WE spent the last almost one-and-a-half-years writing and recording our second album, Iguana.
Think of literally all the clichés of a ‘difficult second album’ and you can rest assured, it applied here. So what’s the point?
Well, the album is really good, which I’m obliged to say but also coincidentally believe. Though I’m pretty sure the general consensus is that no one gives a rat’s arse about albums anymore and just listens to singles or cherry picks whatever song they like, adds them to a streaming service playlist, and forgets the rest exist. Though to be fair, it’s only when we have an album release that we get to do some of that sweet hot #content and blow all our money on marketing, so I suppose that’s the point.
So here are the 12 songs on Iguana broken down. I hope someone out there actually enjoys listening to them in sequence. – Dave Novak, Polish Club guitarist/singer
I think the concept of “we need a huge single” kind of stopped us in our tracks for a few weeks. We wrote, recorded and released this track in only a matter of weeks, towards the end of the album process. This was after a few weeks of us stressing about writing something that was out there and trying to be too different. We had a few half-baked ideas that were super poppy or dance-y, but they didn’t feel genuine enough so we pretty much gave up and wrote a big old rock song with a soaring chorus.
We wanted this one to sit at the top of the album because we see it as kind of mantra for the whole thing. Iguana is a “nighttime album” as our producer Wade put it to me. As soon as he said that, it became the thing that ties it all together for me both stylistically and lyrically. It all follows the peaks and troughs of a hedonistic and masochistic night out. This track reflects that pretty succinctly. Basically: “Fuck it.”
Almost every time we sit down to write a song together, JH [John-Henry Pajak, drums] turns to me and goes “just start with a huge filthy riff” and I get the shits because I’m not really a shredder like that. So this was the happy medium. In an effort to get us as far away from the two-piece label as possible, we put about six or seven guitars stacked on top of each other by the end of this song.
JH was wary about having another chorus centre around the concept of not wanting to be alone (like ‘How To Be Alone’ on the first record). I don’t know that I’d be able to write a full album without at least one mention of the concept as I reckon it’s probably the most universal fear for anyone and everyone. I’d argue most actions are affected by the need for company, support and fear of being isolated.
The drum beat(s) in this song went through so many alterations I’ve lost track of where it began. It was one of those things where the first iteration annoyed our A&R manager so much he “hated” it, but as the beat slowly but surely got simplified, there was inevitably a 180 pulled on it. I’m just happy it worked because it’s the one song that I find to be truly danceable.
Please note that vocally the song is almost literally me screaming at the top of my range. It’s masochistic and it stresses me out.
We wrote this first single very early in the piece and recorded it before any of the other tracks that made the album. At that point, it was surrounded by demos with a much more rock’n’roll vibe, so it stood out quite prominently. It kind of lead us to more of an understanding of what we could and couldn’t get away with in terms of adding stuff like synths and darker, more brooding elements.
The whole thing is in drop D tuning on guitar, which makes everything a little more dark and weighty. Once that was chosen as a single, I knew that we could explore that a bit more, and sure enough, a third of the album is in drop D and there are synth overdubs everywhere.
This is probably the most straight down the line song we’ve got on the album. It’s got your heart-on-your-sleeve lyrics, an acoustic guitar in the back, a singalong at the end, etc. And I suppose that’s why it’s one of the most fun to play live (or at least it feels like it in rehearsals). The funny thing is that all of those elements mentioned as down the line are somewhat rare for us. We used to have a rule that we never used acoustic guitars because it just didn’t work with our soul-punk two-piece whatever thing. But now it feels like we’re in a place where we can use those elements genuinely and have them make sense and have meaning.
Climate change is real. Yeah, super edgy I know. But there are still a majority of people in Australia and across the world that don’t appreciate that it’s the most important issue of our time. I find it hard to sing about political or ethical beliefs sometimes, as my vocal style tends to be on the sleazy, schlocky and/or soulful side. So sometimes those themes and statements come across as hackneyed or trite. But I wanted to do this one in a more positive and communal rallying way, like Stevie or MJ would do. I think almost every part of this song changed from the first demo we did besides the chorus melody. Which goes to show how important that was to the song. And yet again, it’s me screaming at the top of my range. Yay.
“You really think that this is better than any other song you’ve written before?” That was the initial response our manager sent us in an email when we recorded the first tracking of this song. At the time, JH, Wade and I were so sure that this was our next single. You kind of lose your bearings after that long in the studio. You start trying things for the sake of doing something different and can’t tell if it’s a good change or not. But we persevered, chopped stuff out, added a bunch of swear words, added a few Mark Morrison-esque vocal ad libs to the outro, and we couldn’t be happier with the end product.
I love writing lyrics that are incredibly specific and vivid, but are pretty much fabrications. Most of the time, vagueness that emotes effectively is my bread and butter. Stuff that covers a myriad of situations but hones in on a emotional truth for most people. But sometimes a really specific reference like, “I bought you those glasses in Amsterdam, won’t you wear them sometimes just to prove that it’s fine”, conjures up stuff in me and hopefully others that feels so real despite coming from a hypothetical place.
I wrote a really dirgey piano line that was in a really weird scale and sounded a bit 2spooky4me. I loved it but JH was the voice of reason and acoustic guitar and a kind of spaghetti western riff replaced it, which is definitely more tasteful. Nice one JH.
I can’t overstate how much I’ve mentioned New Jack Swing in every single interview we’ve done for this album and it’s all because of this song. After years of talking about how I don’t really know much about old soul music and how I’m actually really into ’90s R&B and that’s where all my little vocal bullshit and cheesiness came from, it’s so damn satisfying to have a song on this album that genuinely came from a New Jack Swing reference. The beat is basically a Bell Biv Devoe, Teddy Riley, Boyz II Men-era vibe and I’m quite frankly shocked that we got this one over the line.
This is another one of those “I’m so lonely, please love me but don’t look at me and try to forget how much of a disaster I am” deals. I love it. Our A&R manager still hates the “spooky synth”, but whatever.
The only song on the album under 2.30. In my mind it kind of sits in the old Polish Club world of instinctual grip-it-and-rip-it. Though I think it’s rather more tender than that. There’s a bit more restraint and depth to it instrumentation-wise than there would be if it were to have featured on the first album.
I think this is the first time we’ve ever used whistling in a song and honestly I’m surprised we even did. The only way I could excuse it within the weird parameters that exist in my head is by overdubbing a super fuzzed out guitar over it. Lovely.
I’ve always been a sucker for that vocoder sounding thing effect we have on the bass riff throughout this song. I’m not even sure what it’s called, or what a vocoder is, but it’s the bass part that sounds like someone with a wet mouth is “oooh-ing” and “aaah-ing” it. Obviously, when we first did the demo to this song that effect was a thousand times too prominent and turned everyone off it for a hot minute, but it’s all about moderation and once we found the happy medium, there was no way it wasn’t making the album. This song is kind of a nod to our love of Justice, Soulwax, Daft Punk and all the other electro royalty of that early-2000s era.
“Fuck it, why don’t we just write a Kings Of Leon song?” That’s basically why this song exists, and why we love it. This was during a time when we were so down and out and trying to find interesting angles to songwriting. We just gave up and again went back to what we enjoy doing, which is writing bullshit emotional rock songs.
Now that we tour with Wade as a three piece, I can finally be set free and do some beginner-to-medium-level guitar shredding and this song was written with that knowledge. I’m genuinely stoked that I get to open a song with a proper riff set to a backing band. It’s cliché and lame, but so is this entire album. I love it.