Polar Bear - Kicking The Senses

Polar Bear has been in the vanguard of the new wave of UK jazz groups to emerge over the past five years. Led by drummer Seb Rochford, the band appeals to both jazz and rock audiences but became known to a still wider audience when its second album Held On The Tips Of Fingers was Mercury nominated. Switching labels, from Babel Records to V2, for its latest album, as yet untitled, Andy Robson catches up with the band members on the eve of the album’s launch.
Polar Bear - Kicking The Senses
The course of releasing a new album never did run smooth. There’s an issue about the cover. “The cover involves Isabella Rossellini’s lips,” grins saxophonist Pete Wareham, wolvishy.

“They had to ring David Lynch for the rights…” he explains.

“Not Isabella?” asks saxophonist Mark Lockheart, the Daddy, much perturbed about fair shares in the family. “No, they just asked the ex-husband,” affirms bassist Tom Herbert, all freshly polished from the bath.

“They were married?” asks laptop man Leafcutter John, youthfully incredulous.

“And Lynch got the lips,” nods Wareham knowingly.

“And she got the house,” affirms Lockheart.

A beat of silence.

“Sounds like a fair swap” reckons John. And the band nod quiet assent.

It’s a typical Polar Bear exchange, vaguely suggestive of how the band works: there’s wit and surreal irreverence – kind of appropriate as we meet on the day George Melly died – yet beneath the to and fro of band badinage, there’s the hint of darkness, where families fail and bodies get dismembered.

Lockheart, a pro since Leafcutter John was hanging out at primary school, is all experience, dare one say a father figure (his own daughter has just turned 18); Wareham, the band’s Thin White Duke, is waspish, intellectually allusive; Herbert, well, he turned up late for the interview, but at least he’s clean.

“I got carried away in the bath and missed the train,” he declares, protesting his innocence a little too much. Collective pause while band considers what ‘getting carried away in the bath’ might entail, but thankfully no-one questions the bass man on his personal toilet habits.

And Leafcutter? (John to his mates) He has that childlike curiosity about the world that is as beguiling as the soundscapes his computer eddies forth. But relative new boy to the band as he might be, it’s no surprise that John had the last word in that particular interlude, because his electronic patternings are vital to Polar Bear’s unique voice.
And talking of voices, aren’t we missing one?

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