Monday, 21 November 2016

An Interview With POLKADODGE ~ 12.11.16

After being off the radar for quite some time, Sheffield based quartet Polkadodge (frontman John Burton, drummer Paul Robertson, guitarist Martin Greening and bassist Jack Galvin) are back, and they're better than ever before; not only do they have a brand new bassist in the form of Jack, but they've returned too with a boatload of fresh indie-pop anthems, proving that some time away from the scene has benefited them in a big way. Whilst their new music is recognisably the Polkadodge that everyone knows and fell in love with, it's definitely taken on a much more serious and mature twist with more recent releases such as the stellar and stylish 'All In My Head', and the extraordinary 'Heat Of The Night'.

The band have enjoyed a string of successful tour dates so far this year, including a comeback headline show at Sheffields' The Leadmill back in July, and a more recent support slot in Preston with musics' brand new Kings of controversial, Cabbage. I managed to catch up with them prior to their gig in Harworth for Gingerbeard Promotions...

You've been playing together for quite some time now in one shape or form- but how did you all meet, and how did it all begin?
John: We met at school when we were about 16. Martin was in the year above me and he didn't really like me. We both played guitar and I think at the time, I was a little bit better than him.
Martin: Hang on, this is why we didn't get on! I thought I was the best in school, I really wasn't. He came along and he was playing all the songs I really wanted to learn.
John: Ben, his friend, bought me in and said 'have a jam with this guy.' I got muscled in, then we became friends, and then loads of people joined and left... they're gone now, they're doing teaching and all sorts! Then we met Paul when we went to uni. We'd tried a few drummers, but he just clicked. When our old bassist left, we found Jack who we'd known for a while but had seemed quite busy with his job. He's managed to slot in.
Martin: It was hard to find a bass player, but he's come along and has lifted our spirits a bit... and he had long hair!

Jack- how did you find yourself an honourary member of Polkadodge? Did you know the guys before?
Jack: I sort of knew Paul, he sometimes comes into where I work and he said they were looking for a bass player. I sort of knew John... wasn't that keen on him, but I did join the band and now we're friends. Didn't really know Martin.

What did you all grow up listening to and do you feel it's influenced you musically?
Jack: I grew up listening to Oasis, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Stuff like that. John absolutely hates the fact that people listen to these bands! But that's what I grew up listening to, and I still like it.
John: I liked lots of pop/punk like Green Day. Then I went on to listening to The Killers, synth pop arena rock- I've not changed that much... the U2's, and The Killers!
Paul: I was a bit of a weird one. I loved Bruce Springsteen, he was like my idol. Then I started listening to stuff like The Strokes.
Martin: I was basically a typical indie kid growing up. Bit like Jack, I liked a lot of Oasis, a lot of Blur and all that. I like The Beatles as well... got a problem with that, John?

'All In My Head' was your big comeback single- what's the story behind that one, both in terms of influence and the creative process of bringing it together?
John: When we had the old bassist, we took the chorus from another track. Paul was in the flat one night and he was sort of singing it, and we thought actually, that songs' just one key higher.
Paul: We had the verse for ages, we just couldn't write a chorus... so we moulded two songs together. We'd spent ages trying to write the chorus, and then it ended up that we'd actually written it three months before!
John: We took that chorus down to key, and it just slotted into that one.
Martin: The guitars in it are interesting and something we haven't done before. When you get excited for guitar stuff like that, you know something good is bubbling up.
John: It was all from a live recording that was just lost on our phones somewhere, and then Paul was just singing it and we realised it was good. But yeah, it's come out alright. It does take a while writing songs though, for us anyway. We chuck a lot away, so hopefully the ones we do put out are good!

I think that in contrast with your older material, the new music is very different, perhaps somewhat more mature... was that change deliberate or something that just came naturally?
John: My mum said that today! I don't know if it's just that we're older.
Martin: The standard of what we keep is a lot higher now. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make sure if we are going to put out a song or play it live, we want to be sure that it's good. Before, I think if we scraped a song together we just thought it'd do and we didn't really work on it that much. We work a lot harder now I think on perfecting the songs.
John: Often, we'll write one and then we'll play it... I think you only know if it's good when you've played it live. That's the best way to test them, and you just get a nice feeling when you know it's a good one.

You've been touring a lot lately- is there anywhere that you always look forward to playing, and in turn anywhere that you'd particularly like to play but haven't had the chance to yet? That could be a city, or perhaps a particular venue...
Paul: We want to do Liverpool.
John: Yeah, Liverpool would be nice. It's really weird because some gigs that you build up as being amazing on paper just don't really turn out that way, for whatever reason. You can even have rammed gigs and it just doesn't really connect or feel that great. Weirdly, ones like this are usually really good, dead random ones.
Jack: When we played Huddersfield, I think we all turned up feeling a little bit unsure and it turned out to be one of my best gigs.
John: I think sometimes with the smaller towns there's less variety for people to go to, so when bands come around they sometimes think it's something a bit different and turn up.
Jack: Preston as well, that was a great gig.

