Polar Bear: Raw and Spontaneous
This relationship has been forged over a history of playing together. Does this mean, then, that Polar Bear doesn't rehearse? Again, both musicians laugh before one of them, Rochford in this case, answers. "We don't rehearse a lot. We rehearse when I've got new tunes, but I'm lucky in that everyone memorizes the music, so we can let the music develop," he says. "We generally rehearse if Seb has new stuff, or if we have a big concert coming up." Herbert adds: "Sometimes it's good to rehearse just to dust off the cobwebs, iron out a few inconsistencies."
With such an approach, and with four albums recorded, how much of the Polar Bear repertoire can the band call on for any given performance? Rochford is confident in him answer. "You'd have to ask Tom, Pete or Mark," he says. "I can do all of it, but then I don't have to remember the actual notes or the keys." Herbert is happy to take a spontaneous approach to the set list from time to time, if audience requests arise. "There are the occasional gigs when someone will shout something out ... 'Beartown' and 'Argumentative' are two tunes that get called out quite a lot," Herbert says. "Yeah," adds Rochford. "We played 'Argumentative' a while ago when we hadn't played it for ages because someone shouted out for it and everybody remembered how it went." Herbert takes up the theme again, emphasizing that responding to requests isn't always the best thing to do. "On a gig, we work the set out, and we get a shape for the set. It can really disrupt things if you throw in a different tuneit breaks up the rhythm. .. There are certain tunes that we'll work toward because they fulfill a certain function for the audience," he says.
Like most contemporary bands, Polar Bear plays many different types of venues. Each one creates a different vibe, which the musicians recognize and exploit. Herbert doesn't declare a preference. "The interesting thing for me is that it really affects the way we play," he says. "I quite like it when we play to an audience that's sitting down because it creates an atmosphere in the room that's very different from where people are all standing up and close together and right up near the stage and it's hot. I enjoy the contrasts the different environments bring out in the music."
With the release of Peepers, Polar Bear will spend much of the first half of 2010 touring. Rochford has longer term plans for the band, but prefers to keep them to himself. "I don't really like talking about that. Sometimes, when you talk about your plan, you don't do it. I have got some ideas about what I want to do, but I feel that to say them might actually stop me from doing them. I wouldn't want to say them and then not do them," Rochford says. Herbert and Rochford both laugh, but the bassist makes no attempt to get Rochford to reveal his plans, and talk turns to the new album.