Friday, May 02, 2008
Few bands would be brave enough to launch a national tour with the addition of two new members, the loss of one, and debut new songs while road-testing song titles with the audience as they go. Clearly the expansive and smartly-attired Institut Polaire have few qualms. Like the French Antarctic vessel they're named after, exploration and faith are hallmarks of their trade. Multi-instrumentalist Elliott Brannen is fairly used to these changes, but especially happy at the current state of the band. "It's funny, I joined three years ago saw two leave and one join, then there were no changes for two and a half years. With the move to Melbourne, one left and two joined. We'd been looking for a full time keyboard player for a while and the obvious thing was to get Rebecca (May), who is an amazing musician." Rebecca is the girlfriend of original IP drummer Ash who had left the band to move to Melbourne. Incidentally, two years later, the band - except for the drummer - followed him; no prizes for guessing who returned to the drum stool. "This will be the lineup for at least a while," confirms Brannen. "It's sounding great. Our gig last night went surprisingly well for a midweek show. We've just really nutted down and worked, and to have an audience specifically there to see you was really cool."
Relocating a band 3500 kilometers is never a decision undertaken lightly, moving to Melbourne, as many readers will know, is no easy task. Brannen sees the experience as all part of playing in IP, and other band members, particularly Ohio-native front-man Eric Hecht, are clearly no strangers to upping sticks either. "We all generally took about six or seven weeks to find a place to live, with the rental market being terrible it took longer than we'd thought. Everyone has a place to live and full-time work now, which makes it a lot easier. I've moved a few times and it's never easy, it always takes a little while to feel settled. We'll have to work full-time till we can make enough money to do otherwise, but we're happy enough. "
With their debut album due out later this year and an as-yet-unnamed single due in a few months, IP are clearly onto something good. Bands who influenced IP are fans, as are JJJ and pretty much any awards panel they've been considered by. "The album is still at demo stage," says Brennen. "And because of the changes we can't make the record we would have made 12 months ago, so it will be different from the EP. The album has the working title of Make Your Own Mayflower. The Mayflower was the boat the Pilgrims came to America on. Eric was in the military for four to five years and away from his girlfriend for that time. There are a lot of songs about distance and loneliness, being apart from someone." Brennen points out. "It's definitely Eric's band - he does the majority of the writing," he continues "but it's more of a band than some people think it is. The general direction of the band is that it's a democracy no one's vote is worth more than anyone else. There are strong-willed people in the band and we wouldn't have it any other way."
Last year's signing to Sydney label Popfrenzy brought them more attention due to it being the label's first Australian signing. "That opened lots of doors." Says Brennen. "If we were a little band from Perth then we wouldn't be on this tour or doing this interview now. It adds some kudos and takes the pressure off knowing there is someone there who will pay for it for starters and release it when we're done. We trust them, they trust us; it's a really good relationship and makes the job a lot easier."