Since the release of The Mortal Coil in 2017, Sydney’s Polaris have been on a seemingly endless ascent towards the realm of heavy music stardom. A barnstorming debut, The Mortal Coil saw Polaris hit the top 10 of the ARIA charts and destroy stages worldwide, with their bombastic live show seeing Polaris more than hold their own on major international festivals, blow minds on tour runs with scene monoliths Architects and Parkway Drive and cement their status down under with countless sold-out headline runs.
As anyone who caught their victory lap of a set at UNIFY could attest – Polaris are a heavy musical force of nature. With their second album The Death of Me and an accompanying run of sold-out shows, Polaris are set to blast beat their path to the stars. On the eve of the release of The Death of Me, we spoke to vocalist Jamie Hails about Polaris’ rise, the pressure of following up The Mortal Coil, the importance of maintaining a strong support network and of course, how it feels to sell out the bloody Enmore!
Music Feeds: Hey Jamie, how’s this plane of existence treating you today?
Jamie Hails: Good mate, a little tired, coz I had a bit of a sleepless night last night, but can’t complain too much!
MF: Sleepless for good reasons, sleepless for bad reasons or sleepless for reasons that are none of my business?
JH: Good reasons, meaning stressing about preparations for the album release and the tour and all that, but yeah, it’s a nice stress to have, if that makes any kind of sense.
MF: If it was me, I’d be peaking for days, after hearing I’d sold out the Enmore Theatre, so completely understandable you’d be a bit frantic!
JH: Hahaha yeah, oh yeah, that’s a big part of it!
MF: It’s definitely exciting times in the Polaris camp, with The Death of Me dropping and sold out signs going up for some of the biggest shows you’ve ever played. It seems pretty wild from the outside, how is it from the inside?
JH: Yeah, a lot of mixed emotions. Stress levels are quite high and we’re a bit anxious, a bit nervous about how it’s all going to work out, but at the same time, we’re also very excited and looking forward to getting out there.
MF: We touched on it a little already but selling out the Enmore is a pretty big deal for a band from Sydney. It’s an iconic venue and a real indicator that Polaris have taken that next step up. Does this feel like the moment where you can say “look mum, I’ve made it!”?
JH: When we got word that it had sold out, I was at work, running a machine and I had to just stop for a second and sit there and just think to myself, fuck, we did it. When we first started planning this tour, the Enmore came up, and we were a little bit worried that it might be too ambitious as it was double the size of what we’d done previously, but we went for it and now it’s sold out and it’s just blowing my mind still a bit, to be honest with you.
MF: Polaris appear to be on the Parkway Drive, or Amity trajectory at the moment, where every time that it seems like you’ve reached the logical zenith for an Aussie band in your genre, you go and do something bigger again. Is what those bands have achieved an inspiration and a bit of a guide for Polaris ambitions?
JH: For sure, we’ve looked up to Parkway since we first started discovering what heavy music was. The same goes for Amity, who were mixed in there with my favourite bands. Both of those bands are huge, particularly in the context of Australian bands, so it’s definitely been useful, to take a few pages from their books so to speak. Especially now as we prepare ourselves for what this next level we are stepping into. At the same time, it’s also still a lot of learning on the fly. We’ve toured with Parkway, Architects and bands of that level, so being able to just see firsthand how touring acts of that size operate, from seeing how the band themselves prepare to how the different venues function, through to things like the sound and lighting crew and the logistics. Seeing all of that has helped us make sense of that scale and feel more prepared to go out and do it ourselves.
MF: Another thing you’ve had to learn is how to encounter that old difficult second album syndrome, how did you find the writing and recording process for The Death of Me in comparison to The Mortal Coil?
JH: Well…to be honest, it was a bit wild, because The Death of Me did so much for us and blew open so many doors for us, that we just kept on saying yes to bigger and better tours, without giving much thought to it, coz they were all kind of no brainers. So eventually when we got around to thinking about album number two, we realised we were booked straight for between the next 12 months to 2 years, so we had to do it. It was kind of now or never really.
So we started trying to write on the road, and then every moment we were home we were either writing or recording, but when the time we’d allowed for recording ended, we only had about half of a record done, so we were freaking out a bit. As we then we went off to play a bunch of European festival shows. When we came back we did a week of writing, then flew down to Melbourne to do a week of recording, then did the Architects Aussie run and our own regional tour, then smashed out the rest of the record in two weeks before we left for America! We finished literally the day before we went to America for the Wage War run. We shot the music video for ‘Masochist’ at 10am the day we flew to America. Which hilariously enough was also the first time we’d actually all jammed ‘Masochist’ together.
