Jamie Hails | Jake Steinhauser | Rick Schneider | Ryan Siew | Daniel Furnari
When it came time to make their new album, The Death Of Me, the Sydney-based band Polaris knew they had a tall order on their hands. Its predecessor, their 2017 debut The Mortal Coil, was an ARIA-nominated, Top 10 hit in Australia, introducing the group to legions of fans around the country and, thanks to an extensive international touring schedule, the world.
“We wanted to walk a line between maintaining what’s defined our band and brought people to our music in the first place, while trying to write for ourselves and keep ourselves interested,” begins drummer Daniel Furnari, one of the main songwriters in the unit. “Being our second full-length, we knew it was important for us to surprise the listener as well - nobody wants to hear the same record twice. We wanted to give them things they wouldn’t expect, take them to new places, but also for it to be definitively a Polaris record, building on what we’ve been working towards.”
The tone was set early in the writing process when the first two songs the five-piece penned, the melodically-charged “Masochist” and the feral, aural headbutt that is “Hypermania” – stretched the boundaries of their sound further than ever before. They set the course for an album that features some of the most bruising material Polaris have recorded – witness the churning, high intensity “Landmine” – and in the ’80s rock-infused “Martyr (Waves)”, some of their most melodic.
Attuned listeners may also hear a palpable undercurrent of anxiety and paranoia in songs like “Masochist”. It stems not only from the pressure of following The Mortal Coil, but from the fact that while writing The Death Of Me each member was coming to terms with their world being turned upside down by the success of their debut. After all, when Furnari co-founded Polaris in Southern Sydney in 2012 with vocalist Jamie Hails, guitarist Rick Schneider and bassist/vocalist Jake Steinhauser – lead guitarist Ryan Siew joined in 2013 – they spent the next five years as a strictly local, underground concern. Now they’d been thrust into a life of international touring, complete with the euphoric highs of sold out shows and the crushing lows that happen in the silence that follows.
Indeed in the two years since The Mortal Coil, Polaris embarked on three sold-out headlining tours of Australia, as well as supporting Architects and Parkway Drive around the country; five runs throughout Europe (including a series of arena shows supporting Architects and a slew of high-profile summer festival spots); three separate U.S. tours; not to mention performing at the Download Festival and Unify Gathering in Australia. Somewhere in there, the quintet found time to write The Death Of Me.
“It was very intense, back-and-forthing between tours and the studio over those couple of months, but it was also really exciting because we knew we were giving ourselves the time and opportunity to make something we would be really proud of,” says Furnari.
As the main lyricist in Polaris, Furnari warns that The Death Of Me contains some of the bleakest material he’s ever penned, with recurring lyrical motifs and ideas floating throughout. “There is a kind of arc to the lyrics that takes you across the record,” he starts, while stressing that The Death Of Me isn’t a concept album. “It’s really a record about losing faith in yourself and the world, and finding it again temporarily before losing it once more. It’s this cycle of ups and downs and highs and lows and victory and defeat again and again, struggling to find balance in our lives and within ourselves.”
“We’re so lucky to be out here doing what we’re doing, but the baggage that comes with that can be pretty heavy at times, and it’s definitely brought to the surface and exacerbated certain aspects of our mental health,” admits Furnari. “Learning to deal with that has been a big part of the journey. In a lot of ways, the album is a chronicle of what we’ve been through. There’s been a lot of good times too, but it’s not a happy record by any stretch - writing from a place of pain and struggle is a part of who we are as a band. And in contrast to our earlier stuff, I no longer feel pressured to provide some kind of solution. I’ve just learned to be okay with saying, ‘This is how I felt at that time.’”
“We’ve experienced more of the world and gone out of our comfort zone, and I think that’s audible in the music,” says Furnari. “I think a lot of things people enjoy about The Mortal Coil we’ve managed to retain, but we’ve stretched the envelope further in every direction of what we consider to be our sound. I just don’t think we could have thought of most of this stuff two years ago.”