Climbing on strings
Bellingham’s Polecat promotes debut album just a year after beginning
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
If you go
What: Polecat, bluegrass
◗ Caffé Mela
Where: 17 N. Wenatchee Ave., Wenatchee
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Cost: $5 suggested donation
◗ The Vogue Liquid Lounge
Where: 117 E. Woodin Ave., Chelan
When: 8 p.m. Friday
◗ Twisp River Pub
Where: 201 N. Methow Valley Highway, Twisp
When: 8:30 p.m. Saturday
Success may not happen overnight, but for Bellingham five-piece Polecat, it seems like it has.
The bluegrass band’s been together for just a little more than a year, and has already released one EP, opened for several established groups, including Seattle’s the Moondoggies, and is currently taking to the road in promotion of its debut full-length album, “Fire on the Hill.” North Central Washington fans can catch an album release show at Caffé Mela on Thursday, Chelan’s Vogue Liquid Lounge on Friday and the Twisp River Pub on Saturday.
Lead guitarist Jeremy Elliott suggests the band’s quick success is based on a surge of general interest in Americana music.
“As soon as we hit the scene here, we were doing something I think that’s very relevant to the music industry right now, with the Americana, especially with festival touring and the roots music coming back,” he says. “We’ve achieved the sound that people are just really interested in, because it’s not too subdued but it’s also not overly powerful. It’s got a good mix of everything.”
After less than a year together, the band was recognized in Bellingham’s What’s Up! magazine’s 2011 What’s Up Awards for Best Newby and Best Highway Americana.
Self-managed and self-produced, Polecat is led by vocalist/guitarist Aaron Guest, and includes drummer Karl Olsen, fiddler Cayley Schmid and bassist Richard Reeves.
Elliott comments that “heavily produced pop music’s always gonna have a place, because there’s always gonna be a demographic for it, but I think that because people are so interested in the more rootsy styles of music, they like to see that these guys are out making the music and producing the music themselves.”
The band enjoys performing in NCW for its outdoor recreational opportunities and because audiences in the area have been very receptive to their music.
“I think this year we’re gonna do a little busking out on the town, just set up acoustically, and maybe if people are out and about in town, we’ll do a little music for them out on the sidewalk,” he adds.
Go! Magazine: Are you in Bellingham as college students?
Jeremy Elliott: Actually, I came over here from Atlanta, Ga., about four years ago. Our drummer and our lead singer and our bassist all were students at the college at one point and they’re all done now. Our drummer and Aaron both are from Spokane originally, and then Richard, our bass player, is from the islands and Cayley is actually Canadian.
Go!: How did the band come together?
Elliott: When I moved over here, I started getting involved with a bunch of different projects. I also play in another group called Vaughn Kreestoe, which is a power soul, funk and jazz group. My drummer was in another band at the time with Aaron, and we just kind of met through the musical grapevine. Aaron had big interest in bluegrass and I grew up playing bluegrass. Originally the conception of the band was Aaron coming to me and saying, “I’ve seen you play. I’m putting together a band. I’d love for you to play.” So we got together with the idea in mind to have an acoustic bluegrass project. Then when we started I ended up meeting Cayley, the fiddle player. I met Richard, I met Karl — Aaron kind of handpicked all those musicians out of the scene here in Bellingham. And it ended up being a little different, because I play electric and we ended up going more the Celtic rock/Americana/bluegrass route.
Go!: I’ve even noticed some blues riffs in your music.
Elliott: When I started playing guitar I started playing bluegrass because I was playing acoustic. When I picked up an electric guitar, I don’t have any formal training, so I started playing the blues ’cause it was the easiest thing for me to pick up on. And I love the blues. We kind of try to mix a little bit of everything. It’s a very eclectic sound and that’s kind of what we’re going for . We’ve actually gotten into a lot of Afro-Cuban and jazz and gypsy jazz. We’re trying to push it all the time. We want to be able to hold onto our roots, in terms of people being able to hear the influences of bluegrass music and the influences of blues, but we don’t want to get stagnant in any of those genres.
Go!: What are your plans for promoting the new album?
Elliott: We’re gonna be coming over (to NCW), doing a few dates. We’ve been over there quite a few times and love it. Every time we come, the people always come out to see us and they always buy a lot of merch. I actually have family in Wenatchee, so it’s nice for me to be able to come over there and get the family together. We’re gonna do that, and then we’re gonna do a small tour on the West Coast going into Oregon and all the way down to California. Then, the big plan is we have an opportunity to do a show in North Carolina in October, so we’re gonna shoot across the southern U.S., then up the East Coast and back across the northern U.S., do a full nationwide thing.
Go!: Do you have many fans outside of the area?
Elliott: Actually, since the release of our album, we have noticed there’s been a lot of interest in North Carolina and down in Georgia. I have a lot of family and friends over in that area just because that’s where I grew up all my life. Apparently we’re being rotated on one of the college radio stations in Georgia, Georgia Tech Radio. So it’s little small things right now, but definitely we’re noticing that people are interested in hearing it, so we’re gonna try to capitalize on that here this year.
Go!: When can people expect a second album?
Elliott: It’s an interesting thing, because we’ve only been together for such a short period of time. We released our EP about five weeks into being a band. Then our first full-length came out within a year. Within this last year, we’ve played over 100 shows. It’s been a whirlwind of excitement for us, so what we’re gonna try to do right now is just focus on promoting this album. We are writing and we have written about half of a new album already, but we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. I think we’re gonna try to wait until next year to put together another full album.
We’ve done a lot of things within a year, but there’s so much that we haven’t done. We’ve been focusing specifically on the state of Washington and I think our goal for the remainder of this year is to get out and spread it around to everywhere else and try to create a little bit of a buzz. We’re completely self-managed and self-produced, so everything we do, we do within the five of us. We’re gonna try to keep it that way, but it’s one of those learning experiences.
Go!: How did you manage an opening gig for the Moondoggies?
Elliott: We have a buddy of ours who owns the Wild Buffalo here in Bellingham, which is the biggest music venue we have here. All the national acts come through there. He called us up and said, “You guys are the only guys that I would want to be able to open for these guys,” and that show went over really well. We had an opportunity to go down to the Tractor (Tavern in Seattle) and open for the Infamous Stringdusters. We made good friends with them and are still in contact with them. We’ve opened for the Hackensaw Boys and Trampled by Turtles. It’s just been a great experience for us so far, in the little bit of time that we’ve been together, being able to make these kinds of connections and playing with these great groups that are really doing and achieving what we’re hoping to achieve.
Go!: It sounds like you’re already on the fast track there.
Elliott: A lot of these bands, they’ve all been doing this for six to 10 years. A lot of the things that we’re doing right now, they told us, “We weren’t doing those things until a few years in.” So, with us it’s just trying to keep that balance of being very excited about what’s happening, but trying to stay grounded and say, “OK, we still have a lot of work to do.” I think one of the big things is we really want to do it ourselves. We want to continue to self-produce ourselves, we wanna book ourselves, we wanna do that in our own kind of way. So that’s working against the grain a little bit, but we’ve had great opportunities and I think we’ll continue to have great opportunities, especially if we can promote some success on this album.
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