Music Features

Polarsets and Big Deal (Interviews)

My personal highlights from last weekend's Underground Festival were sets from hotly-tipped indie dance trio Polarsets and enticing, transatlantic shoegazers Big Deal.  I was therefore delighted when both bands agreed to interviews for No Ripcord.


So, did you enjoy your set today?

We did, actually. We're trying out new songs and some new arrangements of old songs so it was a bit sketchy, but I think we got through it alright. Last night, we were playing in Newcastle with Fenech Soler, and it was the first time we've ever tried the new set.

I can imagine your music working quite well with Fenech Soler actually.

Yeah, we've played with them quite a few times now – probably three or four times. They're really lovely lads. The two bands do tend to get grouped together quite a bit by promoters.

And I've seen that you've been supporting Delphic, amongst other bands. I can imagine Delphic working quite well with your kind of music.

Delphic are on Kitsuné, who released a single for us as well, so I think they're into the whole indie-dance-pop-not-really-sure-what-it-is-vibe.

Sunshine Eyes, wasn't it, that got released through Kitsuné? And it got featured on Kitsuné Maison Compilation 11?

It did, yeah. The single was released in April and I think the compilation released in May, something like that.

How did that come about?

They got in touch with us. I can only assume that they'd heard one of our tracks through a blog or something. They were like “we'd really love to work with you, we'd like to put something on the Maison 11 compilation”. We were really honoured, and very excited about it. We chose Sunshine Eyes as the single and then they were like “we really like the track, we want to do it as a single proper”. So they ended up doing both in the end, which is obviously very good for us.

So is there a chance of any more collaborations with Kitsuné?

We hope so. You never know. We're playing in Paris in October so hopefully, a few of the Kitsuné crew will come along to that show and enjoy the live show.

What's that for, is that in support of someone else?

No, we're headlining the show. We're playing the Nouveau Casino, which is meant to be an amazing venue. It's right in the centre of Paris, probably going to be a nightmare to get to. We got something through from them today saying “there's no parking, parking's your problem!”. Ou est le parking lot...por favor?

So you're very much still experiencing some of the downsides of being a small band?

Oh, I don't know, not really – being on tour's so much fun. And I'm pretty sure that, regardless of the parking, the Paris gig will be amazing. Yeah, parking's not a huge issue. If you get asked “would you like to come and headline Glastonbury?”, your first question isn't “What's the parking like?”

Have you guys done many festivals so far this year?

We've done a few of the smaller ones like Y-Not, Kendal Calling... I've run out now... we have done quite a few, we just have awful memories! We did Belladrum, Belladrum was really amazing. We decided this year to avoid any of the big ones. I think we probably could have got slots on some of the small stages at festivals like T in the Park and Leeds, and maybe Glasto. But you don't really want to be playing at one o' clock on a Sunday afternoon when everybody's completely jaded and hates music, and just wants to go to the comedy tent to sit down for a bit.

So is that your intention, to avoid it this year and then hopefully next year...

Hopefully next year, do some better slots, yeah. Like maybe headline one of the Introducing stages next year. I think it's worked well, because we've ended up doing some late on slots at small festivals this year, on main stages. I think it's been a good decision. I think that if we'd have gone to Glasto this year, it would have been a year too early for us, at least.

What was Y-Not like as a festival? It's twinned with 2000trees, which is based in Gloucestershire and is a festival that I went to over the summer. I think it's a little bit bigger, with a capacity of about 7,000 – 8,000 people, something like that?

Yeah, that was amazing, really good. I don't know how many people were there. Often when you're playing festival slots, the first song you play to 50 people and by the time you play the last song, there's like, 350.

So, you've released a couple of singles now. When is the album coming, what is it called?

The working title is Exotica. And it's essentially written, or very much on its way. It probably needs a few production sort of things, tweaking lyrics here and there. But the bulk of it is written and recorded into demo format. So if there's any major label heads reading this interview... give us some money and we'll go and record it properly!

When are you hoping to release the album, have you got a date in mind?

Next year, hopefully. I wouldn't want to do it this year, because I think it'd be rushed. I think this tour's going to earn us quite a bit of money so we'll probably be financially stable until maybe February or March next year.

And have you thoughts of beyond the album?

No... maybe Sainsbury's?


So, is this the first time you've headlined a festival?

Kacey: It is the first time we've headlined a festival. And we're celebrating by tucking into a nice, big, fat cucumber.

Well, each to their own, I suppose. Have you done many festivals over the summer? I know you guys did Reading and Leeds...

Alice: Yeah – Reading and Leeds, and Hop Farm, Wireless, Lounge on the Farm, End of the Road...

And do any of those hold special memories for you?

Alice: Yeah, Reading was amazing. Reading was so much fun, it was like a perfect day.
Kacey: And here was pretty nice. I like it here, it's really weird. It feels like going to a school prom. Is that what you guys call them here?

Yeah, we have proms. What was it about Reading that made it so special for you?

Alice: It was a really amazing crowd. There were loads of people there and it was a really nice vibe. And there were lots of really great bands playing that we wanted to see.

So you got to hang around and check out a few of the other bands that were playing then?

Alice: Yeah, well it was the same lineup who were playing Leeds the next day. I don't remember who we saw now. Our friends GROUPLOVE were playing...
Kacey: And we saw Cults.
Alice: Cults, yeah. And we saw Tribes. And the Strokes.

