ The picture is of Nick our drummer and Brian shaking hands. The image was incredibly striking and really hits home the concept of the record.”
It is indeed a powerful image. Even without knowing the story, the image of the tattooed hand reaching down to take another person’s hand sends a message about connecting with another person, engaging with them as a human being, and helping them up. In the metal scene we have the ethos that when someone falls in the pit, you help them up. This album cover extends that ethos into the real world.
While the album focuses on homelessness, there is some variation in the subject matter of the songs. Said Woody, “some of the subjects we have covered are that humans have forgotten to be human and essentially live in a digital prison, to the subject of losing my dad to brain cancer.”
The band’s sound is also highly varied, from aggressive hardcore riffing and shouted vocals that remind me of Jamey Jasta, to upbeat punk melodies and clean metalcore choruses, and even cascades of atmospheric tremolo guitar. I was very curious about where all these sounds, particularly the last one, came from. “Everybody in the band listens to a lot different music,” Woody said, “but constant sources of inspiration come from bands like Thrice and Architects as they are continually pushing their musical boundaries.”
Lastly I asked Woody about genre labels. Polar is billed as a post-hardcore band but on their Facebook page they define themselves more loosely as “metal / rock / hardcore.” Woody explained, “We never want to label ourselves because by doing that you create boundaries and expectations that listeners will expect of you. We never limit ourselves to what we want to do with our band musically and that allows us explore our sound, which is really important to us.”