Web Exclusive Interview: Polar Bear Club talk tour ethics

Interview with Jimmy Stadt | By Bill Jones

When we interviewed Polar Bear Club vocalist Jimmy Stadt for our recent cover feature, we reached out on Twitter and asked fans to submit their burning questions for Polar Bear Club. Aaron Hyde from the U.K. asked, “Did he enjoy the tour with Rise Against in 2011?” And Jimmy Stadt responded, “Oh my God; it was awesome. It was incredible. Rise Against is one of those bands that you just can’t explain them and you can’t try to emulate what they’ve done. They’re the band when any band like us meets with a manager and they ask what you want to do, every band says, ‘We want to do what Rise Against does — still be a completely credible, respectable band and play to the amounts of people that they play to.’ So to tour with them was really cool, because you got to see firsthand how they operate. It was also sort of life-affirming, in a way, because we toured with them in Europe and then saw them that following summer — they did a couple of Warped Tour dates. They’re Rise Against [and] their stage setup on Warped Tour was the most minimal thing you could imagine. I don’t know if you’ve been to a Warped Tour, but there’s not many bands who play to every single person there. They came the [closest] I’ve ever seen. To see that band play to everyone at the tour, more so than any other band … that, to me, was like, ‘OK, cool. You can do it your way and still be appealing.’ Not that that’s really the end goal, but it was nice to see nice, normal guys have a level of success you sometimes think is unattainable for nice, normal guys.”

But following that portion, which appeared in print, we continued chatting about the band’s touring ethic, the transcript of which we are presenting now, for the first time, in a web exclusive.

Maybe along those lines, opening for Rise Against, opening for Bad Religion, opening for Taking Back Sunday. When I saw you with Bad Religion in Chicago, you made an extended speech about how much it meant to you that people took the time to get to the show early to see Polar Bear Club, knowing that everybody is really coming to see Bad Religion later than night. What does that role mean to you, being in an opening slot for some of these mainstays? It seems like you take it a bit more seriously than, “Cool, we get to play with Bad Religion.”

I do. I have to, to keep my sanity, because otherwise I don’t know why I’m there. I sort of have to take it seriously like that. Nowadays, it’s hard to get people into new stuff, so I just don’t take it for granted that a bunch of people who have a set idea on something decided for once to maybe think outside that box and take a chance on a band they’ve never seen before, and then thusly react positively to it. Because it could either go that way or people could take that chance and react negatively. I just don’t think that’s something to be taken for granted. The way we run Polar Bear Club is more akin to a public radio show or something like that — that sort of connectivity and respect for the people who support you. Once you get older, you sort of learn money is important. You don’t spend it lightly when you don’t have a lot of it. And when you become poorer and older, you learn that. I don’t know the financial situation of everyone in the room, but to know that people came and are spending their money on something that you made and put your heart into, that’s just not something I think should be taken for granted, so I choose not to, and I say “thank you” when I can, and I talk to people who like our band, and it doesn’t bother me to do so.

On the flipside of that, you guys are gearing up for a headlining tour. What is that like for you — the anticipation on the other side of things, being the band responsible for getting the shows going and drawing in the crowd for the openers that come out with you?

You summed it up pretty well. It’s what you want to do, because you want to be doing a show your way. Then, when you do open up for so long, you kind of like it. [Laughs] In terms of the day to day. In the long run, I would much rather see Polar Bear Club’s name at the top of the poster. Day to day, it’s kind of nice when you’re opening, because you don’t have that much responsibility for how the show goes. You’re sort of just casually there. If you have a bad set, it’s OK. And if you have a great set on an opening tour, it’s this added bonus. Whereas when you’re headlining, if you have a bad set, it’s all on you. And that weighs a bit heavier. You’re more expected to be having great sets, and when you don’t, it hits you a little harder. That’s in terms of the day to day. That stuff doesn’t really matter. That’s just instant feelings when you’re there in those moments. But the converse of that is of course we’d rather be headlining. We’re doing it exactly the way we want to. We’re giving it to you the most we can on any given night.

When you’re not setting up or playing, how do you occupy your time on tour?

I try to take in a city when I can. I like to walk around. It’s hard to do sometimes because venues are in weird areas, and there’s not really anywhere to go. I bring a lot of content with me — just books, reading, exercising and writing. There’s that. I’m married now, so I have to put in time contacting home — not like it’s a casual thing; like, I need to go put in some home time now and make sure my relationships are in the best possible spot they can be from a distance.

You mentioned checking out cities. Obviously, every band says they love whatever city they’re in, but outside of New York, where do you guys really enjoy playing the most?

In terms of hanging out, I love Chicago. It’s one of my favorite cities. Playing there is pretty cool, too. Honestly, I really like playing smaller cities. There’s just this different appreciation for you there. I sort of relate to that, being from a smaller city myself. People have this different respect for you. They have this appreciation that you took the time to come to their city. Like Boise, Idaho, is a place I don’t think many bands would say they like to play, but us, we love playing there, because people there really appreciate that we’re there. And we sort of relate to that. It’s different. Playing New York City or L.A. is cool, but a lot of times it’s like there’s a million shows that night. You’re vying for attention, and if there’s people there who decided not to go to X amount of other shows, they’re maybe not reacting to you. When people play New York, I feel like most of the crowd is like New Jersey and Long Island — the people who are going off. The people who actually occupy the city are in the back, at the bar, just sort of enjoying and watching, which I’m not slighting. That’s 100 percent me, which is why I’m not slighting that by any means. But sometimes you get more juice from the people reacting to you.

To read an in-depth Q&A with Jimmy Stadt about Breaking Bad and Gravity, visit BillJonesInk.com.

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