MF: Please tell me that you played the first set of the Wage War run?
JH: Haha nah, we didn’t play it till the Northlane run, but we did play ‘Hypermania’ a few times in the US though. We’re perfectionists and we don’t like to play things live until we know they are going to sound 100%. It was definitely not 100% from shooting the video clip!
MF: Now I believe the town of Mollymook played a vital role again in the writing process, can you shed a bit of light on that?
JH: That’s right, we went back down to that same Airbnb that we wrote and recorded The Mortal Coil at, which was awesome to be back in that environment. You would think that having those memories and the ocean to connect to and be inspired by, would really help with the inspiration, but this time around it was almost the exact opposite. We made it to the other side though and the record is done and I couldn’t be more proud and excited.
MF: That’s great to hear man. Personally I can’t wait for The Death of Me to blow you up even bigger so that we get all the stories from bands trying to book that same Airbnb, so they can have the authentic Polaris experience!
JH: Hahaha, that would be amazing, man.
MF: Mollymook AirBNB, it’s the new Parkway Drive sign!
JH: Hahahaha. That would be amazing.
MF: It’s a bit of a different record to The Mortal Coil, in that there are elements of other genres more readily dispersed between the trademark Polaris sound. That holds true both musically and vocally, the vocals are fantastic and find you using much more of your voice than The Mortal Coil. Do you feel that was all-natural growth or kind of a result of the writing process taking you to so many different places and mindsets?
JH : It’s a bit of both. I personally had always wanted to do more singing, so I’d been working towards that as we progressed. On this record, I really wanted to push myself and see what I can do and adapt that to our songs and our style and who and what we are as a band.
MF: Lyrically it’s a bit of a downer man! There’s some dark shit on this album!
JH: Yeah, that’s a bit of a joint effort, with Daniel being the main lyricist for the band and my contributions as well, it’s definitely a very harsh, dark and real record, that’s for sure.
MF: It’s interesting because we had a chat to Joel from Amity a few days back and he spent a bit of time talking about how the lifestyle of being in a touring band isn’t conducive to good mental health, and that seems to be something that’s ringing true for you guys on this album too?
JH: It really does. Just like anyone who has issues that they deal with, you have your good days and your bad days and that’s true when you’re on tour too. You have your good days and those are great, but then you have your bad days and those are awful. Trying to adapt to a band lifestyle is quite tricky, but on top of that, having your own mental health issues does throw you off quite a lot. It does make it hard. It is worth it though. Having such a great support network, in the band and the crew around the band, helps too. We are all really close and we all have each other’s backs through any personal or professional issues. Then plus our own family and friends, and my partner, everyone is always there for each other.
MF: The Polaris live show is on another level at the moment. I saw you at Unify, and everything about your performance just screamed “headliner” to me. I honestly think that’s the next logical step if you play Unify again.
JH: I’ve got no words! Thank you so much mate, that means a lot to hear, it’s very nice of you to say! I guess if things keep going the same way they’re going, then yes, the next logical step would be to headline it!
MF: I guess after that, you curate your own festival?
JH: Yes, I love that idea, we might even dabble in that if the opportunity arises.
MF: If and when it does, who are you going to put on the bill?
JH: I’ll throw a spanner in the works and choose Billie Eilish to headline it. Then build a really diverse bill from there, to really mess with people’s heads but provide a good time as well.
In all seriousness though, it’s a bit hard to answer on the spot, because at the moment I’d just like to list all of my favourite bands, but the reality is there are so many bands to choose from and balancing a lineup for a festival means you can throw Architects, Parkway Drive and Humanity’s Last Breath on the bill but you also need to pencil in some smaller, emerging Aussie and overseas acts.
MF: Sounds like a hell of a time. What venue would you book it at?
JH: Mate…if I had the money I’d make it a Soundwave 2.0 with Sydney Olympic Park.
MF: I was thinking you might go the other way and just make it extremely limited capacity, and do it at Mollymook!
JH: That would be very fun! The Mollymook experience! Just set up on the beach!
MF: I’m gonna let you go, but before I do, I’ve got one terribly unimportant question for you. Who would win a fight, the toughest member of Polaris or Polaris from X-Men?
JH: I reckon we would all lose. I’m a black belt in karate, and even still I would lose. I haven’t trained in years, so I’d get my ass handed to me and everyone else would as well.
Polaris’ ‘The Death of Me’ is out now. The band wrap up their national tour in Sydney and Brisbane this week. Head here for remaining dates.