Saturday, September 12, 2015

Q and A with Peter Anthony of Polaris Rose

Polaris Rose is a Los Angeles-based duo that makes good music. I tried to pin down guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Peter Anthony on what genre they are. For those that read regularly, you know I don't care for genres. Peter's answer was perfect. He didn't know either.

Polaris Rose is the aforementioned Peter Anthony along with vocalist/bassist Madelynn (Maddie) Elyse, and most-of-the-time drummer Kiel Feher.

Peter was kind enough to participate in a Q and A for The Cheap Seats.

First of all, thank you for taking the time to do this.
I’ve been in several bands through the years. Coming up with a name for the band was sometimes contentious and sometimes the easiest thing. So, I’m always curious how a name comes about. How did you come up with Polaris Rose? Which, by the way, I think is a great band name.

Thanks! We agree. It can be a challenge to find the right band name for a particular group. The name ‘Polaris Rose’ came about pretty organically. Maddie and I started this project because we had a dozen or so songs that all had a similar sound and similar lyric motifs. We wanted there to be a certain feeling and vocabulary associated with the music… the name Polaris Rose just popped into my head while I was cleaning the apartment and it felt right.

The pinned tweet on my twitter page says “Listen to albums, not songs…” I really believe in listening to albums to get a full sense of what the artist is about. In the past six months or so, I suppose while recording the new record, you seemed to have had a change of heart about how to release music. According to your blog, at one point it was all about getting new songs out there on a regular basis, then that changed. For the new release, you’re not releasing anything in advance. What prompted that change?

Well, it has been a evolving conversation… For a minute there, we were thinking of doing the ‘single-every-other-month’ approach. We were inspired by how the Smashing Pumpkins released ‘Teargarden by Kaleidoscope’. But the further down that road we traveled, the more we realized it was a bad decision. It’s hard (and expensive) to keep a sustained press campaign going so that your songs are getting out there. At the same time, the whole ‘singles singles singles’ mentality leads to writing certain songs… you know, songs with radio formula. And while we love a great pop song , we love other types of songs just as much.
Furthermore, I’m an album guy. I listen to entire records and engage with them more deeply. It was simple really… us trying to put out singles was us trying to be business savvy and smart… but (creatively) it wasn’t what we do naturally. And that’s a big problem. I’m very happy we went down that road, mostly because we came out on the other side and have allowed our creative process to become more true to who we are.

What is the songwriting process like for Polaris Rose? Is it a collaborative effort from the start? Or do you write independently and then collaborate to finish? Or do one of you do the majority of the writing?

The songwriting is mostly my department. It’s my responsibility to write a chunk of songs for every album and then we select our favorites. That being said, Maddie is the only other person down in the submarine, so to say. There are many moments along the way when her ideas sway the direction of our songs/albums. For example, I recently showed her an idea I had for a song from our upcoming 3rd LP. She liked the song but hated the melody I had written for the verse. So I have to go back and rewrite the song. And – like always – it turned out better.

You bill yourselves as a duo. Are there other permanent members? Or is it just the two of you with studio musicians and touring/show musicians?

After having both being in numerous bands, Maddie and I really wanted to captain this ship on our own. However, it feels like we have a third member. Kiel Feher is an amazing drummer who has played on all of our records and he has played 80% of our shows with us. We love his playing and hope that he is able to join us on all of our records.

Personally, I’ve given up on trying to define genres. I really only care about one genre, and that’s called “music I like”. The bio on your webpage refers to Alt Rock. Educate me. What does that really mean, at least to you?

Well, we are sort of waiting for other people to slap a genre on us. Alt Rock is a bit of a cop out. We don’t just say ‘rock’ because that conjures up ACDC/blues rock ideas… and I feel like hanging out in that genre is uninteresting to people. Maddie likes to call us indie rock… but I prefer alternative because our guitar style is more aggressive than I associate with indie rockers.

You are active on social media. How important is social media in today’s music landscape and how do you feel about that?

Immensely important. And fun. We try not to do anything that isn’t fun. We have had some friends over the years who really stress themselves out getting likes and whatnot… we believe the real key behind social media success is interaction. It’s always too bad to see a band with 50,000 likes but nobody is interacting with them. It’s counterproductive to buy likes or comments. Those need to be genuine.

I grew up in a time where to listen to music it was the radio or you bought physical copies. Times have changed. It is much easier to get music out there now, but conversely, it’s a lot harder to get music noticed in a flood. What strategies do you use to get your music noticed and/or into the right hands, so to speak?

We definitely agree. Music as an art form is in a different place. I personally think the days of the rock star are gone. We are now in the era of home producers… kids like myself who grew up being able to record music at home. The way we share music is more about community now. The bands who will succeed in the forthcoming era will be those who build communities around themselves… and there is little hope – I think – of making a substantial living. It has to be a passion project. I have a lot of friends who disagree with me on this point. They believe that it is entirely possible to carve out a living as an independent artist… you just need 1,000 fans willing to spend $100 annually… or something like that… but I’m a bit more pessimistic in my thoughts.

I understand you are in the midst of a six album journey, for lack of a better word. I know you won’t reveal any details for any upcoming releases. This is quite an ambitious venture. Especially for someone that doesn’t have the cache or cash of a more established artist. How did this idea come about? And was it a hard sell for either of you?

The idea for the 6-album series came about naturally over time. We are really excited about it. This may sound strange, but the 4th album of our series was actually the first written. It is called “Mechanical Clouds”. As we were in pre-production for our debut record Telescopes – I submitted that entire record to our manager. He didn’t like it. The record was too dark. Too progressive. So we made the choice to focus on more melodic, LA-sounding songs for Telescopes. We are both happy we made that choice.
A couple months ago, Maddie called me and said “I was just listening to the demos from Mechanical Clouds and I really want to make that record.” I asked her: “As a side project?” and she said: “No, I want it to be a Polaris Rose record”. 
That got my mind going and pretty soon we had the 6-album series mapped out. Album number 2 is coming out soon – called Ocean Blue, Velvet Skies – and it will take us down a road that gets continually darker until the final record, which is a soft, sad record.

There is a lot going on in your music, which I assume comes from many different influences. I hear many things, but that is based on my listening experiences over the years. So, I ask you, who are your main influences musically?

I’d say we are Smashing Pumpkins meets Failure meets Steely Dan. Maybe sprinkle some Foo Fighters and Alanis Morrisette.

There is the new record coming out. Is there a release date for that?

We are still ironing out the release date for Ocean Blue, Velvet Skies, but I think it will be November.

I like to end things with some questions apropos of nothing. If you’ll indulge me:
If you were a tree, which animal spirit would best exemplify your flavor?


What is the best song you never wrote?

“I Only Have Eyes for You” by the Flamingos.

Stranded. What three albums do you want?

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness by the Smashing Pumpkins, The Heart is a Monster by Failure and The Royal Scam by Steely Dan.

How different would current vernacular be if the Nixon scandal had taken place on the set of Sharknado rather than the Watergate Hotel?

“I am not a shark” - Nixon

Right now, how much do you regret agreeing to this Q and A?

Had a great time! Thanks for having us.

Polaris Rose links:

Here is "Kiss Me, Icarus" from their most recent album Telescopes.

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