THE FURY AND THE FORCE
WITH THEIR 2017 DEBUT, POLARIS CAPTURED LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE. FOR ITS FOLLOW-UP, THE SYDNEYSIDERS TURN THAT BOTTLE INTO A MOLOTOV AND PELT IT RIGHT AT OUR FACES.
From opening spots at their local YMCA to sold-out headliners in foreign arenas, Polaris are on the type of skyward soar you typically only see in Hollywood fantasies. It was their debut full-length, TheMortalCoil, that lit the fuse on their still-exploding firework – since the day it dropped in November 2017, the Sydney metalcore crew have been kicking goals and brewing pits non-stop.
Now, a breath over two years later, it’s make or break. All eyes are on the little rifflords that could for their second shot at the airwaves – and according to lead guitarist Ryan Siew, they’re not about to blow it.
How did you want TheDeathOfMe to kick the sound and style of Polaris up to the next level?
It’s been quite a while since we put TheMortal Coil out, and that album did have a much bigger impact than we ever thought it would. So we felt very pressured – especially since a few of us suffer from poor mental health and anxiety, it did feel like a huge weight to follow up something like [our first album].
But in those few years, we’ve been to Europe about five times now, and the States twice; we’ve seen Japan, we’ve seen New Zealand… We’ve seen the world, pretty much, and that changes you as a person. And inevitably, that seeps into the music. I think this record is just a culmination of that.
We never really sat down and had a brief, like, “Oh, we want to make a heavier record,” or, “We want to do this...” We just wanted to write music for the sake of writing music. I think a lot of people are going to be surprised by what the album turned out to be after hearing the single. “Masochist” is a bit of a softer song, but without saying too much, the heavy metallers out there won’t be disappointed by the whole album.
I know that in the creative process, you tried a few new approaches to songwriting – like how with “Masochist”, you wrote the riffs around the vocal melody instead of vice versa. How else did you shake things up as songwriters?
I think after doing two EPs and an album, you learn so much about songwriting. I think it’s always a really gruelling process, but we’ve kind of figured out a way to streamline it. Honestly, it hasn’t really changed too much, because the reason the band sounds the way it does is hugely due to us as individuals.
You’ve always been a pretty technical shredder, and it seems that with each new release, you try to up the ante for yourself. How did you want this record in particular to challenge your skills as a guitarist?
I really wanted to challenge myself as much as I could with my lead playing, because I didn’t get to explore that as much as I would’ve liked to on the last record. And because of the sporadic nature of how this album was made – we had about six months, which is half the time we did TheMortalCoil in – we were just kind of like, “F*** it.”
The rule was that it didn’t matter if you had a crazily technical part or an impossible blastbeat section; if it sounded good, we’d use it! So I guess in that sense, the music did come out more technical, in a strange way. But yeah, we always go into a record wanting to be better musicians than we were the last time, and give ourselves a little bit of a challenge.
What guitars were you ripping out on?
We used our Mayones guitars. For the seven-string stuff, we used a Mayones Regius Core that had this crazy gradient finish on it, which was just beautiful. It’s got a Schaller Hannes bridge on it, and an 11-piece wenge neck-through. Crazy, crazy stuff. And that Schaller Hannes bridge – it’s, like, bolted onto the body, and it’s got this big f***ing chunk of brass for the tail piece. And it sounds so clunky and growly and mid-range-y – I can’t really describe it, but it’s very attack-y, which was really suck. And that was perfect for the seven-string stuff because it was tuned lower.
And then for the six-string stuff, we mostly use the Regius 6 that I have; it’s blue, and it’s another very solid guitar, spec-wise. It’s got an 11-piece maple dominant neck and ash wings, and a buckeye burl top. We’ve been fortunate enough to be working closely with Mayones – and even Fender, through EVH – so we pretty much had any choice of guitar we could have picked up. We’re very spoilt [ laughs].
So it was mostly those two Mayones guitars, but there was also a Strat and a bunch of other stuff.
For the pickups in the rhythm guitars, we used the Bare Knuckle Juggernauts. We’ve been big fans of Bare Knuckle for ages, and they’re so nice to us as well. We used them in the bridge when we were tracking all the rhythms, and then the leads were mostly done with a Juggernaut pickup on the first guitar that Mayones ever made for me. And then for all of the clean stuff, we used the Bare Knuckle VHII pickup, which is… It’s not a high-output pickup, but it’s really fat and round, and it’s got that ‘pick attack’ thing going. So that was really cool for some layers – and it sounded great split as well.
I know you’re hard at work developing your first signature guitar at the moment. What can you tell us about that?
Yeah! It absolutely blows my mind that it’s even happening. It’s still in the prototyping stages, obviously – they won’t let me post about them on the internet yet, but they’re really, really cool. I’ve had the luxury to play around with every single option you could imagine. And [Mayones] have been so good to me; they just came up to me one day and said, “A lot of our dealers are getting customers coming up to them and going, ‘I want that red guitar that Ryan has!’”
That red guitar is the first one that Mayones ever made for me. I did some stuff with it on YouTube a long time ago, and I feel like a lot of people associate that finish with what I do, and with the band. So it’s based on that OG guitar, but I’ve taken everything that I’ve loved from every single guitar I’ve played since then, and that has built me [as a guitarist], and smashed it into one.
Tickets are on sale now via polarisaus.com