Polar Bear: Raw and Spontaneous
Polar Bear, from left: Tom Herbert, Seb Rochford, Mark Lockheart Pete Wareham, Leafcutter John
Both Rochford and Herbert are quiet and thoughtful. Rochford is an exceptionally softly-spoken individual whose voice betrays only occasional hints of his Scottish origins; his considered and thoughtful responses belie the stereotypical image of the loud and manic drummer. Together, Rochford and Herbert offer many insights into an innovative and exciting band that is based on friendship and mutual respect.
Four of Polar Bear's members have been together since their first album, Dim Lit (Babel, 2004), but there had been an earlier incarnation of the band. Rochford explains about the first Polar Bear lineup: "I can't really remember when, but I started the band with Rachel Musson, a saxophonist, and Amy Baldwin on double bass. We had a bass clarinetist as well, Ben Harlan. We recorded demos, just four-track stuff, but it didn't work out. Out of the current people, I think Pete [Wareham] was the first person I met. I asked another saxophonist if he wanted to join a band, but he didn't want to do it and said, 'Oh, you should phone Pete.' So I did, and there was an instant connection."
Herbert and Polar Bear's other tenor player, Mark Lockheart
Lockheart joined after Rochford saw him playing a standards gig at London's 606 Club. "I thought he was amazingthe amount of personality he had, playing tunes I'd heard so many times before," Rochford says. "He has a really positive presence on stage, and I thought that he'd go brilliantly with Pete's way of playing." The two tenor lineup has been a constant in the band since then, but was this intentional? Rochford is happy to admit that, initially, it wasn't. "Actually, I called Pete because the guy who gave me his number told me that Pete played bass clarinet," Rochford says. And does Wareham play bass clarinet? "No," Rochford says, laughing. "I don't think he's ever played it. But by the time I found out, I didn't really care anymore; I just loved his playing."