The Sydney duo will get in your face and cover Mariah Carey. Give them your money

Emerge Impact + Music is created and produced by ABP Media’s parent company, A Beautiful Perspective. Leading up to the event, we’re featuring some of the musicians and speakers who’ll be performing in Las Vegas April 6-8. 

“Take my soul, just gimme, gimme, gimme money!” David Novak wails on Polish Club’s 2017 song “Gimme Money.” It’s a bracingly direct message from a bracingly direct band. The Sydney performers play fast, scrappy, hooky rock, with great enthusiasm and few frills. “Oh! You think you’ve figured it out!” Novak sings, his voice scrambling to keep up with the breakneck pace. “Two, three chords/some drums/and twist and shout.” But he adds, “There’s a little bit more to it/you will see/Art’s better when you have just a pinch of fucking personality!”

Polish Club has plenty of personality, even though, or because, there aren’t a lot of them on stage. The band is a two piece: David Novak plays guitar and sings while John-Henry Pajak plays drums. The limited sonic palette forces the band to keep songs simple—which Novak actually sees as an advantage.

“Thus far, the restrictions have been beneficial to us,” he said. “I can’t bust out a face-melting solo, because I don’t have a bass guitar chugging below it, but I’m also terrible at face-melting solos. That’s pretty much the only downside. With just the two of us, we’re always in sync and the onus is always on us to bust our balls and make sure the energy is always up. There’s no pausing to get a breath while the bass goes for a walk or a guitarist does some wanky solo number. It’s all us, all the time.”

Polish Club has been together for about three years, but Novak and Pajak have both been involved in music for much longer. Pajak played in a number of Sydney bands, and Novak “spent years recording terrible covers of indie songs on Garageband while hoping my high school band would actually release music one day.” They first got together when Novak brought Pajak in to play drums for that ill-fated high school band. Pajak suggested they play gigs just the two of them, and soon they were up and rocking. “It was less about being a two-piece and more about just finding another person on the same page that was easy to write with,” Novak says.

Since then the band has released three EPs, including two in 2017—Alright Already and Okie Dokie. They’ve also put out a steady stream of exhilaratingly inventive low-fi videos. Last November they released a snottily heartfelt cover of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” which included sing-along bouncing ball lyrics and footage of fans, friends, business associates and Sydney personalities (including an MP) boogeying manically as the duo blasts along. In March they released the single “Beeping”—an incredibly catchy number which sounds like it’s being performed by eager Stax records imitators who have egregiously miscalculated their amphetamine intake. The video was created via-photocopier; grainy animated images of the band replicate and warp, as if the pounding of the music has compromised Novak and Pajak’s structural integrity.

The band’s soul music leanings are—not surprisingly— casual rather than studious. “We always had this thing in Australia where everyone we’d speak to for an interview would say something to the effect of “so obviously you guys have been listening to soul music all your life. Like it’s clear that you’ve been in soul bands before, eh?” Novak told me. “And my response is always borderline offensive to them, as I tell them how I didn’t grow up with much soul music and I only really knew the handful of soul standards when we started Polish Club.” Pajak is a fan of punk, and Novak loves ’90s R&B; they’re both also influenced by the garage revivalists of the 2000s.

“So essentially,” Novak says, “we’re just ripping off the people who ripped off the influences that everyone assumes were ours. In my mind I see Wilson Pickett trying to sing like Mariah Carey over a backing band of The Strokes.”

Polish Club may not offer sincere retro-scholarship, but they’re committed to giving you a great time when you come to their concerts.

“We’re very focused on our live show first and foremost as it’s the place where you make that literal connection between the music and the listener,” Novak says.

The band’s recordings are deliberately made with an eye to keeping close to their live sound, which means (since they’re only a two piece) there can’t be that much trickery. “We have the most fun playing live, so we want that to be the perfect representation of us and our music. There’s nothing better than getting up in people’s faces in real life and knowing if you do it right, you give them no choice but to pay attention.”

The band has done pretty well with drawing attention so far. Alright Already was nominated for a 2017 Australian Recording Industry Association award for Best Rock Album, and they’ve gotten good coverage in the Australian Press. Emerge Impact + Music in Las Vegas April 6-8 is their first major international gig, and they’re looking forward to moving on to bigger things and getting some money—though without losing that soul.

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