What did you think of the Strokes' performance? Because I have to admit, I saw their performance there too and I wasn't enamoured with it. After Pulp, who were incredible...

Kacey: I'm not a Pulp fan. But we'd seen Pulp at Wireless and I thought it was so much fun. But by the time I saw them at Reading, it wasn't enough for me. I was more excited for the Strokes. It was one of those things where it was different for us, because we were lucky enough to get up on to the side of the stage and watch them. It was really great, because I hate big crowds of people and so I'm lucky – I get to watch all my favourite bands from the side of the stage without battling with 100,000 people. That, for me, was really nice 'cause it was without the stress.
Alice: And also, we were such big fans, and I think we would have been embarrassed singing along with all the words, if we'd have been in a big crowd. It was nice to have our own Strokes-watching moment.

I think it depends on how drunk you are...

Kacey: Oh, we... we had that covered!

Is it the smaller venues that work best for your kind of music? Your music is unique in a way. There aren't many bands out there doing what you're doing – two guitars, two's very intimate. Does it work better with a smaller crowd or does it work equally as well with a big crowd?

Alice: It really depends on the crowd. Reading worked because it was a big crowd and everyone was completely engaged and it was great. But if it had been a massive crowd that weren't interested, it wouldn't have worked.
Kacey: We've been in rooms where there are 20 to 30 people and five people aren't into it. When there are only two of you on stage and you hear everything – you hear just as much as they hear you. That's the one thing that does make it hard and is unusual for us. So obviously, when it's at a big place, it's better because you don't know.

So, you just released your album a few weeks ago. Was it good to finally get it out there, to have that pressure off you?

Alice: Everyone keeps saying “finally”, which is so weird because we've been together for a year and a few months, so it's not really a “finally” thing. We literally just started, wrote an album, recorded an album and got it out there a few months later. It's not like we've been waiting and waiting for years to get this album out. It's quite a natural progression. We didn't have any pressure to write an album. We just started writing and ending up having an album's worth.
Kacey: Yeah, I'm relieved that it's out in one sense, because it's done. And we can do whatever we want now and start writing for the next one.

Will you be continuing in the same vein with just the two of you? Or do you think that as you grow, your sound will grow and your band will grow? Is this something you've talked about?

Kacey: The next record is a drum and bass record. *laughs*
Alice: It's hard to know how you'll progress... or regress! But we'll see how long we can bear just the two of us.

What are your inspirations, what do you guys listen to a lot? Casey - you're from California, any Californian bands you like?

Kacey: Californian bands? That's the thing, California's one of those places that's sort of like London. Where bands call themselves London bands but they're not from London, you know what I mean? But in terms of Californian bands, I think we both like Weezer. They're a Californian band. They're kind of from L.A., but not. And California aside, Nirvana, of course, and Pavement.

You mentioned drum and bass earlier. I know you said that as a joke, but are you into the dance scene? Could you see your music being remixed or perhaps a future album being mixed?

Kacey: Yeah, definitely. Some of our stuff is being remixed right now. It seemed like a strange idea at first, but it really works better than we thought it would. The elements are there and there's the space for whoever wants to bring their ideas to it. And it just changes the sound.

Who have you got lined up to do the remixes?

Kacey: We're kind of testing the waters a little bit. We don't know who we're going to use but we've got some people in mind. But I think it'll work as B-sides to singles, or maybe if we get enough, we'd have enough to do a record of it. It may be a little strange, but it may be amazing.

So you've done the album, you've done a hell of a lot of tour dates and festival dates. What now? Where do you go from here? Is it further touring, touring overseas?

Kacey: Well, our record will come out in January in the States. And we'll probably go over for a bit of touring once that's out there.
Alice: But for now, we're doing another UK tour from Tuesday.
Kacey: With Cloud Control.
Alice: And a few European dates.

Have you guys been out to Europe so far?

Alice: Yeah, our label took us and two other bands. We were all on the same bus, driving through Berlin, Amsterdam and Paris. Sixteen people on one bus.
Kacey: And no air conditioning.
Alice: It was amazing. But it was fucking intense. We did three European dates in three nights. But it was amazing.

I bet it was similar when you were doing the NME Radar Tour. It must have been a huge amount of fun but at the same time, you must have been basically living with GROUPLOVE and Anna Calvi for a couple of weeks?

Kacey: More so GROUPLOVE.
Alice: Yeah, with Anna Calvi... it's sort of different when you're the headliner.
Kacey: We were there with GROUPLOVE and having fun, but it was a bit different for her [Anna]. It was a bit stressful for us, because we hadn't done a tour and we were being told things like “leave the stage now!”, “don't stand around for ten minutes tuning your guitar”, that sort of thing.
Alice: We were lucky to be with a band like GROUPLOVE who are so easy to get along with.

They are lovely people. I was lucky enough to talk to them after their set at Thekla and got a signed copy of their EP. They are, just, lovely bubbly people, on and offstage.

Alice: I know, it's like when you see them every day for two weeks, it's like “How can this be real? How can you be that happy? What the fuck is going on?!"

They didn't reveal their secret?

Alice: No!
Kacey: I reckon that they're actually miserable, angry, bitter people for twenty hours a day. Whereas, with us, onstage we're subdued but privately, we're bouncing off the walls, watching the Disney Channel!