Preston was with Cabbage, wasn't it? That must have been quite an interesting experience?
Paul: Busy!
John: It was very busy, but it felt a bit weird. Weird crowd, they were very standoffish.
Martin: They were alright, we're just a new band that they hadn't heard of before. There were quite a lot of older people there.
Jack: It took a little bit more to win them over, I think.

There's obviously an incredibly vivid music scene around this area at the moment... Leeds, Sheffield, Doncaster... what other up and coming bands have you seen or played with recently and been particularly impressed by?
Paul: I really like Sundara Karma at the moment, I know they're signed but they're still up and coming. Kashmere, the band that we played with in Preston were really good and they're really nice guys.
Jack: There was a band from York that I saw about a month ago called Faux Pas, and they were really good. I like Adelphi too.
Martin: We've played with everyone! When it comes to the bands in South Yorkshire, we've all played with eachother at some point. We've all seen eachother grow and break up and stuff.
John: We all like Conor Houston, he's good. Good time guy! He's very funny, you get a bit of a comedian with him as well. U2, I think some people may have heard of them?
Martin: There's a lot of people that like U2 but daren't admit it, similar to the Coldplay thing. There's a stigma attached to it, and you're basically going to get bullied for it.

Is there anyone in the music industry that you'd really love the chance to work with?
John: We've had our ups and downs, I think every band has probably had daft meetings with management and label companies and things. There are loads of people we'd like to work with, but it all feels quite distant at the minute. I'd love to sing with Brandon Flowers... me and B-Flower, that'd be great. To end the argument, I'd probably like to share a stage with Ronan just to see if it's that distinguishable!
Paul: I didn't want to admit to this, but we were watching his top 10 on some music channel. He looked nothing like him when he was younger, it's just now that he's old!
John: The number 1 was rubbish! We were ready for Nothing At All or Life Is A Rollercoaster. Tomorrow Never Comes was number 2 and that's not a great song. This has turned into PR for Ronan! 

Can any of you remember your first ever experience of live music?
Paul: My first gig was really late, I was like 16 or something. I went to see Metallica with my sister.
John: Mine was Steps. H came out on a big H over the audience and just sat on it.
Martin: I remember my first gig was Red Hot Chilli Peppers. I really wanted to be John Frusciante, the guitar player. He's my absolute guitar inspiration.
Jack: The first one I went to was Oasis.
John: Our first gig though... I was off to the side of the stage somewhere and Martin was playing guitar in the middle! I had my eyes closed all the way through, my voice kept jumping... but we walked off stage like 'We are IT!'

What do you all enjoy doing outside of music?
Martin: We drink a lot! We just like hanging out and not doing much!
John: We like dogs. Anywhere there's a dog, we'll crumble to the floor in a heap of excitement.
Jack: I just stay at home and sit in my pants. To be honest if we don't end up doing music, we're destined for a life of bins and boring.
Martin: Music takes up a lot of our time and when we're not banding we're working, so you don't really have much time to go horseriding. You gotta earn your money, because this doesn't pay much! We've only got jobs to keep our feet on the ground though!

What's next for Polkadodge?
John: We want to do a proper release again, like 'All In My Head'. We put two songs out because we didn't plan it very well, so we're going to plan a proper release... probably a song which is called 'Running' at the minute. Everything starts to pick up around January. What if our band at the minute is spaghetti bolognese... we're gonna cook another one, so we're getting everything out of the chopping bag. The mince is the song, the onions are the gigs. So the onions come out, the garlic comes out and people will be like 'oh, I see what you're doing there,' but... we've got just a little carrot that we're going to grate in that we're not telling you about, and we are going to dangle that carrot next year.
Jack: To sum up what he's saying, there's something happening. Also, I just want to bring this up... who puts carrot in bolognese?
Martin: Jack, we're not on about your microwave meals here mate!

The interview ended with Martin and Jack wrestling on the floor in a heated argument about food. Yes, food. Battles were fought, trousers were split... but despite this being my longest interview to date, one major question remains unanswered; does carrot have a place in the traditional spaghetti bolognese dish? I'll leave that one with you, or feel free to contact the band themselves on Twitter at: @polkadodgeband.

'All In My Head will be available via iTunes and Spotify on December 16th but for now, check out the music video below:

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